NT News

Water audit plan ‘unfair’

- LEE ROBINSON

ENVIRONMEN­TAL organisati­ons have questioned the procedural fairness of the review panel set up to hear their concerns over the approval of the Territory’s largest ever water licence.

Arid Lands Environmen­t Centre (ALEC) and the Central Land Council (CLC) are among a group of four objectors appearing before the Water Resources Review Panel on Friday to make their case against a licence that would eventually allow for 40,000ml of groundwate­r to be extracted every year from Singleton Station, located near Tennant Creek.

ALEC policy officer Alex Vaughan said the organisati­on received little notice about the panel and claimed the process was shrouded in secrecy.

Mr Vaughan said the government should be scrutinise­d over its decision to green light the licence for Fortune Agribusine­ss to grow crops.

“Instead of holding a public hearing in Tennant Creek or Alice Springs as requested, the hearing is in Darwin, thousands of kilometres away from impacted communitie­s,” he said.

“The public and the media are being shut out.

“Territoria­ns, and especially those communitie­s in the Barkly region, deserve to know on what grounds the government is giving away 40 billion litres of water for free to a private company.”

CLC chief executive Lesley Turner said the licence review was being rushed through before a review, which is set to conclude at the end of the year, of the region’s water allocation plan.

“This hasty process illustrate­s everything that’s rotten about NT water policy,” he said.

“We provided hundreds of pages of expert evidence about sacred sites threatened by the NT’s largest-ever water licence and about very concerning hydrogeolo­gical problems, but our lawyer gets less than an hour to present on highly complex issues and answer questions.”

However, Environmen­t Minister Eva Lawler said the review panel, which was establishe­d under the Water Act 1992, was allowed to determine the procedure of its meetings under the Act.

“The review panel acts in an advisory capacity to the minister,” she said.

It is not a tribunal or a judicial body and its meetings are not conducted as such. Once the minister receives the review, a final decision will be made.”

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