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The Northern Territory Government has released its Draft Surface Water Take – Wet Season Flow Policy for public comment, a landmark reform targeting the preservation of free-flowing rivers while allowing for sustainable development.

The draft policy provides guidance on how environmentally sustainable development can support business growth and investment based on access to a currently underdeveloped water resource.

The Territory Government claims the policy will ensure the independent Controller of Water Resources can effectively manage the demand for water while protecting its aquatic ecosystems and ensuring that rivers remain free flowing.

The draft policy takes a conservative approach to wet season water takes, informed by scientific evidence-based approaches, limiting consumptive water allocations to around two per cent of median annual flows.

Northern Territory Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water Security, Lauren Moss, said the policy balances economic growth and development with environmental necessities.

“Releasing this draft policy for further community feedback underscores the Territory Government’s determination to grow our economy while protecting our valuable resources in a transparent and open way,” Ms Moss said.

“We can embrace sustainable development while providing water to protect ecological and cultural values now and into the future.

“Supporting science-based and evidence-informed decision making will ensure that we prevent the mistakes that have happened in the past in other water systems, like the Murray-Darling.

“I encourage Territorians to have their say about how we can work together towards a strong economy and a secure water future.”

Best available science says that up to ten per cent of a river’s wet season flow can be taken without any impact to the diversity of aquatic ecosystems.

The draft policy has been developed through a steering group with representatives from industry, scientific, recreational, and environmental and Traditional Owner groups.

Further public feedback can be provided on the draft policy until 9 January 2023, which is available here.

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