Nurrdalinji Aboriginal Corporation vows to consider legal and other options
On the same day Reconciliation Week begins, the new NT Fyles government has approved four new Origin fracking wells in the Beetaloo Basin. Meanwhile, Tamboran Resources has commenced bringing heavy work equipment to cut fences onto Tanumbirini cattle station, clearing land to build a road and new well dangerously close to Newcastle Creek which is protected by sacred sites legislation. Rallen has given no consent and the gas company is proposing construction of a new access track
Statement from Gudanji-Wambaya man Johnny Wilson, Chair of Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation:
“We are heartbroken that the Northern Territory Government is letting Origin do more fracking, on the same day that Tamboran Resources is cutting gates and bringing heavy machinery onto our country on Tanumbirini Station without our consent.
“This is our country, our family and our future. Everything that is important to us is in grave danger. We will use all means and measures to stop this.
“We are working with our lawyers and Rallen Australia to consider all options, including immediate legal interventions.
“As Reconciliation Week starts it’s insulting that fracking plans which are actively opposed by Traditional Owners are being announced.
“Today we have suffered two new blows. We have repeatedly said we do not want this fracking, but the government and gas companies are ignoring us and putting money before our right to preserve country, sacred sites and water.
“Our people have deep connections across the region. We don't want to see this one-by-one consideration of new wells, new fracking. Our clans and families talk to one another and are becoming more and more worried that this fracking is occurring right across the area.
“If the water is impacted in one part of our country it ultimately impacts on the story and song further away.”
High quality stills: Heavy equipment at Tanumbirini; Nurrdalinji Traditional Owners standing at access gate to Tanumbirini with cattle hands on horses behind them; TOs standing near Origin flaring fracking well on Wednesday here.
Tanumbirini is a 5,000 square km cattle station located near Daly Waters, 600km southeast of Darwin. Tanumbirini’s owners Rallen Australia are one of Australia’s largest landowners. They are in a legal dispute with Sweetpea Petroleum, a subsidiary of Tamboran Resources. Tamboran has an exploration permit (EP 136) for exploratory fracking that covers parts of Tanumbirini and the neighbouring Beetaloo Station.
The Tanumbirini owners and local Traditional Owners, supported by Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, are united over concerns about fracking risks to land, water and sacred sites. Nurrdalinji has been working closely with Rallen in a bid to protect their country for future generations. Both are vocal about a consistent failure by fracking companies to properly consult about their plans.
Nurrdalinji’s Board has spoken out in public hearings and made submissions to government inquiries and in response to fracking companies’ plans, including submitting comments on Sweetpea’s draft Environmental Management Plan for EP 136. Nurrdalinji has expressed concerns about the potential of Tamboran to damage sacred sites and destroy country, water and culture on Tanumbirini. Tamboran’s Sweetpea has failed to conduct stakeholder engagement with Nurrdalinji on any of its EMPs.
Following a failure to reach agreement about land access to Tanumbirini, the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) determined an access agreement for Tamboran and neighbouring Beetaloo Station on 4 May 2022. Tanumbirini and neighbouring Beetaloo Station are appealing, with a hearing scheduled for the NT Supreme Court on 20 June 2022.
This access agreement allows Tamboran to begin exploration works, and the company has given notice it intends to access Tanumbirini from Wednesday 25 May - the first company to do so since the commencement in January 2021 of new NT Petroleum Regulations which are designed to provide minimum protections to landowners, including pastoralists, in negotiating land access and compensation arrangements with petroleum companies. In this case, existing access may prove difficult, with the exploration area landlocked and access requiring Rallen’s consent and there being no consent to clear a new road.
Rallen has given no consent to Tamboran travelling through no go zones near its water infrastructure, and the gas company is now proposing construction of a new access track on Tanumbirini which Rallen has seen no approval for from the Minister for Environment.
Tamboran mired in controversy
Tamboran faces financial challenges. Its 100% owned subsidiary, Sweetpea Petroleum, was purchased by Tamboran Resources, but Sweetpea’s US investors maintain a 30% ownership of Tamboran through a shell company, Longview Petroleum LLC, which is registered in Delaware in the US, a known tax haven, via the notorious Corporation Trust Centre home to a reported 300,000 companies. Sweetpea was controversially granted $7.5 million in public money for exploration by the Morrison government in March 2022.
Tamboran is under threat of being referred for contempt of the Federal Senate for refusing to appear before an Inquiry into Fracking in the Beetaloo Basin, with its critics pointing to its failure to be publicly accountable for this grant.
Tamboran’s Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for EP 136 for drilling and fracking has not yet been approved. It was withdrawn by the company in March 2022, following complaints about Tamboran’s failure to properly consult with impacted parties. A revised EMP is now open for public consultation until June 20.