A new report finds the health of Darwin Harbour is in decline due to a failure of successive governments to implement a Harbour wide plan with strategic oversight and adequate funding to protect its environmental, cultural, social and economic values.
The report – Darwin Harbour Health Check – commissioned by the Keep Top End Coasts Healthy Alliance found that as one of Australia’s largest working Harbours, it has immense environmental, recreational, cultural and economic values. Despite this, the Harbour’s health is failing due to the increasing pressure from a range of industrial and urban developments.
Jason Rogers has 30 years experience as a Fishing Guide in the Harbour. He said: “I’ve been watching the decline of the Harbour and, while you can certainly catch a decent fish, it’s nothing like it used to be.’
“I’ve seen damage to fish habitat, oil spills, and big industry taking its toll on the health of our pristine Harbour. And monitoring and management seems to have failed. We need to act now to prevent further decline, before we lose this valuable natural resource,” said Rogers.
Jim Smith, owner operator of Sea Darwin said: “Our business and others like it, depend on a healthy Harbour to survive. Over the eight years we’ve been operating here, we’ve seen signs of decline, including a reduction in dolphin, turtle and dugong sightings, which are a highlight of the tourist experience.”
Adele Pedder, Coordinator for Keep Top End Coasts Healthy said: “Our capital is surrounded by the waters of the Harbour, providing a beautiful backdrop to the daily lives of locals, a source of recreation, and providing healthy food in the fish and crabs caught by many fishers and their families.
“It’s home to a number of nationally threatened species including dugongs, coastal dolphins, sawfish, saltwater crocodiles and three of the world’s seven species of marine turtles. It’s a centrepiece for the tourist experience and facilitates the passage of many marine-based industries.
“Damaging industrial and urban development within the Harbour’s catchment and coastal zone have been of concern to Territorians for many years.
“This has spawned many attempts by governments to safeguard the health of the Harbour but they have failed due to a lack of strategic oversight, adequate implementation and funding.
“This election provides an opportunity for all sides of politics to protect the health of the Harbour.
“The Northern Territory Government’s draft Darwin Harbour Strategy 2019 provides a clear blueprint for turning these threats around and securing the future of the harbour. The Harbour Strategy has been developed through a community consultation process.
“This Strategy now needs to be funded and implemented if we are to protect the cultural, environmental, social and economic values of our Harbour and our coasts,” said Pedder.
The Darwin Harbour Health Report recommends:
- Implement the Darwin Harbour Strategy (taking into account the issues raised in the Keep Top End Coast Healthy submission), including:
a. Conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment of Darwin Harbour, including Middle Arm;
b. Develop an integrated and harbour-wide Dredge Management Plan, and
- Implement the NT Coastal and Marine Management Strategy, the Territory’s first ever plan to safeguard Top End coasts.