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Environment Centre NT - protecting nature, living sustainably, creating climate for a change

Land clearing

The Environment Centre NT is working hard to stop major land clearing in the Territory and create a strong new Native Vegetation Management Act that places tight caps on the area of land approved for clearing each year.

After a strong campaign by the Environment Centre NT, fishers and Indigenous people over many years, the Territory Government placed a ban on land clearing in the northern and middle sections of the Daly River catchment in 2003.

After a further six years of work to highlight the destruction caused by land clearing, in December 2008 the Territory Government committed to a ‘world’s best’ Native Vegetation Management Act and a tightening of controls over land clearing.

The new law was due in mid 2010, but is yet to be tabled in the Legislative Assembly.

From 2003 to 2009, between 10,000 and 20,000 hectares of native vegetation was cleared each year across the Territory.

Most native vegetation was bulldozed to expand pastoral production by replacing trees with exotic pasture grasses, particularly in the Daly River catchment and on the Sturt Plateau, and for an agroforestry plantation on Melville Island.

The Territory’s native vegetation are a massive carbon store that stores carbon for free. The trees, shrubs, grasses, and roots are all made of carbon. When these die and rot, the carbon is converted to methane which is a highly potent greenhouse gas.

Land clearing destroys its ability to soak up carbon released from wildfires and burning fossil fuels.

Bulldozing then burning the dead trees releases around 150 tonnes of carbon pollution per hectare in the northern section of the Daly River catchment, and around 80 to 120 tonnes in the drier Sturt Plateau and near Katherine.

Land clearing directly kills wildlife when the bulldozers flatten native vegetation. Animals that escape being killed outright by the bulldozers may soon die from starvation, disease or being eaten because they are forced to move to other areas where there is already wildlife.