Canberra Times: Court battle unites native title holders and pastoralists against fracking

January 22, 2022 3:47 PM

Canberra Times, Katherine Times 22 Jan

He is the chair of the Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, a representative body which includes native title holders from across the gas-rich Beetaloo Basin area, and which has supported an NT cattle baron in their recent court battle against oil and gas company Santos.

Rallen Australia, which has previously raised concerns about fracking on its land, took Santos to court for allegedly failing to provide full details about its exploration drilling program on Tanumbirini Station, and having a "cavalier attitude" to government regulations.

Mr Wilson said he hoped this case was the beginning of a partnership between Traditional Owners and pastoralists in the area to hold fracking companies accountable and protect the land.

"We are very happy that the pastural company has got up. And for once, we feel that we are working together to stop the fracking on our country," he said.

"Hopefully we can work with pastoralists so that we can all stand up and unite for the future of our country. For the future of our family."

Mr Wilson said in this case, Traditional Owners and pastoralists alike were taken advantage of by Santos.

"Santos and other companies...are getting people to sign these contracts for them to drill and not actually giving them the full information it's gonna really impact our country," he said.

"They're not giving us the proper information.

"To pastoralists and to Traditional Owners, people are so concerned about country and about our future. And our generation, our culture and our lore."

He said there are major concerns from people in the area about the long-term impacts fracking can have on the land and water.

"Water is is a very, very important part in our life. Water is life," he said.

"But also, we have to live on this country and drink it. Our Animals, our sacred sites.

"We have to care for our country, our country's is us. It's our life."

Mr Wilson said he considered last week's outcome to be a win, but it was just "the tip of the iceberg."

"Yes, it's a start. It's the beginning, not the end, but it's a start," he said.

"We will continue to fight we will prevail in the end.

"It's our country. It's our life."

In a statement, Santos said they would continue to flow test wells known as Tanumbirini 2H and Tanumbirini 3H, but would cease other activities at the site until after December 31, 2022.

"Santos will work to improve the way it engages with landholders. Santos looks forward to a constructive working relationship with Rallen on that basis," the company said.

Santos declined to respond directly to comments made by Mr Wilson.