The Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory released its final report on 27 March 2018.
The Scientific Inquiry was extensive in its engagement program, taking over 1200 submissions, holding public hearings throughout urban centres, and talking to Territorians at community meetings in urban regional and remote settings.
The report recommended that the Northern Territory Government should accept and implement all 135 recommendations in order to mitigate the risks, identified in the final report, to acceptable levels:
…it is the Panel’s opinion that, provided that all of the recommendations made in this Report are adopted and implemented in their entirety, not only should the risks associated with an onshore shale gas industry be minimised to an acceptable level, in some instances, they can be avoided altogether.
On 17 April 2018, after carefully considering the Inquiry findings, the Northern Territory Government accepted all of the Inquiry’s recommendations and lifted the moratorium on unconventional shale gas developments in the Northern Territory.
The Inquiry recommendations are considerably more wide ranging than previous reports and reviews. Full implementation of the recommendations will be transformative, establishing a new bench mark for industry regulation. The required effort to implement these reforms is significant and the Northern Territory Government is committed to implementing these recommendations.
The Northern Territory Government has now developed this Implementation Plan, which will be updated regularly to reflect progress and further refine our implementation approach. In many cases we will need to gather more information, develop policies and consult further with stakeholders and the community.
The task of implementing specific recommendations is spread across several ministerial portfolios and government departments. The government has established two additional oversight mechanisms to increase transparency and accountability outside normal government reporting systems: the appointment of an Independent Officer and the establishment of an Onshore Shale Gas Community and Business Reference Group.
Dr David Ritchie has been appointed the Independent Officer to oversee the implementation of the recommendations. Dr Ritchie was a member of the Inquiry Panel that consulted widely with the Northern Territory community to hear their views on hydraulic fracturing.
The role of the Independent Officer is to provide the Chief Minister and government with independent advice on how the implementation is progressing and being managed. The nature of this role requires the Independent Officer to remain at arms-length from day-to-day decisions and processes relating to implementation.
Onshore Shale Gas Community and Business Reference Group
The Onshore Shale Gas Community and Business Reference Group has been established with representatives from the community, environmental groups, local business, the gas industry, land councils and local government. Its role is to provide a forum for government to seek advice and share information on the Implementation Plan to deliver on the recommendations and their subsequent execution.
The Hydraulic Fracturing Inquiry Implementation Taskforce has been established within the Department of the Chief Minister to coordinate the delivery of the Inquiry recommendations and articulate an approach to implementing each recommendation, mapped in the Implementation Plan.
A Steering Committee of government Chief Executives guides the work of the taskforce and assesses and manages risks to the delivery of this plan.