• Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park is located in Central Australia, a few hundred kilometers from Uluru. Traditional owners who jointly manage the park are seeking an emergency heritage listing from Canberra to protect it from oil and gas fracking (AAP)Source: AAP
Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park is one of the most beautiful and spiritual landmarks in Central Australia. But some traditional owners are worried that fracking plans could place this precious area under threat.
NITV News, Myles Morgan

24 Nov 2015 - 5:26 PM  UPDATED 24 Nov 2015 - 6:50 PM

The desert people who look after Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park have held an urgent meeting with Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt about potential fracking in the sacred area.

The meeting follows concerns that a permit granted to mining company Palatine Energy to explore for oil and gas in Watarrka National Park in 2012 may provide the green light for the controversial method of fracking to go ahead.

Palatine Energy told NITV News it offered traditional owners royalties and an exclusion zone around their homes, Kings Canyon and the conservation area.

But traditional owner Julie Clyne says that’s not good enough.

“Even if it's back of the hill, we go hunting there and we can go around the corner and see this big rig you know,” Ms Clyne said on Tuesday.

“We want to look after it. It's a national park and that's the way we want to keep it. We don't want mining or fracking there.”

The popular tourist destination is considered sacred to the desert peoples of Central Australia, forming a vital part of the people’s creation stories (Tjukurpa).

“It's untouched you know,” she said.

“We want to look after it. It's a national park and that's the way we want to keep it. We don't want mining or fracking there.”

Traditional owners successfully lodged an application with Mr Greg Hunt to legally declare the area off limits for mining. The application is currently being considered.

Most of the land in Watarrka National Park is Crown Land, which means the opposition of traditional owners does not carry as much weight.

“The land tenure, unlike Aboriginal land, doesn't give them the right to say no to mining,” said David Morris from the Environmental Defender's Office Northern Territory.

“That decision rests with the Northern Territory Minister for Mines and Energy: David Tollner.”

5 captivating images of Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park
These images depict the Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park, a few hundred kilometers from Uluru in the NT. Traditional owners requested an emergency heritage listing on Tuesday to protect the park from a fracking exploration licence.

The NT Government said it was considering an exclusion zone.

But Chief Minister Adam Giles told ABC News Darwin that opposition to the exploration isn't universal.

“There are many traditional owners in the Watarrka National Park who have a divergence of views. Some support oil and gas, some don't know,” Mr Giles said.

“As I say, we'll be taking advice from the Aboriginal Protection Authority.”