• Traditional owners have objected the Northern Gas Pipeline, a 622km pipeline that will link Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory to Mount Isa in Queensland. (Seed Mob)
Traditional owners have lodged an emergency objection to land clearing amid fracking concerns, which could potentially shut down a major Northern Territory gas pipeline project.
Laura Morelli

17 Feb 2017 - 2:05 PM  UPDATED 17 Feb 2017 - 2:23 PM

The Wakaya and Warumungu Aboriginal Land Trusts want to put a stop to the pipeline project, which is set to commence production next month from Tennant Creek in the Territory to Mt Isa in Queensland.

Jemena was selected by the Northern Territory Government to build, own and operate the Northern Gas Pipeline, but the 622km pipeline production has seen backlash from local Indigenous community members who have disclosed their fracking fears.

Wakaya Traditional Owner, Max Priest says fracking has a negative impact for the environment and would put our water, animals and landscape at risk. 

"Traditional Owners don't want to do anything that will mean fracked gas on other mob's country." 

Seed is Australia’s first Indigenous youth-­led climate network and their vision is for a just and sustainable future with strong cultures and stronger communities. Widjabul woman and Seed National Co-Director, Larissa Baldwin, says Max isn't the only Traditional Owner concerned. 

"Over the last year we've spoken to hundreds of Traditional Owners along the proposed pipeline that don't want to see this destructive project go ahead," she said. 

"The communities along the pipeline are very aware that this pipeline is for fracked gas. They know that there's huge concern across the Northern Territory about this pipeline. They don't want to do anything that will mean fracked gas on other mob's country." 

Max has now addressed Northern Territory Chief Minister, Michael Gunner and NT labor in an open letter to explain why they are backing a total ban on fracking. 

Don't Frack The Territory:

"To Chief Minister Michael Gunner and NT Labor,

We, the undersigned, back a total ban on fracked shale gas in the Northern Territory because it will irreparably damage our water, country and climate.

Currently over 80% of the Northern Territory is covered in oil and gas exploration licences, this is unacceptable. There is widespread opposition to fracking from many Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal station owners, pastoralists and the broader public. People from all across the Northern Territory, including Borroloola, Katherine and Darwin, are coming together and will do whatever it takes to protect their land, water and ways of life from being poisoned by dangerous fracked shale gas.

In the Northern Territory, Traditional Owners have the right to say ‘no’ only before the exploration stage. They have no right to say no once extraction has started. That means they have no input into how many wells will be drilled on their country, or where those wells will be drilled. They have just one chance to make an informed decision, and that is now, but they aren’t being given all the information:

“The gas company didn’t explain to us what would happen after exploration. Some people were told the impact on the land would be a hole the size of a billy-can,” said Mangarrayi Traditional Owner, Shelia Conway.

Over 380 Traditional Owners and members of the Alawa and Mangarrayi Aboriginal Land Trusts are contesting the fracking agreement, they weren’t sufficiently consulted or explained the scale and risks of an operational shale gas field. Vital services like interpreters were not used to explain complex mining techniques and a majority of Traditional Owners were excluded from consultation meetings entirely.

“We were not told that our land could be opened up for thousands of fracked gas wells. Our old people were asked to sign documents that may have been for gas mining but were never properly explained,” said Mangarrayi Traditional Owner, Simone Baker. 

"When communities say no, it means no."

At the end of July, Traditional Owners from the Wakaya Aboriginal Land Trusts walked out of a meeting where gas pipeline company Jemena wants to gain access to their lands for a fracked gas pipeline.

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."

Under the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous peoples, of which Australia is a signatory, Aboriginal people have the right to free, informed and prior consent. This means:

Traditional Owners should be consulted properly.

Traditional Owners should be informed in their language.

There should be full disclosure of the risks to our water and country and, when communities say no, it means no.

Communities across the Territory are standing together to protect our water, land and country, and they demand a ban on fracked shale gas.

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