ABC: Who can veto a Beetaloo Basin gas project? It's an issue vexing Indigenous people, pastoralists

May 06, 2023 10:20 AM

When announcing the decision to allow commercial gas production to go ahead in the Beetaloo Basin this week, NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said Indigenous people had the power to stop a gas development.

"I want to make it clear, traditional owners, Aboriginal territorians, have the power to veto a [gas] project," she said.

But it is not as clear cut as that.

A delicate balancing act.

Balancing the rights of gas companies, pastoralists and Indigenous people is a difficult tightrope that government regulations have to walk.

Australia's natural resources are owned by the Australian people, so the argument goes that their extraction should be allowed, so taxpayers can reap some of the rewards.

However, the rights of Indigenous peoples to control what happens on their country varies depending on the land tenure.

On land granted under the federal Aboriginal Land Rights Act, commonly known as "Aboriginal land", traditional owners only have the right to veto a gas project at the exploration phase.

If traditional owners say "yes" to gas exploration on their land, that decision also ties them to saying "yes" to any commercial gas production resulting from that exploration.

Read the full story here.