SBS: Traditional Owners say sacred sites damaged by fracking operations

June 29, 2022 5:23 AM

A gas company is accused of damaging sacred sites as it begins clearing land for fracking operations in the gas-rich Beetaloo basin.

Traditional custodians and a cattle station owner have been locked in a bitter legal dispute with gas company Sweetpea Petroleum to halt preparatory work on lands at Tanumbirini Station 400 kilometres south of Darwin.

But a recent supreme court challenge by the owners of the station, Rallen Australia, against an NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal that granted Sweetpea access to begin exploration work on the cattle station failed to halt work.

The gas company has begun grading roads and clearing land.

Now Traditional Owners of the area have accused Sweetpea Resources of crossing a creek which they claim is protected under the NT Sacred Sites Act.

They have also accused the company of bulldozing two large stands of bullwaddy trees to begin laying seismic lines.

Johnny Wilson is Chair of Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, which represents Traditional Owners of the area.

“This shows no respect for my people, my culture or my country. My heart is broken," he said in a statement. 

“We ask Sweetpea to stop further work so we can meet and discuss the consequences of what has happened, together with custodians, the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority and the Northern Land Council.

“What we see today should never happen again as fracking operations expand across the Beetaloo Basin.”

Nurrdalinji has also written a detailed complaint to the Aboriginal Area Protection Authority (AAPA), responsible for protecting NT sacred sites.

Lawyers for Rallen, the owners of Tamburini station, have returned to the NT Supreme court seeking an urgent injunction to again halt work at the site – the matter will be a heard on Thursday.

Nurrdalinji Director, Bradley Farrar, said, “I’m not happy the company is destroying what’s ours and has been there for thousands and thousands of years and recognised by us as our Songlines.

"In the early days there were no fences, and we recognised our boundaries by Songlines. They are not listening to us. We need to stand together, and keep talking up, to stop people doing the wrong thing to our lands and rivers."

Under the access agreement, Rallen will receive $15,000 compensation for the mining activity on their land.

Sweetpea's parent company, Tamboran Resources, has previously stated that the company is working within the approved terms of the access agreement and had worked closely with all stakeholders.

Read more here.