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Internal letter exposes NT Government’s unfulfilled Fracking Inquiry obligations

An internal letter released yesterday exposes how the NT Fyles Government has grossly misrepresented the implementation of Fracking Inquiry recommendations.

Despite Chief Minister Natasha Fyles and Mining Minister Nicole Manison yesterday claiming all 135 recommendations were now in place, a letter to the government from Independent Officer Dr David Ritchie, who was a member of the original Fracking Inquiry panel, highlights serious outstanding issues. 

Dr Sam Phelan, the Katherine region coordinator of Protect Big Rivers said, “Dr David Richie’s letter exposes how, despite Natasha Fyles making claims to the contrary, the NT Government has fundamentally not implemented all 135 recommendations of Fracking Inquiry.”

The letter finds: 

"Despite the Commonwealth agreeing to “work with the Territory to support its implementation of recommendation 9.8 using available technology and policies”, there has been no progress on the crux of this recommendation, that is: to develop a system that would allow the public to see how a specific reduction in GHG elsewhere in the Australian economy is directly attributed to offset GHG emitted in Australia from production and consumption of shale gas produced in the NT."

The letter is also highly critical of how the government facilitated baseline studies, especially where Aboriginal communities would be impacted, and says Aboriginal communities’ concerns about how groundwater will be impacted have been “ignored”:

“The fact that regional Water Advisory Committees have not yet been appointed for the areas where the onshore gas industry plans to expand their operations has reinforced the perception held by many Aboriginal people in affected communities that the traditional significance of groundwater has been ignored by government and industry.”


“The Social, Cultural and Economic Study (2022) confirms that risks to Aboriginal people and their culture are substantially unaltered since the Inquiry’s Final Report and so remain at an unacceptable level.”

The letter concludes with a dire warning concerning the petroleum industry’s reputation for state capture:

“To ensure that the gas industry continues to operate in accordance with acceptable standards requires that the Government maintains both the capability and systems to enforce them… This will be a major task for leaders from the highest levels of government down. It requires an understanding that the gas industry will relentlessly exert its influence to change laws that increase their operating costs and, more generally, to shape the social and political environment in its favour.”

“Judging by yesterday’s press conference, we’d say this warning about state capture is too little, too late,” said Dr Phelan.

“Territorians’ only hope now is for the Federal Government to step up where the Fyles Government has failed. The government is hell bent on sacrificing communities and the water we rely on to the fracking industry.” 


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