A powerful Aboriginal land council has accused the Northern Territory government of treating traditional owners with contempt, as it prepares to let fracking companies sell gas from the Beetaloo Basin before production approvals are granted.
But the change — which is grouped with other amendments ahead of fracking production, which will begin next year — has been met with a growing tide of opposition from Indigenous groups who have condemned the government's processes.
"There was no consultation, no modelling of the impact or volumes involved, no time for us to properly consider it, no consideration of alternatives, absolutely no respect for traditional owners and native title holders," Northern Land Council (NLC) chief executive Joe Martin-Jard said in a statement.
The NLC has vowed to review existing agreements in the gas sector and is calling on the government to withdraw the contentious change.
Under the current laws, gas companies must consult with Indigenous groups to get exploration licenses on Aboriginal land.
The land council is specifically concerned the appraisal-phase gas extracted under existing agreements will become the property of fracking companies under the bill.
"This thing they call 'appraisal gas' is really stolen gas," NLC chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi said.
"Except it's the territory government that's stealing it and handing it over to industry."
- The government is moving to let companies use or sell fracked gas before full production approvals
- Several Indigenous groups are opposing the change, which is expected to pass this week
- A leading native title lawyer has warned the legislation could breach the Native Title Act
- If passed this week, the government's changes to the Petroleum Act would allow the companies to sell or use gas fracked during the "appraisal phase" of their activities, when they assess the viability of gas reserves.
By Jesse Thompson, 30 Nov 2022.