Places with experience in gas industries share some common learnings. People in these regions, for example the east coast of Australia or in Pennsylvania, often talk about missed opportunities to better plan and prepare as their industry started and grew. In the Northern Territory, we have the unique advantage of realising that we are at the beginning of an industry that has vast potential in our region.
We will work with industry and stakeholders, to acknowledge learnings from other regions where issues are the same, and get our planning right in the Northern Territory.
Firstly, we must use our existing knowledge and new knowledge derived from any SREBA processes to effectively manage competing land interests and put no-go zones in place to protect areas of high value.
Identifying areas of high value and their existing and potential land use will provide us with data, which together with information on industry’s development pathways we can plan for the growth of the gas industry and manage impacts at a regional level.
We will work with industry to understand how their development plans will impact our regional towns to inform population driven planning for schools, health and housing.
The government will also ensure that transport network planning reflects the development pathways of industry so that wear, tear and congestion is managed and roads are safe for all road users.
The government will also consider pipeline, road and rail corridors in their planning work and new regional infrastructure will be developed to benefit multiple users wherever possible.
The government will work with pastoralists and industry to develop and legislate a fair access regime requiring land access agreements with standard minimum protections for pastoralists be in place before industry accesses pastoral leases.
Planning for Industry Action Points
Defining Areas, Processes and Mechanisms for No-Go Areas
The Northern Territory Government recognises that there are areas of the Territory where gas activities must never occur. The Inquiry recommended that areas such as national parks, towns and areas of cultural and ecological significance should be declared Reserved Blocks under the Petroleum Act. The government will give effect to the intent of this recommendation while preserving the right of Traditional Owners to control development on their traditional land.
The government does not approve any application for an exploration permit in relation to areas that are not prospective for onshore gas or where co-existence is not possible.
Improving Roads and Facilities
The government will maintain its role for overseeing the transport network, with industry being accountable for developing management plans to mitigate any potentially adverse impacts on the Northern Territory transport system.
The government will work with all levels of government, community and industry to identify and manage infrastructure risks and opportunities and investigate funding options including from the private sector to support infrastructure associated with the projects.
Planning for Infrastructure, Services and Industry Impact
As part of the regional level baseline Social Impact Assessment (SIA) the Northern Territory Government will undertake studies to identify the infrastructure the industry requires and potential risks to other users.
These studies will be designed with input from local communities and the gas industry, and put out for public feedback. Infrastructure considered in these studies will include:
Addressing Arrangements to Access Pastoral Land
The Northern Territory Government understands that the development of the unconventional gas industry in Australia has, in some cases, caused tension between pastoralists and gas companies.
The government will work with the pastoral and gas industries to legislate a fair land access regime that will require gas companies to reach an agreement with pastoralists before they access pastoral leases.
The government will develop, through consultation, a process for how pastoral lessees should be compensated for the impact that gas production operations have on their pastoral operations, which will be made enforceable via legislation.