Dear True North Strategic Communication and the NT Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics, cc NT Ministers.
Darwin is surrounded by the waters of the Harbour, providing a beautiful backdrop to the daily lives of locals and the centrepiece for the Territory experience. It is a source of recreation and supplies healthy food in the form of fish and crabs caught by many fishers and their families. Darwin has a unique coastal lifestyle worth protecting.
As a resident of the Darwin region I am concerned about the impact of the proposed Middle Arm heavy industry development.
The proposal to construct a massive industrial precinct would be based on the burning of fossil fuels and host some of the most toxic industries such as a petrochemical plastic plant.
At a time when the world is phasing out fossil fuels and cities are shutting down heavy industry close to residential areas due to impacts on human health and the environment, it is extraordinary that the Northern Territory Government proposes to construct and operate a facility of this kind in the middle of the highly-valued Darwin Harbour, and within kilometres of the cities of Palmerston and Darwin. I worry that this development will have a huge and detrimental impact on the many values of Darwin Harbour and its residents.
Darwin Harbour - a natural, cultural and recreational treasure
We know that Territorians care passionately about their coastal backyard. For example, a Keep Top End Coasts Community Survey in 2020 found that 68% visit our coasts at least once a week. 90% of the respondents were concerned about the future of Top End coasts. Polling also found that 60% of those who go fishing said the quality of fishing has declined and that 74% of respondents want the next NT Government to do more to protect the health of our coasts. We see these types of statistics time and time again.
As a proud Territorian, I too care about our coastal backyard and its tourism, environment and wildlife, recreation and leisure, and cultural values, and wish for these to be protected from proposed heavy industry in Darwin Harbour.
Some of Darwin’s most popular tourist locations are along the Harbour shoreline. Hundreds of dry season visitors take Harbour cruises every day and a number of guided fishing charters offer fishing tourism trips. Tourism is an important economic driver and employer in Darwin and I am concerned that heavy industry in the Harbour threatens to damage Darwin’s tourism values.
Environment and wildlife
Darwin Harbour is home to a number of nationally rare and threatened species including dugongs, coastal dolphins, sawfish, shorebirds and three species of marine turtles. With one of Australia’s richest mangrove systems, the Harbour has been designated a wetland of national significance. It is also home to seagrass meadows, reefs, and tidal flats that provide habitat for up to 25 migratory bird species. More than 430 fish species have been recorded in Darwin Harbour. No other capital city has such a unique and special setting. The Harbour is our greatest natural asset and should not be risked by dirty industry.
Recreation and leisure
60% of the NT’s population live on the doorstep of the Harbour’s 2010 km2 catchment. Darwin Harbour is a big recreation hub, with residents visiting the Harbour at least once a week to relax, walk, fish, boat, picnic, birdwatch, swim, scuba dive, and cycle along its beaches, foreshore parks, jetties, wharves, and trails. Recreational fishing is a central element of the Territory lifestyle and is also a major reason to visit for the one million tourists coming to the Greater Darwin region each year. Darwin Harbour is a source of recreation and leisure and is critical for our unique Top End lifestyle and human wellbeing. It is therefore imperative that Darwin Harbour is protected from dirty industry
Darwin Harbour is home to the Larrakia people who have lived in the region for at least 60,000 years. There are 120 registered Larrakia sacred sites in the Harbour and its catchment. The Larrakia people’s connection to country remains strong and this must be protected from the impacts of heavy industry.
Sustaining the health of Darwin Harbour is vital to the Territory’s future and identity
As a proud Territorian, I expect our coastal backyard to be well managed and protected. We must heed the lessons of the past and the well documented impacts of dirty industry around the world, and urgently put in place the necessary safeguards to ensure our enviable Top End lifestyle is protected for our children and grandchildren. At a time when the world is transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards clean industries, we must only welcome genuine sustainable industries into our coastal backyard.