Supreme Court quashes water licences after legal challenge


The Northern Territory Supreme Court today quashed the decisions of the Minister for Land Resource Management, Willem Westra Van Holthe, to grant 18 groundwater extraction licences from aquifers underpinning major tropical rivers, declaring those decision unlawful.

The decision follows legal action by the Environment Centre NT, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office NT,  challenging a series of decisions to allow huge amounts of water to be legally extracted from the Oolloo and Tindall (Mataranka) aquifers, which feed the Daly, Katherine and Roper Rivers.

The licences were for a combined 68 billion litres, eight billion more than the agreed extraction limit outlined in the draft Oolloo Water Allocation Plan, the Environment Centre NT said.

The legal action was supported by the Northern Land Council and Traditional Owners of the Daly River Region and the Mataranka Region, who were concerned about the health of the river systems and the decision to scrap the previous Strategic Indigenous Reserve policy; which would have provided some water specifically for Indigenous economic development.

The Environmental Defenders Office NT and the Environment Centre NT said that fair, transparent and sustainable water policies were critical to avoiding future water conflicts and to prevent over-extraction and detrimental impacts to critical groundwater dependent ecosystems.

“This is an important decision. It’s important for two reasons, first the Minister must go back and reconsider these ill-conceived licences, but it’s also important as we now have a much better understanding of the process the Minister is required to take.  That’s important for the Minister and a win for good process and better government decision making” said EDONT Principal Lawyer, David Morris

The Federal Government has cut all funding to EDO’s across Australia, and the NT Government has cut all funding to the Environment Centre NT.


EDONT Principal Lawyer, David Morris 0402 778 997

ECNT Chairperson, Tony Young 0405 117 312