Opening Address – Savanna Fire Forum

THE HON LAUREN MOSS MLA MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES

The Northern Territory Government believes that the emerging carbon farming industry can provide important economic, social and environmental benefits for the Territory. It is one of a range of land management activities and environmental services that can make a significant contribution to regional and remote economies. The savanna burning industry already provides opportunities to support sustainable jobs for remote communities, while also incorporating traditional knowledge and practices to contribute to effective management of country. It provides important new ways for Aboriginal people to participate in the Territory economy.

The NT Government supports further development of opportunities in this field, and we are actively working with industry to support further investment and industry development. Over recent years carbon farming projects and activities have become a substantial industry with indigenous carbon projects in the Emission Reduction Fund currently estimated to be valued at more than $50million. The majority of these projects are savanna fire management projects located in northern Australia. There are 25 savanna burning projects in the Territory, and they produce 52% of all Australian savanna burning carbon credits. Projects undertaken on Aboriginal land produce 92% of the carbon credits generated in the Territory. These Territory projects provide a unique combination of local land management outcomes and broader environmental benefits. Carbon farming projects and integrated land management fit well with the Government’s broader goals to support sustainable economic development and environmental protection on country. These goals are embedded in our ‘Protecting Country, Creating Jobs’ policy.

Around 50% of the Territory is Aboriginal land, including many of our great natural assets and resources. The knowledge and understanding of land management that exists within the Aboriginal community will provide a critical component of the partnerships that will drive future economic development in the Territory. This has been demonstrated often in the past, and the carbon farming projects that many of you are associated with are further examples of that potential.

The NT Government has a long history of involvement with this industry. In the early days of the WALFA agreement regulatory requirements for large scale environmental offsets drove the agreement that underpinned that pioneering project. The Government also provided support through funding early research into methodologies through Bushfires NT and associated ranger groups, and supporting on ground development of projects. Government’s role in brokering some of the early agreements was also of great benefit to industry development. Many great Territorians have contributed to the development of this industry. Some of you are here today, and the work of you and the many others involved is acknowledged and very much appreciated.  This industry stands as a uniquely successful collaboration bringing together traditional knowledge, land and resources, research and development, and regulatory support.

The development of the industry has also provided the Commonwealth Government with some powerful tools for the efficient reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The economic efficiency of savanna burning projects provides an effective option amongst the range of emissions abatement methods employed by the Commonwealth to achieve Australia’s emission targets.  Projects and project managers across the Territory have a strong history of collaborative project development with government, researchers and land owners working together comfortably and effectively. This easy collaboration has seen the development of new methodologies and effective operations and governance structures that are now being used across northern Australia and beyond. We value these partnerships and we will continue to support the expansion and development of the industry across the NT.

In part, this commitment is demonstrated through the establishment in 2017 of the Aboriginal Carbon Unit – a dedicated unit providing a point of contact and voice for the industry with Government. We have developed a draft NT Aboriginal Carbon Industry Strategy – through extensive consultation with major industry stakeholders, to guide the actions Government can undertake to further support industry development and expansion. We expect the strategy will be finalised over the next two months. We are providing on-going support for the Northern Australian Rangeland Fire Information (NAFI) site – through collaborative partnerships with the Commonwealth Government and industry stakeholders. We are committed to providing administrative and financial support for the Indigenous Carbon Industry Network (ICIN) – an industry association working to strengthen and expand the Indigenous carbon sector across northern Australia.

Through Bushfires NT and DENR, we are strengthening relationships and partnerships with Darwin Centre for Bushfires Research, CDU, Australian and State Governments, Land Councils and major industry stakeholders to ensure continued growth, participation and development of the carbon farming industry across the NT. To complement and support these initiatives, the Government is currently reviewing and forming policy settings to support the industry and encourage investment. These include development of a Climate Change Framework, undertaking Environmental Regulatory Reform and developing an Offsets Policy. The future for the industry is exciting, and the NT Government is proud to play a part in developing these new opportunities through continued collaborative partnerships with industry and major stakeholders.