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The Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association says a decision to move to trial to determine if stakeholder engagement has taken place between pastoralists and a resources company, raises serious doubts about the approval process for fracking in the Territory.
NTCA chief executive officer Ashley Manicaros said the matter between Bullwaddy – operators of Amungee Station and Origin - also represented a test case for the way in which the gas industry was seen to engage with leaseholders in a respectful manner or if they will say one thing and do another to steam roll leaseholders.
Supreme Court Justice Steven Southwood, while not agreeing to an injunction being sought by the operators of Amungee Station in the Beetaloo Basin, found there were “serious trial-able issues” to determine whether or not origin carried out stakeholder engagement and whether or not Origin lodged an Environmental Management Plan in accordance with all of Regulation 9 schedule One criteria.
“When followed all the way through,” Mr Manicaros said. “If Origin is found not to have carried out stakeholder engagement then it raises the question as to how the Minister could have approved the EMP to satisfy Regulation 9 and the schedules. Stakeholder engagement is a matter for the Minister to consider before giving approvals. We now have a Supreme Court Justice saying there are serious questions which must be answered as to whether that has occurred or not.”
Mr Manicaros said not gaining an injunction placed Origin, not the leaseholder, in an interesting position. “If they proceed with the work and are subsequently found to have failed in their stakeholder engagement then they will have entered the property illegally and as Justice Southwood pointed out will be liable for compensation,” he said.
“However, the bigger issue from the NTCA’s point of view is that if Origin proceed with the work it will send a very clear message as to the way the gas industry intends to treat leaseholders when it comes to onshore gas.”
“I don’t think the pastoral industry or Territorians will be overly impressed that when it comes down to it that the gas industry is going to do the complete opposite to what it has promised it wouldn’t do which is ride roughshod over leaseholders. Everyone seems to forget that the properties the gas companies are going to be accessing are operating businesses in a very successful $1.2 billion industry.”
Mr Manicaros said both Origin and the landholder should sit at the negotiating table with an independent mediator to resolve their issues.