Territory pastoralists have condemned the NT Government’s proposed fracking industry land access reforms, and say the draft Bill leaves landholders in a weaker position when negotiating with gas companies.
Public comment on the draft laws closes today (January 29).
Landholders are concerned the Bill fails to implement the Pepper Inquiry Recommendation 14.6 for a legally enshrined right to an access agreement in legislation.
Daniel Tapp, manager of Big River Station in the NT’s Roper region said, “Right now we’ve got a serious power imbalance with fracking companies bullying landholders for access to explore for oil and gas on cattle stations and farms.
"We’ve got few legal protections for the value of the land, water security, or our businesses.
“Our strong advice to the NT Government is that this draft Bill will disadvantage landholders against the gas giants, and fails to faithfully implement its own Fracking Inquiry Recommendations. It must be strengthened if pastoralists are to have any confidence in the NT Government’s petroleum regulatory framework going forward.”
The NT Pepper Inquiry was clear on a range of legal actions required to ensure Territory pastoralists and landholder rights were protected before the fracking industry could proceed.
In the Final Report of the Fracking Inquiry, it states: “188.8.131.52 There must be a statutorily enshrined land access agreement prior to any onshore shale gas activity on any Pastoral Lease.”
“We don’t want dodgy deals and forced handshakes with fracking companies. Once we have a legally enshrined right to an access agreement, then we can get clear legal advice on the conditions,” Mr Tapp said.
“Pastoralists are rightly concerned that water-hungry fracking gasfields are not compatible with a safe and productive cattle industry in the Territory.”
“We will keep up our fight for the right to say no to these fracking companies to protect our businesses, land and water.”
The draft land access Bill, currently before the NT Economic Policy Scrutiny Committee, fails to meet the standards set by the Inquiry, which requires the statutory enshrinement of land access agreements.
In other states and Territories, land access laws are found in the Act itself, but this is not the case in the draft Bill.
Further, the draft Bill makes no mention of the standard minimum protections for pastoralists (Pepper Recommendation 14.7), which would allow gas companies to disadvantage landholders during negotiations, fail to cover legal and other costs, and guarantee compensation or other potential liabilities from its activities.