Traditional Owners from the Northern Territory have addressed Origin Energy at their annual general meeting in Sydney on Wednesday urging the company not to follow through with their fracking plans.
The energy company and Santos have plans to undertake hydraulic fracking in the Beetaloo Sub-Basin, 760 kilometres south-east from Darwin, in a bid to expand Australia’s unconventional gas industry
The basin is home to a vast majority of the NT’s oil and gas fields, with exploration permits granted to Origin Energy that covers 18,500 sq kms of the Beetaloo area.
In 2014 four test wells were drilled within the area and last week construction on the Kyalla 117 well commenced after the NT’s Chief Minister Michael Gunner lifted a three-year moratorium on onshore gas exploration.
There are plans for another well to be drilled before the end of the year. These wells will determine how viable the gas in the area is.
'We don’t want fracking in the NT'
Ray Dixon, a Mudburra Elder from the Northern Territory whose land overlies the Beetaloo Sub-Basin, addressed the committee urging the company to consider the lives they could potentially impact if hydraulic fracking was to commence.
“For you [the land is] a resource to make money, for us it is our spirit, our songlines… it is an identity for who we are,” he said.
“What we understand is [that fracking] is not going to be good for our land or our people.”
Half-way through Mr Dixon’s address, Chairman of Origin Energy, Gordon Cairns, cut-him off promising the company is doing their best to ensure no harm is done.
“Our exploration for gas will not destroy land or poison water… origin would simply not be doing it if it led to an outcome that destroyed land or destroyed water,” he said.
“Protecting water and land is at the heart of every conversation we have…you have our word on that.”
Mr Cairns urged all Traditional Owners in attendance to address the energy company at a separate time as one after another stood up to protest against the plans.
“You are not understanding the facts… you don’t have to come along to the annual general meeting to make a protest… don’t stand here and take up time,” Mr Cairns said who was fronting the annual meeting.
“There is no scientific evidence over the last 40 years that causes any harm, so we are relying on science.”
Despite Mr Cairns’ stern address to Traditional Owners, Gadrian Hoosan, a Garrwa Yanyuwa man from Borroloola in the Northern Territory, stood up to protest on behalf of his people.
“Beetaloo Basin flows into the MacArthur Basin, we are a bit worried because we would get affected by two…. This is why we have all come together because we think it will affect the entire Northern Territory,” he said.
“We don’t want fracking in the NT ... we want a total ban and we want to make this clear to everyone.”
During the meeting, Mr Cairns said that the company's emissions reduction targets are keeping up with the goals of the Paris climate agreement 2015 and that they are committed to exiting from coal power by 2032.
People gather to rally ahead of meeting
Before the meeting Traditional Owners, Indigenous people and allies rallied in front of Sydney’s City Recital Hall where the meeting took place. A few hundred people attended holding placards reading #dontfracktheNT.
The rally was a collaboration between Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, Getup!, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and around 15 other climate organisation. The aim was to support Traditional Owners protest against hydraulic fracking ahead of the meeting.
Ms Hoosan addressed the crowd with a powerful message urging people to think about future generations.
“We don’t want our kids in the future to be left behind with this toxic water in our communities, we down here fighting for them, that’s what we down here fighting for, for future generations,” he said.
“If we put our foot down now we can save these kids in the future.”
Hydraulic fracking has the potential to impact water if it is not delivered effectively as the injection of hydraulic fracking fluids into rock can release gas that often contains chemicals.