Katherine Times: Traditional Owners gather to fight fracking gas hub

April 10, 2024 4:58 PM

Public money should not be used to “fill the pockets” of gas companies, say traditional owners opposed to a major mining and manufacturing project planned for the Northern Territory.

The proposed development of the Middle Arm precinct, a major processing hub for gas, petrochemicals, hydrogen and carbon capture near Darwin, is being probed in a Senate inquiry.

The federal government has committed $1.5 billion to developing the Middle Arm development, which critics say essentially amounts to a subsidy for fossil fuel companies.

Members of the Larrakia and Nurrdalinji communities will take part in a round table on Wednesday and have voiced their opposition to the development, which they see as enabling more fracking on their traditional lands.

Fracking is a drilling method used to extract natural gas from deep underground that greatly increases available gas reserves but which critics say causes devastating groundwater contamination.

Samuel Janama Sandy, a Jingili elder and chair of the Nurrdalinji Native Title body, has said the federal government should listen to traditional owners who oppose the technique on their country.

“Public money shouldn’t be used to fill the pockets of big gas companies like Tamboran Resources who do not care about our country, water and cultural heritage,” he said in a submission to the inquiry.

Tamboran, a gas company planning to frack in the Beetaloo Basin, will be a key tenant of the hub. 

In its own submission to the inquiry, Tamboran said the project was vital to ensuring Australia avoids an “energy supply crisis”, with looming gas shortfalls in the east coast market.

“Australia has the opportunity to address those issues and secure an affordable and reliable domestic supply through our project in the Beetaloo Basin,” the company said. 

“The benefits of which will put downward pressure on gas prices, meaning cheaper electricity for Australian households and industry.”

The inquiry is being chaired by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who has said the federal government can not afford to open up any new coal or gas projects if it is to address the climate crisis.

Tamboran says Beetaloo gas provides a dependable route for Australia’s renewable energy transition and would provide neighbouring countries with access to relatively cleaner gas in place of more emission-intensive coal power.

The company, and the NT government, have spruiked the project’s jobs and economic potential, claiming it will provide 20,000 permanent, high-skill jobs from 2025.