Munupi Senior Lawman and Tiwi Traditional Owner Dennis Tipakalippa is taking the federal offshore oil and gas regulator to court to challenge its decision to approve Santos’ plan to drill the Barossa gas field.

Mr Tipakalippa said he and his people were never consulted about the drilling.

In March the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority approved a Santos plan to drill up to eight gas production wells off the Northern Beaches of the Tiwi Islands.

With the assistance of the Environmental Defenders Office, Mr Tipakallipa is asking the Federal Court to set aside the drilling approval, arguing Santos did not meet its obligations to consult with communities likely to be affected by the project.

“Santos say they did consultation for this drilling project…My clan, the Munupi, own these Northern Beaches,” he said.

“ They never came to me in person or face-to-face.

“We spend a lot of time out in the water – hunting, fishing. We only ever take what we can eat in a day, no more. We respect our homelands, our sea country and it looks after us.

Mr Tipakallipa said his community was concerned by impacts on their sea country from oil spills and increased shipping



A  NOPSEMA spokesperson said the Authority was aware of a number of media articles regarding allegations Santos failed to consult Traditional Owners, but would not comment on the case.

In granting approval, NOPSEMA said it was satisfied Santos’ environmental protection plan met regulations.

Environmental Defenders Office special counsel Alina Leikin said Santos had a legal obligation to consult with people who might be impacted by the drilling.

“Our client is arguing that consultation did not occur, and so the approval is invalid,” she said.

“They didn’t have a chance to voice their concerns before the drilling was approved. They were sidelined from the consultation process,” she said.

Ms Leikin said the action was a significant test case, as Australia’s first legal action challenging lack of consultation with First Nations people in relation to an offshore project.

Santos declined to comment.