NIT: Beetaloo Traditional Owners at odds with NT government as fracking moratorium is lifted

May 03, 2023 10:15 AM

Traditional Owners of the Beetaloo Basin, located approximately 500 kilometres south-east of Darwin, have called for a halt to plans for large scale fracking production in the region until proper consultation occurs with Native Title holders.

It comes as Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles announced the Territory government will permit fracking in the Beetaloo Basin, following the lifting of a five-year moratorium.

Ms Fyles claimed that all recommendations of the Pepper Fracking Inquiry have been implemented, and said Traditional Owners would be involved in the approval process whilst retaining the power to veto.

"The Territory government will move carefully to manage the onshore gas industry through our strengthened regulatory framework, ensuring greater transparency and accountability and ensuring that traditional owners Aboriginal people have a seat at the table," Ms Fyles said.

"I want to make it clear (that) Traditional owners, Aboriginal Territorians have the power to veto a project."

However Traditional Owner and jungai (cultural lawman) for the area, Johnny Wilson, disputed Ms Fyles comments, pointing to the incorrect claim by the Minister that Traditional Owners have veto power at the production stage of fracking developments.

"The Chief Minister is incorrect to claim today that Traditional Owners have the power to veto production on our country. Justice Pepper made it clear in her report that this is not true," Mr Wilson said.

"There is no veto right at production stage under Native Title or land rights laws," he said.

"When our old people said yes, many years ago, they had no idea of the many thousands of wells we are looking at now."

Referring to the right to veto in the Pepper Report, the report notes "traditional Aboriginal owners can only exercise their veto right at the exploration phase" and "if traditional Aboriginal owners say 'yes' to exploration they also say 'yes' to production, even if they know very little about the scope and scale of the project".

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