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HomeIssue 22MacFarlane water allocation – rigorous and followed due process, says expert

MacFarlane water allocation – rigorous and followed due process, says expert

The controversial water allocation to the family property of CLP candidate for Lingiari, Tina MacFarlane, has been made in a “rigorous process” and “due process has been followed”.
This is the opinion of John Childs (pictured), who, before his retirement in 2008,  spent a decade as the delegate of the Territory government’s Controller of Water Resources in the southern half of the NT. He has a doctorate in civil engineering. The doctorate work was on the modelling of water resources. He lives in Alice Springs.
“It is a very thorough job,” says Dr Childs of the MacFarlane water allocation. “All the ‘t’s are crossed and the ‘i’s dotted.”
The allocation is a key issue in the Labor Party’s campaign for the re-election of sitting Member Warren Snowdon. Supporters have claimed Mrs MacFarlane is “tainted” by the allocation, sought to expand a horticultural venture on the MacFarlanes’ Stylo Station.
Environmental activists have said the river and groundwater systems around Mataranka, where the station is located, will be affected by the allocation.
The Alice Springs News Online asked Dr Childs not for a comment on the political issues, but strictly on the process by which the allocation was made. We provided him with documents supplied by the NT Department of Land Resource Management and a note supplied to it by the Bureau of Metereology, and Dr Childs made his own enquiries.
This is what he says:- “The public record shows that a rigorous process has been followed: on the departmental website at the first entry in the table headed 2012 is a link to the detailed decision behind the granting of this particular licence.
“From my reading of the detailed decision and of the draft Mataranka water allocation plan 2011 together with its background document, all due process has been followed.
“Indeed the information from the Department to [the Alice Springs News Online] dated 22 August 2013, which explains why the maximum annual extraction limit will be increased almost double over that in the draft plan, is irrelevant in that the total of all licences granted in the area, including this particular one, is still within the lower limit originally proposed in the draft plan.
“The draft plan made several conservative (cautious) assumptions, and effectively combined the effects of them to make the limit very conservative.
“The updated thinking is more realistic, although it does then require a more on the ball approach to monitoring and adjusting annual usage; this is known as adaptive management and is enshrined in allocation plans and presumably in licences (which do not appear to be publicly available on the website).
“Note that the licences are not for a guaranteed amount, and will vary from year to year depending on the actual rainfall in the previous wet season, and in many years licensees will not get the maximum amount specified on their licence.”


  1. It remains to be seen whether Tina McFarlane will get across the line on Saturday, but it is definitely looking close. It is also pretty reasonable to assume that the CLP / FNPP arrangements that worked so well at the last election are in play again – so this is likely to further add to Ms McFarlane’s chances.
    Good timing with this article AS NEWS; it is good that independent identities like Mr Childs and the AS NEWS have taken the time to do some research and communicate findings back to electors.
    On the other hand, I’m still left wanting to know more about what type of Federal Representative Ms McFarlane would actually be for the Territory.
    Political persuasions aside, the NT needs Fed representation that can “talk straight” without needing the seek permission from the party machine.
    Don’t get me wrong, the CLP has some good Territorians on the team – a number I’d call friends – … but there are also some dodgy-hacks in the mix. No-one should want them to be pulling the strings of NT’s future at a Federal level.
    At a party level, will Ms McFarlane stand up to these identities and cut them loose when necessary?
    Will Ms McFarlane stand up for all Territorians and articulate the underpinning rationale for the New Wave of policies that are likely to be coming out of Darwin and Canberra very soon?

  2. It’s also worth noting that this matter is being reported very differently by AAP (only hours seperating articles in fact). With your permission AS NEWS, here is the link:
    Whatever the case here, gee, wouldn’t it be nice to hear Ms McFarlane grab the mic and shut this one down with the authority, once and for all.
    One of Ms McFarlane’s few quotes on the record, back in 2010: “This is not just about us, it’s about the future of the agriculture industry in the Territory,” Mrs MacFarlane said.
    But having said that, that quote does come from a time when we had a different government at the helm. We have all seen how quickly things can change on water policy.
    But still, it’d be great to actually learn more about Ms McFarlane’s vision for the future. Maybe it could inspire all Territorians towards a new way? Is it more aligned to the Gina Reinehart model for Northern Development?
    As AS NEWS asks: Is there anybody out there?
    Personally, I’m putting it on the public record that I have reserved my democratic right to be very cynical about this election.
    My position may change if I hear the word “mandate”.


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