Gunner Government proposal would let gas companies write the rules for fracking land access

Published: March 02, 2020

Landholder groups have condemned the Gunner Government’s proposal to allow oil and gas lobby group APPEA to assist in drafting the laws and regulations governing gas company land access at a committee hearing today. 

Testimony from the Protect Country Alliance warns the Petroleum Act Amendment draft Bill grants the gas lobby extraordinary influence to shape new laws for land access arrangements, and prevents other stakeholders from consultation or input.

“The Bill, in its current form, unfairly favours the fracking companies when it comes to land access and fails to even outline minimum standards to protect landholders, as required by the Pepper Inquiry recommendations,” Protect Country Alliance spokesperson Lauren Mellor said.

The Bill misses the clear intention in Justice Pepper’s Fracking Inquiry Final Report that, ‘There must be a statutorily enshrined land access agreement prior to any onshore shale gas activity on any Pastoral Lease.

“It’s really quite extraordinary. Instead of putting the details of the new laws for fracking land access into the Bill, the Government Department is arguing for the laws to be drafted as regulations behind closed doors, with the involvement of fracking lobby group APPEA,” Ms Mellor said.

“Many other stakeholders will not have the opportunity for any input in this process, and parliament would be denied scrutiny of any legislative amendments.

“We are calling on the members of the Legislative Scrutiny Committee to hold the Gunner Government to account and call for this Bill to be redrafted. They can ensure the Pepper Inquiry recommendations are implemented in full, instead of allowing APPEA to interfere in a secret drafting process with the Department and Minister’s office.”

Rod Dunbar, owner of Nutwood Downs cattle station near Daly Waters presented to the Legislative Scrutiny Committee today about pastoralist concerns with the secretive land access reform process.

He said, “The amount of pressure being put on our family by gas companies including Origin Energy and Hancock Prospecting, aided and abetted by representatives of the Department of Primary Industries, is appalling. No landholder should have to go through the bullying and intimidation we’ve experienced. 

“The NT Government’s proposed Petroleum Act amendment Bill does nothing to address the power imbalance between landholders and gas companies. In fact, it could risk weakening existing provisions for compensation and quiet enjoyment of our property.

“I do not accept that only certain stakeholders will be consulted on the actual detail of the land access provisions. It’s absolutely inappropriate that the gas lobby could be sitting down with the government to write the rules for gaining access to our properties, yet that is what is being proposed here.

“They haven’t even got the laws in place yet and I’m already being harassed for access. Under common law I have a right to quiet enjoyment on my property. I will keep fighting for a right to say no to fracking, to protect this land and the water resources.”

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