Inquiry backs fracking in NT
The Northern Territory government has vowed not to put jobs at risk in the fishing, farming, tourism and cattle industries in a rush to lift a ban on fracking.
An inquiry into hydraulic fracturing in the Territory has ruled that the risks associated with gas extraction can be managed.
Justice Rachel Pepper handed down the inquiry's final report in Darwin on Tuesday, including 134 recommendations which she described as a "package deal" the government should implement in full if it decided to lift the current moratorium.
Justice Pepper said no industry was without risk and any onshore shale gas industry was no exception.
"However, it is the panel's opinion that if all of the recommendations are implemented, the identified risks associated with any onshore shale gas industry can be mitigated or reduced to an acceptable level, and in some cases, the risks can be eliminated," she said.
But she said it was not for her inquiry to recommend the ban on fracking be lifted as that was a matter for Territory government.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner said once the final report had been carefully considered the government would either ban fracking or allow it in highly regulated circumstances in tightly prescribed areas.
"We will put the Territory first and make the best decision for the Territory," he said.
"We will not put at risk existing fishing, farming, tourism and cattle jobs for the possibility of jobs from fracking."
In its recommendation, the panel called for world-leading engineering standards for the construction, maintenance and decommissioning of all gas wells to be mandated and for new technologies to be implemented as they emerged.
The panel also called for Aboriginal communities to be properly consulted before gas projects proceeded and for all environmental laws to be enforced with sufficiently stringent sanctions.
The NT government imposed a moratorium on fracking in September 2016 and in December that year announced the independent scientific inquiry which conducted 151 public hearings and received more than 1200 submissions.
Among those were calls from indigenous and environmental groups for fracking to be permanently banned while business groups said lifting the ban would help put a lid on future gas prices and have immediate and long-term benefits for the NT economy.
The federal government also called on the Territory to lift the moratorium to drive investment and economic growth.
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