The approval of a plan that grants oil and gas companies access to ten billion litres of groundwater each year and could cause one of the Top End’s most important rivers to stop flowing or reverse its course demonstrates the urgent need for the Albanese Government to make good on its election promise and extend the water trigger to shale gas fracking.
Media has reported today that Northern Territory Treasurer Eva Lawler released the Georgina Wiso plan on Friday, undercutting newly minted Water Minister Kate Worden. The plan covers the Roper region, which overlays the Beetaloo gas sub-basin.
Its release comes despite warnings from scientists that the full water allocation - 210 billion litres each year - would be unsustainable and could threaten iconic tourism destinations and sacred sites like Bitter Springs at Mataranka, which depend on the groundwater that sustains the Roper River.
Katherine veterinarian and Protect Big Rivers spokesperson Dr Samantha Phelan said, “The Fyles Government has shown time and again that it cannot be trusted with the Territory’s water.
“This Water Allocation Plan puts the Roper River, Mataranka Hot Springs and Bitter Springs at extreme risk, and hangs Territorians out to dry.
“The water trigger would provide a role for the Federal Government in proper independent scientific scrutiny of fracking projects, and we need it now because the Fyles Government isn’t listening to experts or Territorians.
“We urgently need the Federal Government to step in and review the entire water planning process in the Northern Territory.”
Frack Free NT spokesperson Phil Scott said the approval of the plan and the way it was handled showed the Fyles Government was putting precious water resources at risk.
“This water plan risks over-extraction of water on a scale that may well turn the Roper River region into the next Murray-Darling environmental disaster,” he said.
“The Fyles Government seems to have taken a look at the devastation in the lower south east of this country and said, ‘I’ll have one of those please’. This is the largest water plan in Northern Territory history and it has been managed terribly.
“This decision makes it more important than ever for the Albanese Government to urgently deliver on its election promise and extend the water trigger to shale gas fracking."