New Tiwi Islands push to halt Santos’ $5.7b Barossa gas project

Save articles for later

Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.

Santos’ besieged $5.7 billion gas project north of Darwin has struck another legal hurdle, with Tiwi Islanders applying to Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to stop the installation of a critical gas pipeline due to start within days.

Environmental Defenders Office lawyer Alina Leiken said her clients – six Tiwi elders – want Plibersek to declare emergency protection for an area they regard as culturally significant, containing ancient burial grounds and songlines they fear are threatened by the oil giant’s Barossa gas export project.

The action is the latest step in continuing legal battles between two massive gas export projects and groups concerned about Indigenous heritage and climate change.

Senior Jikilaruwu elder Molly Munkara opposes the Barossa pipeline: “This will impact our spirituality and destroy our health, our home and our lives. ”Credit: Tymunna Clements

“This is a step our clients take very seriously, but given the importance of the cultural heritage at risk, it is a step they feel they must take,” Leiken said.

The move on Monday under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act comes a year after Santos’ controversial high-emissions gas export project was rocked by a federal court direction to stop drilling for gas due to insufficient consultation with Tiwi Islanders.

The decision, confirmed on appeal three months later, left an expensive drilling rig idle ever since, with industry observers doubting Santos’ claim that the project would be completed on schedule.

The drilling setback was followed in January by the offshore regulator NOPSEMA directing Santos to check the pipeline route from the Barossa field to Darwin for Indigenous heritage concerns.

Santos told the regulator on October 4 it was ready to resume pipeline installation.

Santos chief executive Kevin Gallagher last week said the heritage survey was completed.

“The independent expert concluded after extensive research and interviews that ‘there were no specific underwater cultural heritage places along the planned Barossa pipeline route’,” he said.

Senior Jikilaruwu elder Molly Munkara – one of the six Tiwi Islanders behind the latest action – said the Barossa pipeline would pass through stories of the Sea Country that have been passed down from her ancestors since time began.

“If Santos puts that pipeline where it has said, it will destroy our sacred sites and our ancient burial grounds,” she said.

“This will impact our spirituality and destroy our health, our home and our lives.”

A NOPSEMA spokesman said it was Santos’ responsibility to determine if it had complied with its January direction, but the regulator was conducting an inspection to monitor Santos’ compliance.

The Barossa field will supply gas to Santos’ Darwin liquefied natural gas plant now supplied by the Bayu Undan field, which is expected to cease production within months.

In September, Woodside’s approved plan for seismic blasting over its Scarborough gas field was halted indefinitely after the Federal Court found NOPSEMA did not have the power to approve it.

Last week, Meg O’Neill, the chief executive of Santos rival Woodside, called on the federal government to urgently overhaul the process for environmental approvals for offshore oil and gas projects.

“Such uncertainty threatens the delivery of much-needed new supplies to the WA domestic market, as well as undermining the confidence of our regional trading partners,” she said.

The Business Briefing newsletter delivers major stories, exclusive coverage and expert opinion. Sign up to get it every weekday morning.

Most Viewed in Business

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article