In excess of 20,000 hectares of land is set to be cleared, after a single permit was issued for a Northern Maryfield Station, as reported by abc.net.au.
The land will be cleared so it can be replanted, to help improve pastures. The single permit was issued recently, and has already come under severe criticism from environmental lobbying groups.
The permit is the largest ever single land clearing permit, issued in the region. The next largest permit was for Tipperary station, which covers over 18,000 hectares. Flying Fox station features third on the list, with an application submitted for the clearing of over 15,000 hectares of land.
As part of the permit issued to Maryfield Station, native vegetation will be cleared over the course of six years. This will allow a higher stocking rate for farmers, as pastures are improved. Shar Molloy, Environment Centre NT director, said everyone in the area should be concerned over this mass clearing.
"It is an astronomical amount of native vegetation to be bulldozed and burnt," she said.
"We have concerns about the approval process and the impacts on the flora, fauna and biodiversity, and also the carbon release from bulldozing and burning all that native vegetation." she added.
The original application was submitted over one year ago, June 2016, and was initially for the clearing of 23,795 hectares. The application then had to get through numerous reviews by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Pastoral Lands Board, and the NT Environment Protection Authority(NTEPA).
The NTEPA had recommended that the Maryfield station submit a biodiversity management plan, though this was rejected by the Pastoral Lands Board. It was rejected as they felt that adequate allowances had already being made, through retaining wildlife corridors, vegetation buffers and the exclusion of certain areas from the clearing.
As part of the permit’s approval, the NTEPA confirmed that the clearing of this land, was “unlikely” to have a huge impact on the environment. They confirmed that they did not require an assessment to be carried out under the Environmental Assessment Act.
NTEPA’s claim was described as “extraordinary” by Ms Molloy, Environment Centre NT director, given the high quantity of native vegetation set to be cleared. She said the recommendation of a biodiversity plan suggests NTEPA are concerned about the potential impacts.
"[The NTEPA] said that they recommended a biodiversity management plan, so I think they are indicating that there are environmental concerns around erosion, sediment control, weed management and biodiversity," Ms Molloy said.
"So while [the NTEPA] have said they don't think [environmental impacts] are significant, there are definitely still environmental concerns." she added.
Ms Molloy the described the application process as unclear and said the NT application process is need of a review.
"[Under the current process] you get one opportunity to comment, whereas through an environmental impact assessment you would have much more ability to comment on the impacts in terms of carbon emissions and biodiversity impacts," she said.
The NTEPA say they have seriously considered the clearing proposal and subsequently decided that further assessment was not needed. They will upload on their website this week, the reasoning behind their decision.
The owner of the Maryfield Station, Colin Ross, is a strong anti-fracking advocate, citing the environmental impacts as caused by fracking as his reasoning behind his opposition. He declined to comment on the clearing application.