PHOTO CREDIT - CFR.ORG
The future of a major Northern Territory gas pipeline is in doubt after traditional owners lodged an emergency objection to land clearing amid fracking concerns.
The Wakaya and Waramungu Aboriginal Land Trusts are calling for the pipeline project from Tennant Creek to Mt Isa to be knocked back by the NT Development Consent Authority.
The Chinese-controlled Jemena Gas pipeline was set to go ahead next month but the local indigenous community is worried the company could start fracking if a temporary ban on unconventional gas exploration is lifted.
"We said numerous times that we do not want fracking, as the impact it has on the environment would be devastating both for our water, community, animals and landscape," Wakaya traditional owner Max Priest said.
Waramungu Land Trust's Dianne Stokes says the Chinese-controlled company misled them during consultations and they're now demanding a guarantee that unconventional shale gas will never be transported along the pipeline.
"We feel Jemena is speaking with a forked tongue," she said.
"Jemena are keeping landowners in the dark to silence concerns about fracking while elsewhere promoting its plans to transport unconventional gas."
The company said it has been negotiating in good faith for months with Aboriginal Land Councils and looks forward to finalising the agreements in the near future.
Jemena says gas from current off-shore conventional sources will underpin the pipeline's development, and any future sources of gas will depend on the outcome of the NT government's independent review into hydraulic fracturing.
The pipeline was set to rebuild Australia's dwindling gas supply and create more than 900 Territory jobs during construction.
The commonwealth says the NT government's moratorium puts Origin Energy's massive onshore Beetaloo Basin project and the long-term financial security of the Territory in jeopardy.
"More than 6000 jobs are at stake here in this project alone," federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said.
Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has also claimed the ban is leading to rising energy prices.
But NT Treasurer Nicole Manison says a full-blown fracking agenda wouldn't deliver economic benefits for 10 years.
She said the NT economy would shift to the agricultural, pastoral, defence and resources industries as the $34 billion Inpex LNG project wound down.
Ms Manison insists significant numbers of public servants will not be sacked as the government scrambles to stop its $875 million budget deficit from soaring higher.
Labor hinted last week it was unlikely to deliver on an election promise to balance the books by 2019/20 as it ramped up infrastructure spending to kick- start the NT economy.