Today the Territory Government announced a plan to invest in water infrastructure in some remote communities facing water stress, however, funding is needed for every single community living without safe access to water as well further detail about the plan and urgent implementation.
As the announcement took place, Australian Lawyers for Remote Aboriginal Rights (ALRAR), the legal team for Larmaba, sat in the Supreme Court to present arguments to have the Territory Government joined as a respondent to their case regarding uranium-contaminated drinking water because of the Government's inaction since filing a claim 18 months ago.
The announcement was also met with concern by the Northern Land Council who said that the plan does not scratch the surface of the crisis and many communities assessed as high, very high or extreme risk of water stress would miss out on the vital investment needed to ensure they have safe access to water.
According to the NT Government-owned Power and Water Corporation, drinking water in Laramba is contaminated with uranium at levels at least 2.5 times the maximum safe level. Levels of uranium in the water supply have been consistently and significantly worsening since 2010, according to the annual reports of the Power and Water Corporation
Persistent high levels of uranium in drinking water are a well known and documented cause of chronic kidney damage according to the World Health Organisation.
“The community has been waiting almost 18 months since filing their water case in the Tribunal for an outcome, and during that time their families have had no choice but to drink the water that they know contains high levels of uranium. The families living in Laramba and other remote communities cannot afford any further delay, their health is ultimately on the line” said Dan Kelly, Solicitor for ALRAR.
“The Government intends to spread this spending out across 4 years and the detail of the works at this stage is unclear. Residents in Laramba, for example, have been forced to consume uranium-contaminated water for at least 10 years with resulting in injury to their health. The Government must bring forward and increase this spending and ensure that all communities assessed high, very high or extreme risk of water stress have the investment they need and are not forced to wait any longer to access safe drinking water, a most basic human right,” said Isabelle Reinecke, Founder and Executive Director at Grata Fund.
“Over the course of this case, we have seen a lot of buck-passing and not much action by the Territory Government. For the Government to secure the trust of communities they need to provide much more detail than what is on hand and turn up and engage personally and directly with affected all at risk remote communities about their plans and meaningfully integrate their input,” said Isabelle Reinecke.
“The NT Government must ensure communities and community-controlled organisations have the legal protections that have been requested by urgently implementing a Safe Drinking Water Act, in addition to working with communities to ensure that the investment in water is appropriate for the community needs now, and into the future,” said Dan Kelly.
Belinda Lowe, 0428 805 696