Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 17 May 1995



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 17 May 1995

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Parliamentary Record 10


Debates for 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997




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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Wednesday 17 May 1995 agree on the basic recommendations. Where there are areas of concern or deficiency, we could say that it is the governments fault since it has been in power. However, looking to the future, the recommendations in this report were unanimous. All members of the committee felt that this was the best way to deal with the identified problems in the Mary River region. In the same way, it is hoped that issues of a similar kind could be referred to the committee. On General Business day next week, the opposition will be moving a motion in the Assembly that issues relating to the Groote Eylandt oil spill be referred to the committee to enable the 2-party committee to allay the fears and concerns in the community as to what the situation is in that regard. I believe the community is much more supportive and understanding of a report like this, that is tabled in the Assembly and supported by both sides of the Chamber, and that the recommendations will be seen to be reasonable. On the other hand, the government may say that it has had an internal inquiry or review of its own conducted which it will then present to the Assembly and we will disagree on certain aspects of it for whatever reason. On many occasions, we have not seen the information that the government presents. Issues arise in debate, are argued backwards and forwards, and are reported in the media. The public hear the government saying that it did everything well and the opposition saying it did everything badly, and are left wondering what the real answers are. It has been demonstrated repeatedly that, when a committee is established, listens to the evidence and assesses it, often with the support of expert or specialised staff, the intelligence of members of this Legislative Assembly is such that they are able to analyse that evidence, work through the issues and come up with a good report. We have seen many such reports over the years. Largely speaking, apart from occasional odd paragraphs where there is some dissent, the reports are unanimous. Moving on from the matter of the role of committees, which I believe is very important, this report is also extremely important. The wetlands area of the Mary River is - 1 should say was - an incredibly productive area for pastoralism, tourism, fishing - both recreational and commercial - and buffalo husbandry etc. It was an incredibly productive area. Ecological and biological values of the area were very high. In recent years, and at an accelerated rate, there has been degradation of the productivity of that area. While there is not enough information to tie down 100% what the actual causal factors of that degradation are, we believe that we need to try to reverse the outcome of that degradation. There are 2 main issues that have to be dealt with. The gravest issue at the moment, and the one that, if it is not dealt with very rapidly may actually reach a stage where it is totally impossible to reverse the damage that has been caused, is saltwater intrusion. This is not simply an intrusion of salt that is having an effect on plants and animals, it is actually a force in itself that is geographically shaping the rivers. It is widening and deepening them and the salt water is intruding further inland. The shape of the land is changing. Saltwater intrusion is not simply a change in the nature of the water, but a total change in the forces involved in the way the water moves, where it goes etc. If that is left for many more years before we attempt to stop it, I believe it will be too late. The Mary River area will become like the Adelaide River area. It will no longer be a huge freshwater floodplain area, but a large tidal river. That will render the area totally different from what it is now and it will be far less productive in respect of pastoral use, fishing or tourism. Our report indicates the type of action that is required. Action must be taken to stop the tidal impact moving up the rivers and to allow nature to take the area to its former condition. We do not believe that this has been a natural occurrence. It is the direct result of intervention by man and/or feral animals. However, once it started, it became self-perpetuating. We must 3287