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Australia Origin Energy chairman dismisses Beetaloo Basin Indigenous elder's opposition to fracking during AGM

00:55  21 october  2020
00:55  21 october  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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Asked why Origin Energy is pushing ahead with exploration fracking in the Beetaloo Basin against the wishes of some Indigenous elders , the gas The chairman of gas giant Origin Energy has dismissed opposition to fracking from some traditional owners in the Northern Territory' s Beetaloo

See more of The Origin Beetaloo Exploration Project on Facebook. We’re exploring the Beetaloo Basin to learn more about the area’ s gas resource and how viable it is. If it moves to production, it will deliver energy security and lower energy costs to all Australians.

a large green field with trees in the background: Origin Energy's exploration permit applies to an 18,500 square kilometre area. (ABC News: Jane Bardon) © Provided by ABC NEWS Origin Energy's exploration permit applies to an 18,500 square kilometre area. (ABC News: Jane Bardon)

The chairman of gas giant Origin Energy has dismissed opposition to fracking from some traditional owners in the Northern Territory's Beetaloo Basin, saying the protesters do not live near active drilling sites.

The company is exploring in the Beetaloo Basin south of Darwin, with the Federal Government naming it a key project in the nation's "gas-led recovery" from the COVID-19 economic crisis.

Uncertainty around the project increased last month when some native title holders asked the land council that had been negotiating with gas companies to withdraw from all negotiations, saying their concerns had not been heard.

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Speaking at Origin's annual general meeting (AGM) on Tuesday, Alawa elder Naomi Wilfred, who is supported by activist organisation GetUp!, asked chairman Gordon Cairns why the company had pushed ahead with exploration fracking against the wishes of some traditional owners such as her.

Mr Cairns said only traditional owners of land that was a drilling site were relevant in consultations.

"While I have an enormous amount of empathy for your concern, you actually didn't represent the traditional owners of the land on which we drill," Mr Cairns said.

He told the meeting he gave Ms Wilfred the opportunity "to stay behind and consult with us" after a similar protest at last year's AGM but said: "You left and didn't take the opportunity to do so."

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Asked why Origin Energy is pushing ahead with exploration fracking in the Beetaloo Basin against the wishes of some Indigenous elders , the gas company' s chair says it only needs to consult the traditional owners The company currently has plans to frack the site during next year' s dry season.

The Beetaloo Basin , about 500 kilometres south-east of Darwin, is one of five Australian gas fields the Government plans to open up under its Trevor Allen, a senior seismologist with Geoscience Australia, said it was imperative scientists began monitoring seismic activity in the basin now, before

"So having got that off my chest, now let me say that our position is we work with the Northern Land Council to engage with the traditional owners who are the native title holders and claimants," he said.

"We do not decide who they are — the Northern Land Council (NLC) decides on our behalf."

'They actually want us to come'

This is the third consecutive year Aboriginal community members have joined protests targeting the company's key shareholder forum.

Origin said it respected the connection traditional owners had to their land, but it was not legally required to consult with all native title holders in the 18,500 square kilometre area covered by its exploration permit.

Instead, the company said, it was focused on engaging with communities living near areas identified for active drilling projects and fracking wells.

"We work with the NLC and engage with the traditional owners who are the native title holders who may speak legally and culturally for the areas within our exploration permits where activity is proposed," an Origin spokesperson said.

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Origin Energy gained official approvals for gas exploration, including test fracking , in the gas-rich Beetaloo Basin , both from traditional They hope to tell the meeting when permission for fracking was sought by Origin Energy , they did not fully understand the company' s explanations of processes

Origin Energy chairman Gordon Cairns has defended the company' s consultation process with traditional owners in the Northern Territory A resolution on free and informed consent by traditional owners over the drilling planned in the Beetaloo Basin secured 7.73 per cent support from proxy votes.

"The NLC is the statutory representative body responsible for advising which native title holder family groups we engage with about our exploration, specific to where we are working."

"The chairman's response to Ms Wilfred's question was not that she isn't a traditional owner, rather our exploration activities are not occurring on Ms Wilfred's land."

Mr Cairns said the consenting group in the drilling areas wanted Origin there.

"They actually want us to come because they can see the benefits, economic benefits that will accrue to them as a result of us being on the land. And we also have committed to them that their land and water will be protected," he said.

In response to Ms Wilfred's question at the AGM, he told her: "I would suggest to you the same invitation is open if you would like to consult with us and you would like to do it openly and transparently. If you are recognised titleholders we will obviously consult."

Origin said five sites in the Beetaloo Basin were areas of active drilling, including two where fracking was occurring.

Alawa elder left angry, 'ashamed'

After the shareholder meeting, Ms Wilfred said she felt dismissed by the Origin executive.

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"I felt really embarrassed, ashamed and humiliated when I heard the chairman's response," she told the ABC.

"All of us TOs [traditional owners], we have a connection to that land. And we are being dismissed. The NLC and Origin should apologise," she said.

Ms Wilfred said she believed communities in the Beetaloo Basin were "98 per cent against" explorative fracking.

Origin has said it will use advanced engineering techniques so its fracking does not cause environmental damage in the Beetaloo Basin.

The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) said there were no outstanding applications in relation to work near sacred sites in the Beetaloo Basin.

"AAPA has issued a number of authority certificates to Origin in relation to their proposed works program in the Beetaloo Basin," a spokesperson said.

In a statement, NLC chief executive Marion Scrymgour said the land council had "complied and always will comply with [its] statutory functions and duties", including in consultations with traditional owners and native title holders.


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usr: 1
This is interesting!