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This week we heard the shocking news that the mighty Roper River has been earmarked for “dams, weirs and pipelines”. We cannot allow the Roper to be sucked dry.

The Federal Government has funded the CSIRO to undertake a major study to identify the agriculture potential in the Roper River catchment, which could potentially see more than 1 million hectares of the catchment bulldozed for irrigated agriculture. 

I am very concerned that if this study leads to the development and major water extraction from the Roper River, drastic environmental consequences will follow. At a time when we can see the disastrous impacts of irrigated cotton on the Murray Darling River, it would be terrible to repeat them on the mighty Roper.

Fish and other wildlife cannot make necessary migrations to breed and feed without natural river flows, and the receiving marine environment will be without nutrients essential to life. The mighty Roper River flows into Limmen Bight Marine Park sustaining the ecosystem, which includes extensive seagrass beds, home to turtle and dugong populations.

This is the latest in a long list of threats to our Top End coasts and fishing lifestyle. The Roper River is the third big Territory River to be recently earmarked to be dammed, joining the Finniss and Adelaide Rivers in the Federal Government’s line of sight.

As the NT Government is finalising the 10 year plan to safeguard our coasts right now - the Coastal and Marine Management Strategy- there is one chance to make sure it’s done right. As the threats continue to increase, this Plan must protect the health of our coasts and safeguard our Territory lifestyle.

Healthy rivers and coasts are central to our Top End way of life, the great NT fishing experience and our economy. They are critical to our future.

I ask that you ensure NT Coastal and Marine Management Strategy is robust and delivers the protection our NT rivers and coasts so desperately need. This is a once in a decade opportunity, let’s get it right.