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Pastoralist blasts 'unprecedented' NT fracking foray, teams up with native title body

Giovanni Torre -
: Traditional Owners and one of Australia’s largest landowners are joining forces to take a stand against fracking on Tanumbirini cattle station in the Northern Territory. The united front was formed after Tamboran Resources subsidiary Sweetpea Petroleum gave notice it intended to enter Tanumbirini on May 25 to begin preparatory activities for fracking, without the pastoralists’ consent. Rallen Australia, which owns the station, planned to meet with Traditional Owners this morning to stand together, monitoring a key access gate and scrutinising Tamboran’s activities. The pastoralists say they have given no consent for the gas company to travel through “no go zones” near the station’s water infrastructure, and that Tamboran is now proposing construction of a new access track on Tanumbirini. Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation chairman Gudanji-Wambaya man Johnny Wilson said sacred sites on Tanumbrini needed protection. The fight for my country is so important to us," he said. “How can we live on our country if there is no water. “The outcome I am hoping for is full stop no fracking." Mr Wilson said his people would "be nothing" if the Country's water became contaminated by fracking. He urged the Territory and Federal governments to listen to First Nations people. But the Northern Land Council said an agreement was in place between Sweetpea Petroleum, the Council and the native title holders. “The NLC facilitated a series of consultations between Sweetpea Petroleum and native title holders during October 2021," an NLC spokesperson said. "Representatives from Sweetpea Petroleum presented their proposed exploration work program for 2022 and responded to questions and concerns from the Native Title Holders. The Northern Territory government is responsible for regulation of the onshore gas sector… including in relation to environmental protection." Rallen Australia director Pierre Langenhoven said it was unprecedented for a fracking company to force access onto a cattle station without consent. “Working side by side with Traditional Owners, we will act to protect the sacred sites, crucial water resources and land we care for together," he said. “These gas companies admit to needing billions of litres of water to operate and having no plan to safely dispose of the wastewater. "Our biggest fear is that they will contaminate what can’t be replaced - fresh, clean, Territory water." A Tamboran spokesperson said the company held “meaningful engagement" with stakeholders. “We respect the role of the Northern Land Council and have had extensive consultation with the recognised native title parties who have granted us consent to undertake our program," they said. “We have also engaged through the Aboriginal Area Protection Authority to ensure that there is an appropriate authority certificate in place to ensure the protection of sacred sites." NT Environment, Climate Change and Water Security Minister Lauren Moss, said Sweetpea Petroleum had been approved to establish groundwater bores and undertake civil works, but was yet to gain approval for drilling or hydraulic fracturing. “Gas companies are obliged to consult with pastoralists about environmental impacts on pastoralists’ rights or activities," she said. "Pastoralists can provide a written response, which the interest holder is obligated to assess and determine mitigations, where appropriate. “Amendments to the Petroleum Regulations 2020 require that a land access agreement must be in place between a landholder and petroleum interest holder before conducting regulated activities." However, there is no right of veto for a pastoral lease holder regarding petroleum activities under Territory law. Tanumbirini, a 5,000sqkm cattle station, is near Daly Waters, 600km southeast of Darwin. Following a failure to reach agreement about land access to Tanumbirini, the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal determined an access agreement for Tamboran and neighbouring Beetaloo Station on May 4, 2022. Tanumbirini and neighbouring Beetaloo Station are appealing, with a hearing scheduled for the NT Supreme Court on June 20.

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