Northern Territory communities fear that the Northern Australia White Paper released by the Federal Government last week could be a trojan horse for widespread shale gas fracking across the Territory, as on-ground opposition to the industry escalates from local councils to entire communities who are declaring themselves 'gasfield free'.
Adelaide River, situated in the heart of the Northern Territory’s spectacular Daly region, will become the first community in the NT to declare itself 'gasfield free', following a grassroots community survey of residents in the local area which has just been completed.
This follows action by two local Councils earlier this year who have passed motions opposing shale gas fracking, including Wagait Beach Shire Council and the Katherine Town Council who called for a moratorium across the shire.
There is widespread community concern about the impacts of fracking on the Territory’s scarce water resources, iconic natural areas and existing tourism and pastoral industries.
“Communities fear that the Federal Government is using the Northern Australia White Paper as an opportunity to open up the Northern Territory to fracking against the wishes of the community, by promoting the development of new gas resources as a high priority" said Lauren Mellor of the NT Frack Free Alliance.
"Fracking is a risk to our water, land, public health and the future of many regional and remote communities now facing a reckless large scale expansion of this damaging industry.
“Now, the Federal Government seems determined to put the Territory at risk, despite the fact that basic regulatory and legal protections are lacking to prevent damage to our communities, water catchment areas and even national parks and reserves.
“We're calling on the Government to heed the calls of communities like Adelaide River who have conducted door to door surveys and reject shale gas fracking, and the Councils of Katherine and Wagait Beach” said Ms Mellor.
“The Territory tourism industry should be highly alerted to this issue because it’s our whole industry’s future at stake here,” said Sue Witham, owner and operator of the popular Mt Bundy tourism spot and cattle station at Adelaide River.
“There are a lot of enterprises involved in tourism up here that rely on clean water and land to survive. If fracking went ahead our tourism industry would be out of it on the water contamination issue alone, let alone the aesthetics and the pollution risks.”
“Governments can be very fickle and make decisions that can shut other industry’s down virtually overnight. We don’t want to see tourism in the NT destroyed by fracking,” she concluded.
Vivienne Sobek, another local resident, said: “Our community at Adelaide River is standing up and taking action to protect our community and our homes from the threat of fracking.
The gasfield free survey is a grassroots initiative which gives all residents a say on whether or not they want unconventional gas mining in their area.
This survey result has demonstrated it’s the power of the people who make Australia. In our particular instance it’s the power of the people of the Northern Territory – our actions can make or break a government should we choose. Fracking is an issue we will be making that choice on!”