Northern Territory Traditional Owners and pastoralists are taking the fight against fracking to Sydney and will confront Origin Energy bigwigs as the company holds its annual general meeting tomorrow (Wednesday October 16).
Meanwhile, many continue the fight in the Territory, with drill rigs now rolling across the landscape and exploratory fracking about to commence.
A delegation of Territorians will rally outside the AGM before presenting their case directly to shareholders and the board inside, calling for a resolution that would force Origin Energy to provide crucial documentation underpinning consent claims for its fracking projects in the NT.
“We want Origin to show its shareholders what information it presented to Traditional Owner groups before making agreements to frack,” said Ray Dimakarri Dixon, a Newcastle Waters Native Title holder from Marlinja community at the centre of Beetaloo basin drilling activity.
“We know Origin didn’t get proper, informed consent. These agreements were made back in 2004 and 2005. At the time, our old people didn’t understand how many wells would be drilled, or the risks to our land and water from fracking.”
“Many Native Title holders were never consulted by Origin at all, even though they have a legal obligation to talk to them. Shareholders should be concerned about shoddy consultation practices with Traditional Owners that could spell the end of its fracking hopes.”
Disputes over its fracking agreements have plagued the company’s early stage exploration since works began in mid-2019.
The AGM resolution takes place amidst concerns by pastoralists on stations where Origin have begun civil works last month. Within weeks of its first project approval from the NT Government, owners of the NT’s Amungee Mungee cattle station took Origin to court alleging the company breached its land access contract, and failed to consult over risks from its fracking activity that could cause significant harm to pastoral businesses.
Daniel Tapp, a stakeholder and pastoralist working with a group of landholders threatened with fracking on their properties in the Beetaloo basin, said locals had good reason to be concerned at Origin’s fracking plans.
“We have just experienced one of the dryest wet seasons on record, and now this monstrous fracking industry wants to come in, take our water, and pollute our aquifers,” he said.
“Pastoralists have no veto rights over mining or exploration on their properties, and we want this to change.
“What’s more, we’ve recently learned that due to omissions in the NT water and petroleum acts, landholders face the very real threat of being held liable if a fracking company fouls an aquifer while conducting drilling on our land.
Mr Tapp said an overwhelming majority of Territorians remained opposed to fracking, as identified by the Pepper Inquiry.
“We also know that the Pepper Inquiry’s recommendations have been watered down. For example, fracking companies are now allowed to store their waste water in open air ponds.
“In the past, the industry has risked cross connecting aquifers and one of those aquifers is twice as salty as seawater, with over 1000 pounds PSI in it.”
“Once fracking companies gain access to our pastoral leases, our rights go out the window and we’re at the mercy of invasive industrial activity, and potential land and water contamination.”
Solicitor Marylou Potts, who advises landholders, communities and councils in NSW, QLD and the NT in relation to land access, said, “Governments have a responsibility to ensure that landholders are no worse off as a consequence of fracking companies, petroleum title holders, accessing their land.
“Currently in the NT, unlike in other jurisdictions, the landholder has all the risk and no legislative protection.
“The NT Government should abide by and enact all the Pepper Inquiry recommendations, require a baseline data to be taken before any further exploration, require an access arrangement to be in place before any access, require the proponent to pay the landholder legal, expert, accounting and valuers costs and landholders’ time relating to the proponent’s activities on their land, as and when they arise.
“Anything less leaves a landholder in a significantly weaker position in relation to potentially catastrophic consequences if a beneficial aquifer is polluted by a fracking company’s activities.”
The Northern Territory delegation will rally from 8am outside the Origin Energy AGM at City Recital Hall, 2-12 Angel Place. The AGM begins at 10am.