Traditional Owners oppose fracked gas pipeline deal

Central and Nothern Lands Council meeting.

Lock the Gate has reported that a joint Central and Northern Land Council meeting in Tennant Creek on July 27, which was called to discuss a proposed gas pipeline across Aboriginal land, has ended in a walk out by Traditional Owners.

The Traditional Owners of the Wakaya Land Trust, whose land has been targeted for the proposed new gas pipeline between Tennant Creek and Mt Isa, oppose the pipeline. They are concerned about the rushed consultation process for the access route for Jemena's Northern Gas Pipeline and the pipeline's reliance on fracked gas.

Jemena, which is jointly owned by the Singaporean and Chinese governments, has claimed that fracked gas would not be needed to ensure the pipeline was economically viable. But this was challenged by the Traditional Owners.

They pointed to media statements in which Jemena and the Northern Territory government had touted the pipeline as “driving the development of onshore gas in the Territory”.

Max Priest, one of the Traditional Owners who walked out, said: “If we say yes to the pipeline we would be helping the fracking industry to expand across the whole Territory and damage not just our own but other mob's country.

“We are standing up and saying no to this pipeline not just for our own sake but on behalf of a lot of station owners and Native Title mob who don't have any rights to stop the gas companies walking on and damaging their land.

“We have not made any deal today, we are going to block this pipeline and we will continue to push for a full ban on fracking to protect every community in the Territory.”

Betty Rankine, senior Traditional Owner of the Wakaya people from Soudan Station, said: “The company is not telling us the proper story about this pipeline. We know it will mean fracking for gas to fill it, which will damage our country and we're not happy about it.

“We want our country to be clean and healthy for our children and cattle. This gas is only going to go overseas, Aboriginal people will not benefit but our lands will be damaged beyond repair.”

The final decision on the pipeline is not due until December but the Traditional Owners say they will not change their minds. The walk out and objections raised by the Traditional Owners means it is unlikely Jemena will have work underway by early 2017 as planned.

The Wakaya Land Trust has removed the Land Council as its legal representative in negotiations about the pipeline. They raised concerns with the consultation process, including lack of information about the environmental impacts of the pipeline and inadequate information from the Central and Northern Land Council about how the decision-making process will work.

They want to know who has the power to make decisions about the pipeline, given the different forms of land tenure including Land Trusts, Native Title and pastoral leases along the route. An environmental report was provided at the meeting but the full Environmental Impact Statement for the Northern Gas Pipeline is not due until September.

Josie Davey, a Traditional Owner who was at the meeting, said: “The Wakaya people are bailing up on this pipeline because what we heard today at the meeting wasn't the full story. We know if the pipeline goes ahead then all this fracking will come afterwards and will damage our bush tucker, water and the land for our kids.”

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