Dear Chief Minister Natasha Fyles,
As a concerned Territorian, I am reaching out to express my concerns regarding the proposed Middle Arm industrial development in Darwin Harbour. Our Harbour is not just our coastal backyard, it is the heart of our community, integral to our Territory lifestyle.
Environmental and Biodiversity Concerns:
The proposed development threatens Darwin Harbour's unique biodiversity, including nationally rare species and one of Australia’s richest mangrove systems. The presence of petrochemical industries, with their inherent impacts and risks of spills and accidents, could irreversibly harm our marine life, including dugongs, dolphins, and turtles.
Cultural Heritage and Indigenous Rights:
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.
Recreational and Local Economic Impact:
The Harbour is the backdrop to the lives of Darwinites; it is well-loved and well-used. 60% of the Territory’s population live on the doorstep of the Harbour’s catchment and residents visit the Harbour at least once a week. Territory fishers spend 27% of their annual fishing effort in Darwin Harbour, and another 28% in nearby waters. Fishing is also a major reason to visit for the one million tourists coming to the Greater Darwin region each year. The Darwin Aquaculture Centre on Channel Island in Darwin Harbour is helping to grow the aquaculture industry and supply important businesses such as Paspaley Pearls and Humpty Doo Barramundi. The centre is dependent on the water from Darwin Harbour being of the highest quality.
The project's potential impact on recreation, fishing, the local tourism economy and the aquaculture industry is of great concern. It is these activities and industries that make the Territory unique. Our environment, lifestyle and sustainable long-term jobs should be protected from dirty industry.
Accelerating climate change impacts on the Northern Territory:
The effects of a warming climate on the Northern Territory coasts have already been severe, as shown by the unprecedented mangrove dieback in the Gulf of Carpentaria, coral bleaching along the Cobourg Peninsula and Arnhem Land, and the warming of popular fishing spot Bynoe Harbour. Poor wet seasons have impacted Barramundi breeding on the Daly River and the NT mud crab fishery was on the brink of collapse in 2016 due to a marine heatwave. In light of the escalating impacts of climate change, the project's enabling of fossil fuels is concerning.
Community Engagement and Transparency:
As a community member, I emphasize the importance of transparent communication and genuine engagement with local voices in the planning process. Any misleading information or lack of transparency, especially regarding the nature of the industries involved and their potential impact, undermines public trust. The local community is rightly concerned about the future of their coastal backyard and these concerns should not be dismissed as being from ‘down south’.
In summary, the proposed Middle Arm project, in its current form, poses significant risks to our environment, cultural heritage, recreational fishing and tourism sector, and the Top End way of life. I urge a reevaluation of this project, focusing on sustainable development that aligns with global environmental trends and respects the rights and voices of local communities, including Indigenous peoples.
Thank you for considering my views on this critical issue. I hope for a constructive dialogue that leads to a sustainable and inclusive future for Darwin Harbour.