Land use change is the most significant driver linked to global species extinctions. In Northern Australia, the landscape is still relatively intact with very low levels of clearing. However, a re-energized political discourse around creating a northern food bowl means that currently intact ecosystems in northern Australia could be under imminent threat from increased land clearing and water extraction. These impacts are likely to be concentrated in a few regions with suitable soils and water supplies. The Daly River Catchment in the Northern Territory is an important catchment for both conservation and development. Land use in the Daly catchment has been subject to clearing guidelines that are largely untested in terms of their eventual implications for the spatial configuration of conservation and development. Given the guidelines are not legislated they might also be removed or revised by subsequent Territory Governments, including the recently-elected one. We examine the uncertainties around the spatial implications of full implementation of the Daly clearing guidelines and their potential effects on equity of opportunity across land tenures and land uses. We also examine how removal of the guidelines could affect conservation in the catchment. We conclude that the guidelines are important in supporting development in the catchment while still achieving conservation goals, and we recommend ways of implementing the guidelines to make best use of available land resources for intensified production.