Taming Australia

Australian Premier, Tony Abbott is determined to develop his Northern Territory. With the enormous markets of South-East Asia on the doorstep of Darwin there’s huge potential for oil, gas, mining and agriculture in the thinly-populated north.

Locals welcome the prospect of jobs but there’s a real concern that the extraordinary landscape of the north could be lost. Mining and intensive agriculture require water in vast quantities. To get it dams will have to be built and groundwater abstracted. That will disrupt the complex web of life in the river systems of the north. Fish, turtles and birdlife depend upon the seasonal flows and fluctuations that will be tamed in a developed north.

Local Aboriginal people who own half of the land and make up 30% of the population still hunt and fish the rivers. Many worry that development will take their water but fail to offer them the jobs and modern facilities they would like to see.

Julian Rush travels across the tropical savannah of Australia’s ‘top end’ to gauge the impact of a populated and energised north, meeting the people and the wildlife that will have to live alongside the incomers.

Producer: Alasdair Cross.

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