Traditional owners take fight against Singleton Station water licence

Traditional owners from a stretch of remote desert in Central Australia's Barkly region are fighting to overturn a water licence granted to horticultural venture, Fortune Agribusiness, which wants to develop one of the nation's biggest fruit farms. The company was last year given the right to eventually extract 40,000 megalitres of water a year from Singleton Station, four hundred kilometres north of Alice Springs.

The Mpwerempwer Aboriginal Corporation is suing Territory Families Minister, Kate Worden – who re-granted the license last year after a review – over her decision, and on Wednesday their Barrister Chris Young QC told the Supreme Court in Alice Springs that "some of the most basic, fundamental things about this water resource is not known."

The company has previously described its $150 million horticultural project as "nationally significant", announcing plans to irrigate 3,500 hectares of land to grow onions, rock melons, citrus, grapes and other crops.

The court heard this modelling has been disputed by experts in the field and that the expert review panel recommended a longer first stage than is currently in place. The hearing is expected to last three days and will hear from lawyers representing the Arid Lands Environment Centre, the government, and Fortune Agribusiness.


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