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Whatever Pepper: Only 1/4 of NT fracking recommendations implemented nearly four years since inquiry

A new forensic legal analysis has revealed the stark failings of the NT Gunner Government to implement Justice Rachel Pepper’s recommendations following the 2018 fracking inquiry.

Despite the government giving the green light to numerous exploratory fracking projects across the Territory’s Roper and Gulf regions, this new analysis reveals only 27 percent of the 138* recommendations have been implemented in full. 

The report also finds that, of the recommendations the Gunner Government claims have been completed, 40% have not been fully implemented in accordance with Justice Pepper recommendations (26 out of 64 recommendations marked ‘complete’). The scorecard is available here, and the summary is available here.

Among the more concerning recommendations the government claims to have implemented but in fact remain incomplete, as identified in the analysis are: 

  • Rec 14.34 A lack of clear separation of responsibility between the government departments responsible for promoting the fracking industry (DITT) and regulating its environmental impacts (DEPWS). 
  • Rec 14.6: Justice Pepper recommended that a breach of an access agreement should qualify as a breach of an approval under law, but that has not been implemented. This means landholders are effectively required to police compliance with access agreements themselves. 
  • Recs 14.15 & 14.16:  Notification of fracking incidents and Environment Management Plans are routinely not being published in print. For many remote communities in areas where fracking is occurring, print is the most widely read media. 

The analysis was commissioned by Lock the Gate Alliance and undertaken by the Environmental Defenders Office and not for profit environmental organisation Earthjustice.  

Protect Country Alliance spokesperson Graeme Sawyer said, “This new analysis proves that Michael Gunner has comprehensively failed to deliver on his promises to implement all fracking inquiry recommendations, including his promise before the most recent NT election.  

“It shows that 26 fracking inquiry recommendations that have been ticked off as complete have in fact not been done properly and another 71 recommendations are still waiting to be implemented.

“We’re giving the Gunner Government an F for fail - only 27% of the total fracking inquiry recommendations have been implemented in full nearly four years after the final report was handed down. That’s an abysmal result.

“This is even more reason for the community to demand a complete ban on fracking - half-baked implementation of fracking inquiry recommendations puts Territory communities, businesses, and the environment at enormous risk.”

EDO Special Counsel Alina Leikin said the analysis and scorecard showed many critical recommendations were now just sitting on the shelf gathering dust.

“There is still no government requirement to offset greenhouse emissions, meaning the extraction of gas in the Beetaloo could result in significant new emissions, which neither the NT nor Australia can afford,” she said.

“There is also still no right for people affected by fracking on their land and in their communities to challenge government decisions and approvals. This undermines government accountability.

The NT Government is exposing the community to the risks and harms of fracking, like contamination of water and significant new greenhouse gas emissions.

“The NT Government promised to implement the recommendations of the Pepper Inquiry, which it commissioned. But, after almost four years, the government still hasn’t fulfilled that promise. 

“We are facing a climate emergency – a code red for humanity - when every government action counts more than ever, and the NT Government is dragging its feet when it should be sprinting.” 


*While Justice Pepper made 135 "recommendations", the NT Government split the recommendations into 138 "implementation actions".

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