Traditional Owners tell Origin not to build gas pipelines on country

October 27, 2020
Mudburra Traditional Owner Ray Dimakarri Dixon. Photo: Dan Robbins/Protect Country Alliance

At Origin Energy’s online AGM on October 20, Traditional Owners from the Northern Territory made it clear they did not want gas infrastructure crossing through their country and sacred sites.

Protect Country Alliance coordinator Dan Robins, who recently visited Mudburra Traditional Owner Ray Dimakarri Dixon in the Beetaloo Basin, said he made it very clear to outgoing Origin Energy chairperson Gordon Cairns that the community did not want a fracked gas pipeline running through their land as this may cause damage to their sacred sites.

Dixon sent a question to the Origin AGM, as a representative of the Mudburra Jingili people, which read, in part:

“Barna lankaj karri nginyama yurrawa … nyundiya karribadarra banda warnayaka kayini nginyangka ngurrangka.

“Ngana nyunduma karriba? Abala ban kayini nginyangka yulungka ban burdakbiji kayini. Ngadarra?”

“Listen to our words, you are strangers to these homelands, our sacred grounds. When will you stop this destruction and leave our lands?”

Cairns replied that Origin was “still in the exploration phase and a pipeline has not yet been planned”. He said if it was to proceed to production “all partners will need to work with the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) … and comply with the Northern Territory Sacred Sites Act.

“If a location and work activity is not able to be certified by AAPA, no work can proceed. This is best practice to ensure that sacred, significant and cultural heritage sites are avoided and protected.”

Robins told Green Left that Cairns was not being entirely honest, because, he said, “a gas pipeline from Tennant Creek to Darwin is being planned and the current proposed route will definitely cross sacred sites.

“The Northern Territory Labor and Federal Coalition governments want to build two new gas pipelines: one from Tennant Creek to Darwin and one from the Meerenie Gas Field, south of Alice Springs, to the Moomba gasfield in South Australia.

“These fracked gas pipelines will not only cross through communities and sacred sites, they will flare off gas and open up more gas fields across the NT.

“It is estimated that these pipelines would cost around $1 billion each to build, with the funding most likely to come from the federal government.”

Robins said that he had also confirmed that CNC Project Management, which has experience consulting for gas pipeline companies in New South Wales, had been paid $327,140 by the NT Labor government to talk to landowners across the NT about a government plan for a 900-kilometre gas pipeline from Tennant Creek to Darwin.

“We have a map of the proposed high pressure gas pipeline from Tennant Creek to Darwin, and it clearly passes through an area within 2 kilometres from Dixon’s community of Marlinja, within a recorded sacred site area.” 

Meanwhile,  the world’s biggest solar farm is being planned on the site of a former cattle station — Newcastle Waters — near the community of Marlinja. 

The proponents Sun Cable told ABC Rural on October 22 that it requires 12,000 hectares of the station to build a 10-gigawatt solar farm that would supply energy to Singapore via a 4500-kilometre undersea cable.

The $20 billion project is being backed by tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, resources billionaire Andrew Forrest and it has also received support from the federal government.

Sun Cable has already started to get environmental approvals in place. Robins is concerned that the company has still not adequately consulted Traditional Owners.

“The environmental impacts of such a large project are still being assessed. While Traditional Owners have repeatedly made it clear they would rather see renewable energy, than fracking infrastructure on their land, they still wish to be properly consulted and have some say concerning these large infrastructure projects being built on their traditional lands.

“Communities such as Borroloola want to see more support for their plans for community-owned solar projects in the NT that would see real economic benefits for First Nations people,” Robins said.

[Sign the petition against fracking in the NT. The Arid Lands Environment Centre has set up a fundraiser to campaign against the NT pipelines. You can donate to it here.]

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.