As the Northern Territory develops and new industries establish it is important to manage growth in a way that enhances our Territorian way of life, respecting the cultural, recreational and environmental assets we hold dear.

Embedding respect for our communities and the people that live in the Northern Territory is critical to ensure Territorians gain the greatest benefit from industry expansion, while mitigating and reducing social impacts.

The Northern Territory Government will introduce a Social Impact Assessment policy to manage the impact emerging industries can have on the lives and lifestyles of Territorians. Regulatory triggers can be detected through the environmental assessment process and moderated under the Environment Assessment Act.

Gas companies will be required to complete a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) for endorsement by the regulator. Impacts they identify will be mitigated through a Social Impact Management Plan.

The government will work with traditional owners through land councils, native title holders, pastoralists and regional communities to build comprehensive regional, social, health and cultural baseline information about what is important to them in their areas. Information gathered will range from recreational hotspots to health and wellbeing data. Information will be developed for open use except where information is deemed sensitive or confidential.

The baseline will inform SIAs and management plans for the development of the unconventional onshore gas industry in the Northern Territory.

Impacts need to be identified and responded to at all stages of development. This emerging industry must be culturally sensitive to the communities in which it operates and engage communities, particularly Aboriginal communities, in an informed and collaborative way without placing undue burden on them.

The Northern Territory Government will develop and release guidelines to assist gas companies to identify social impacts.

Respecting Community and Culture Action Points

Building a Comprehensive Framework for Social and Cultural Baselines


The Northern Territory Government will work with industry and independent experts to establish regional social, health and cultural baseline data before granting production approvals.

The baseline will provide gas companies with information to conduct their Social Impact Assessments, and will assist with transparent monitoring and evaluation, including assessment of cumulative impact management, where possible. The industry will fund these and the results will be made publicly available. The production of the social, health and cultural baseline data, and the assessment of the social impacts, will be overseen by the regulator.

Community advisory groups will be established to provide ongoing feedback on the social and cultural impacts of industry development.


Conducting Regional Social and Cultural Impact Assessments


The Northern Territory Government will commission a regional level strategic Social Impact Assessment (SIA) to be completed before production approvals for the Beetaloo Sub-basin. This will include a comprehensive cultural impact assessment designed with land councils and the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA). The terms of reference for this strategic SIA will be drafted and released for public feedback.

There are three steps to developing the Beetaloo strategic SIA:

  1. Establish social baseline data and information based on the framework outlined above.
  2. Government will develop a coordinated strategic SIA with industry, identifying a range of potential outcomes
  3. In consultation with industry, government will establish a monitoring and evaluation framework to assess impacts at a regional level.

Industry will fund these assessments. Gas companies will be responsible for undertaking SIAs for their own projects, and then developing Social Impact Management Plans (SIMPs) as part of the environmental approvals process, along with relevant monitoring and compliance processes.

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Managing Social and Cultural Impacts


The government will establish a policy and associated guidelines for conducting SIAs and SIMPs. Gas companies will be expected to engage communities early in the development of these assessments and plans, including land councils, to fully understand and manage the potential impacts on shared infrastructure such as roads, accommodation and other services. Gas companies will be expected to upgrade or invest in new infrastructure such as roads or housing where necessary.

Human health risk assessment reports will be prepared for the appropriate regulator before production approvals are granted.

Gas companies must take an iterative, participatory approach to managing their social impacts including community engagement that is transparent and promotes community cohesion in order to support their social licence to operate. Collaborative strategies to enhance positive, and mitigate negative, social impacts that include procedural fairness and trust are key to establishing a social licence to operate and to ensure that communities are heard.


Ensuring Respectful Consultation, Information and Negotiation


Gas companies will have to obtain an Authority Certificate from the Aboriginal Area Protection Authority (AAPA) before they undertake specific activities on site.

Gas companies will be expected to engage the AAPA early in their planning process to provide the AAPA the opportunity to comment on those plans and, where necessary, explain plans to stakeholders.

The government will adopt processes to protect the sub-surface features of a sacred site.

Gas companies will be required to comply with section 41(6) of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act when supplying information to Native Title holders for the purposes of negotiating an onshore gas exploration agreement. Gas companies will be expected to use interpreters to ensure information is available in a familiar form.

The government, gas companies and land councils will work together to develop an appropriate information program for Aboriginal people who will be affected by any onshore gas industry.

Aboriginal communities and Traditional Owners will be involved in the design and development of cultural assessment and implementation planning. This includes consultation in relation to Aboriginal land rights under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and Native Title Act as detailed in the final report. 11.8 3