The Australian Greens said today that further development of the north has to be sustainable and in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
"The Government wants to ‘capitalise on the untapped potential of the north', but are in danger of repeating the mistakes of the past when it comes to plans for large scale agriculture and unsustainable development," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens agriculture spokesperson said today.
"The north is a thriving region with unique landscapes and ecosystems, high biodiversity, resilient people and a diverse economy. The north isn't a blank canvas waiting to be developed.
"I have serious concerns about large scale agriculture in the north, it has implications for biodiversity and water resources. Large scale clearing of native vegetation will lead to loss of biodiversity and further endanger many species.
"Recent studies on water resources have shown that they are not as extensive as may have been thought. The negative impacts of building large dam sites can be significant, especially in comparison to smaller scale, smarter developments such as off river storages that offer a more sustainable options with better water efficiency.
"I would be especially concerned if the CSIRO was being put in a position where they're being pressured to find dam sites, given their previous work has shown there is not a substantial amount of water in the region.
"Responsible development in Northern Australia needs to include the development of a conservation economy including a carbon economy, ecotourism, a renewable energy hub, and supporting the existing robust small enterprise economy of horticulture and agriculture industries already thriving in the area.
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be included in all stages of the consultation process around developing Northern Australia, and the economic benefits and opportunities that follow need to flow to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
"It is disappointing that the Government's discussion of Northern Australia comes as their budget seeks to strip more than half a billion dollars from programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
"Likewise, efforts to protect the environment and biodiversity of the region are being undermined by cuts to Landcare and the desire from some MPs to collapse biosecurity operations into the new Australian Border Force (ABF).
"The future for Northern Australia must be one of sustainable development and industries that provide long term opportunities across the region but does not threaten its environment or its peoples," Senator Siewert concluded.