Spread across large tidal flats and intricate freshwater wetlands, Legune Station is nestled in an internationally significant section of the Northern Territory’s savanna.
But the area that provides vital habitat to tens of thousands of shorebirds and nesting grounds for flatback turtles is under threat.
The NT government has approved a permit for AAM Investment Group to raze over a thousand hectares of internationally significant savanna in Legune Station.
AAMIG wants to roll out intensive production crops including corn and grass, builds levees and irrigation channels and, concerningly, to test for cotton crops.
Where is Legune?
Legune Station lies on Gajerrong Country, in the north-west of the Northern Territory between the mouths of the Victoria and Keep Rivers.
Why is Legune Station significant?
Legune Station is a site of international conservation significance, with wetlands home to the second largest waterbird colony in the NT, a nesting ground for Flatback Turtles and migratory shorebirds.
Many of the shorebirds that live in these complex wetlands are already under threat including Curlew Sandpipers, Eastern Curlews, and Lesser Sand Plovers. It is also home to endangered Gouldian Finches and vulnerable Ghost Bats.
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
AAM Investment Group (AAMIG) first acquired the pastoral lease at Legune Station in 2019.
In August 2021, the company applied to clear 1009.45 hectares of savanna and construct levees and irrigation channels at to farm sorghum, corn and grass. The company’s land clearing application also contained soil testing for cotton.
On 19 August 2022, the Northern Territory pastoral land board granted a permit approving the land clearing.
The whole area proposed for land clearing falls within the Legune coastal floodplain site of international conservation significance.
It contains complex wetland habitats that are home to significant populations of threatened and migratory shorebirds including Curlew Sandpipers, Eastern Curlews, and Lesser Sand Plovers. It is also home to other nationally threatened wildlife including Ghost Bats, Bare-rumped Sheath-tailed bats and Gouldian finches.
AAMIG also holds leases, plans and applications to clear land for big agriculture and cotton and other crops at Scott Creek Station near Katherine and at Keep Plains beside the massive Ord agricultural development. They also hold pastoral leases at Manbulloo Station near Katherine, Terrick Terrick Station near Blackall in Queensland, plus a range of other livestock operations in the Territory.
Unlike every other state and territory in Australia, the Northern Territory has no specific native vegetation laws.
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).
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.
WHAT ARE EJA LAWYERS DOING?
EJA lawyers are keeping a close eye on plans bulldoze savanna at Legune Station, Keep Plains, Scott Creek and other culturally significant and ecologically important places in the NT.
We are also investigating possible illegal land clearing in the NT, and pushing the federal government to properly assess the environmental impact of land clearing under our federal environmental laws.
We are currently in the NT Supreme Court challenging a decision to let a huge multinational corporation bulldoze over 900 hectares of important savanna woodlands at Auvergene Station, on behalf of our client the Environment Centre of the Northern Territory (ECNT).
This case is the first time a court will test the NT’s land clearing laws in the Pastoral Land Act. A successful outcome will set a vital precedent preventing other commercial cotton producers from bulldozing critical savanna ecosystems without proper scrutiny.
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