What’s going on?
In the expansive north, lies a national treasure – The woodland savanna of the Northern Territory. Like the Great Barrier Reef, our savannas are huge. But also like the Great Barrier Reef, this incredible ecosystem is collapsing.
This hidden beauty is being bulldozed by cotton producers and industrial agriculture at an alarming rate.
Hundreds of kilometers south-west of Katherine, near the Western Australia border, lies Auvergne Station – 61,000ha of vast land supporting vibrant birds, scuttling lizards, owls, falcons and rare plants.
But big cotton is moving in on this already collapsing ecosystem.
The NT government has permitted, Clean Agriculture and International Tourism (CAIT), to bulldoze 923 hectares of savanna at Auvergne Station, to grow cotton and other crops.
Where is Auvergne?
Auvergne Station stretches south of the NT’s longest river – Victoria River – abutting the Western Australia border, in the Victoria River Pastoral District and the Victoria River basin.
Why is Auvergne Station significant?
Auvergne Station likely supports myriad unique creatures already under threat due to rapidly increasing land clearing, feral animals, pests and fire regimes. These include Gouldian Finches, Masked Owls, Crack-dwelling Ctenotus (or skink), Mertens Water Monitors and Grey Falcons.
First Nations communities have cared for this Country for tens of thousands of years, with sacred sites dotted across the station. The Ngarinyman-Wulayi group has native title rights over Auvergne Station.
Auvergne Station is a pastoral station leased by multinational corporation, Clean Agriculture and International Tourism, a subsidiary of TH Group which purchased the station in 2020, alongside two other cattle stations in Northern Australia.
At Auvergne Station, the pastoral lease coexists with native title rights and interests.
Pastoral leases allow companies to graze cattle on native vegetation on government-owned Crown Land. Covering almost half of the Territory, these leases are monitored and assessed by the Pastoral Land Board under powers given to it by the NT government.
The Board last year permitted CAIT to clear 923.33 hectares at Auvergne Station – including to grow cotton.
Growing cotton causes enormous damage to fragile ecosystems. We’ve seen land clearing skyrocket across the NT in the past few years, and the cotton industry has big plans to expand across the NT.
Our client, the Environment Centre NT is concerned the NT government decision makers are rubber stamping permits and turning a blind eye to the environmental damage from land clearing.
The vast majority of broadscale land clearing is occurring on pastoral leases, which make up approximately 45% of land in the NT. Land clearing on pastoral leases is regulated under the Pastoral Land Act 1992 (NT). Unlike every other state and territory in Australia, the NT does not have specific native vegetation laws.
In the NT, pastoral leaseholders are allowed to apply for a permit to clear up to 5,000 hectares of land before the application must be referred to the Environment Protection Authority for a decision on whether environmental impact assessment is required.
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