Traditional Owners from the Beetaloo Basin are alarmed about new laws, introduced by the NT government and due to be pushed through by the end of the year, which will allow fracking companies to mine and sell gas at a large scale for up to 15 years at the exploration stage, in what amounts to production by stealth and which sidesteps the usual requirements to consult and secure consent agreements with native title holders for full-scale industrial development on their country (ABC today: Traditional owners slam NT government’s 'disgraceful' plan to allow fracked gas to be sold before full approvals are granted).
Lawyers for Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, representing native title holders from across the Beetaloo Basin have provided legal advice to the Chief Minister in a letter asking her to reconsider the Petroleum Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 which will allow holders of an exploration permit to produce, use or sell fracked gas at the exploration stage (Letter here).
The Bill is being widely condemned, including by the Northern and Central Land Councils, for allowing ‘production by stealth’, enabling the gas industry to produce gas at an unlimited volume for up to 15 years, without the need to negotiate with Aboriginal people or undertake the environmental and other regularly checks usually required before obtaining a production licence.
Chair of Nurrdalinji Aboriginal Corporation, Gudanji-Wambaya man and jungai (cultural lawman) Johnny Wilson, who lives at Lightning Ridge outstation, said, “We are shocked that the government has changed the rules to allow gas companies to do large scale mining on our country without our consent.
“As early as 2004, when exploration agreements were first made, our old people were told there’d be wells the size of billy cans. Gas companies didn’t explain what fracking is or the damage it can do to our water, sacred sites, plants and animals. We now know there’ll be four to five hundred wells and pipelines running across our country.
“These exploration agreements which were signed by our elders, with very little information provided, are now set to become the hook, line and sinker for large scale industrialisation and production.
“Gas companies in the Northern Territory have never done the right thing by Aboriginal people but now they have lent on the government to allow them to ignore us even more.
“These shameful new laws should not proceed. We have a responsibility to protect and care for our country for future generations. How can we do this when the government says it’s OK for the gas industry to not even talk to us or respect our right to self determine what happens on our country?”, Mr Wilson said.
High quality photos for download Here and Here
Letter from Nurrdalinji Aboriginal Corporation about the Petroleum Legislation Amendment Bill to the Chief Minister, ccd to the Northern Land Council, is here.
Detailed analysis of the shortfalls of the Bill - including excessive secrecy provisions and narrow rights to merits review - is outlined in a letter to the Chief Minister signed by Protect Big Rivers, Protect Country Alliance, Arid Lands Environment Centre, Original Power, Lock the Gate and Environment Centre NT here.
The Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation includes native title holders from the Amungee Mungee, Beetaloo, Hayfield, Kalala, Newcastle Waters - Murranji, Nutwood Downs, Shenandoah, Tandyidgee, Tanumbirini, Daly Waters Township, Ucharonidge native title determinations.
The Beetaloo sub-basin is located around 500 kilometres south-east of Darwin. It embraces Aboriginal land, pastoral leases (which co-exist with Native Title rights and interests), horticultural enterprises, cattle stations and remote Aboriginal communities. A number of companies are currently undertaking fracked gas drilling in the region, with most of the NT covered by exploration permits.