"“There’s a tremendous injustice happening in the Beetaloo basin,” says native
title lawyer Dominic Beckett. “The genuine voices of concern, fear and
opposition are not being effectively represented or heard by the people whose
job it is to do that.”
Last month, the Northern Territory government gave the green light for gas
production to begin in the basin, a region between Katherine and Tennant Creek
that contains vast reserves of shale gas.
Scientists have warned the planned massive expansion of hydraulic fracturing –
or fracking – for gas in the Beetaloo basin will have an unacceptable impact on
But on the ground there is another battle playing out.
Beckett has spent more than two decades working in native title, including a
period at the Northern Land Council (NLC). But he now believes the land council
is not effectively doing its job as a representative for traditional owners in
negotiations with gas companies.
“So many of the people up there are opposed, are fearful, about contemporary
fracking practices on their land and the scale of operations. That’s very clear
from the time I’ve spent up there,” he says.
The NLC’s role is to help Aboriginal people in the northern half of the
Northern Territory acquire and manage their traditional lands and seas. It’s a
commonwealth-funded statutory authority that traces its roots back to the land
rights movement of the 1970s and has been instrumental in traditional owners
across the Top End winning back land.
But dozens of traditional owners in the Beetaloo basin now say the NLC is no
longer acting in their interests."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics