Traditional Owners have vowed to stand strong against fracking in the NT’s Beetaloo Basin as concerns grow over government grants and consent from custodians.
Over two days last week the Senate inquiry into the fracking heard evidence from stakeholders from either side of the debate.
The closed hearing on Wednesday saw Traditional Owners from four language groups give direct evidence to the committee in Darwin for the first time.
It followed Tuesdays public hearing where gas and oil industry representatives were questioned on a government grant given to companies for fracking in the region.
“The whole purpose of this inquiry is to look at why $50 million of public funds is going into grants,” Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy said.
APPEA chief executive Andrew McConville told the inquiry fracking would bring significant economic benefits.
“Both the coalition and the Australian Labor Party have acknowledged the benefit to the Australian and Northern Territory economies for a sustainable and environmentally sensitive development of the Beetaloo basin,” he said.
“It has the potential to create thousands of local jobs and ensure reliable energy supply for both Australia and Asia.”
Discussions went on to question if appropriate consent for the fracking had been obtained from Traditional Owners by companies looking to operate in the basin.
“No exploration and no production of oil and gas can commence on any traditional owners’ land or any pastoralists’ land without their consent,” Mr McConville said.
“Traditional owners of the Beetaloo basin area and their representative land councils continue to work with oil and gas companies to reach agreements for exploration and development of the resources on their land, signalling ongoing support and consent for the development of the basin from those who matter most, recognised traditional owners.”
Several Traditional Owners used a press conference following Wednesdays hearing to claim there had been no consultation.
“We’ve had no consultation whatsoever with the people coming to frack Country,” Gudanji man Johnny Wilson Yanyuwa said.
“We do not want fracking full stop.”
Yanyuwa man Nicholas Fitzpatrick said money handed to companies could instead be used to benefit his community.
“So much has been taken already,” he said.
“We need the government to spend this money on our health systems, education, roads and tourism.
GetUp first nations justice campaign director Larissa Baldwin Baldwin said the Government had a responsibility to acknowledge First Nations voices opposed to fracking.
“Traditional Owners have now told the Morrison Government face-to-face that they do not consent to climate-destroying fracking in the Beetaloo,” she said.
“With an election looming, the Morrison Government is on notice – if you back Beetaloo, you’re turning your back on First Nations communities and the climate.”
The final report on the inquiry is due on April 21.