Fracking: NLC's position

Date: Dec 18, 2017

Publication Type: News, Speeches and Opinion Pieces

Opinions about fracking among Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory are as diverse as among the rest of the population.

But there’s another layer of concern that’s special to Aboriginal people, and that is their long standing and unmatched spiritual relationship with the landscape, their lands and waters.

The Northern Land Council presented a very detailed and lengthy submission to the scientific inquiry, which properly reflected the concerns of our constituents.

The NLC itself does not have a policy either for or against hydraulic fracturing. Our position has been that it’s a matter for Traditional Owners themselves to decide, after they have been fully briefed so as to be able to consider providing their informed consent – or not.

The draft report does deliver a level of confidence that the scientific inquiry has given particular consideration to issues relating to cultural heritage and the protection of sacred sites.

The requirement for gas companies to obtain an Authority Certificate (a form of “clearance”) from the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) does provide some comfort, as does the recommendation that the Sacred Sites Act be amended so that sub-surface formations be included as a sacred site or a feature of a sacred site.

The NLC has always taken account of the highly technical nature of the oil and gas industry during the conduct of consultations with our Aboriginal constituents – so we welcome the recommendation that interpreters must be used  during all consultations with Aboriginal people for whom English is a second or third language. That would apply to most remote Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory.  

The draft report also recommends that a comprehensive assessment of the cultural impacts of any onshore shale gas development be completed before any production licence is granted.  To us, that makes good sense. 

Finally, I must say that fracking for our people will always be a divisive issue. But, in the end, if the NT Government does allow fracking, it will be a matter for Traditional Owners and affected communities to consider whether they want it on their lands.

By Joe Morrison, Northern Land Council CEO

This opinion piece was published in the NT News on Saturday 16 December 2017.