Huge NT vegie farm delayed after review

A massive Central Australian horticulture development has been delayed after environmental concerns triggered a review of the project's licence to extract 40 billion litres of underground water.

Fortune Agribusiness plans to build a 3500-hectare irrigated fruit and vegetable farm at Singleton cattle station, about 380 kilometres north of Alice Springs.

But that's being revised after the Northern Territory government accepted an independent panel's recommendations for more licence conditions to protect the environment and Indigenous culture.

Fortune chairman Peter Wood says stage one of the project will be extended from two to three years so the company can satisfy the additional conditions.

"This longer period will provide further understanding of aquifer behaviour by allowing for an increased period of monitoring, data collection and environmental evaluation before water is allocated for stage two," he said.

Fortune was awarded the biggest water licence ever granted in the NT in April, causing concern among Indigenous groups and environmentalists, and the review.

Under the amended water licence, Fortune is required to carry out more hydrogeological investigation at the planned bore field.

It will also need to demonstrate its project will not result in unacceptable impact on water-dependent cultural values.

"Both of these tasks are critical to the success of our project and will be undertaken as soon as practical," Mr Wood said.

The farm will cultivate crops such as mandarins, grapes and avocados to provide fresh produce for the local community and the Australian market.

About 100 full-time jobs and 1300 seasonal jobs are expected to be on offer along with opportunities for businesses in nearby towns, such as Tennant Creek.

The groundwater is expected to be released to Fortune in four stages over the next decade, peaking at 40,000 megalitres through about 100 bores.

Fortune says it's committed to working closely with the Central Land Council and traditional owners and other stakeholders in the NT.

The CLC and Environment Centre NT have been critical of the water licence, saying it could lead to over-extraction and irreversibly damage cultural sites and the aquifer that the water will be drawn from.

The two groups also questioned the licence review, saying the decision appeared poorly researched and rushed.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

  • Print this page
  • Copy Link