Santos gives up two NT gas licences as fracking insurance risks exposed

Santos gives up two NT gas licences as fracking insurance risks exposed

Explosive Revelations today that Australia's largest insurance company IAG will no longer cover farmers for public liability if they have coal seam gas (CSG) infrastructure on their property should ring alarm bells for NT politicians.

The news comes on the same day fracking company Santos announced it would relinquish two gas licences - which covered a combined area of land about one million hectares in size - in the Roper and central Arnhem Land regions, demonstrating the instability of the industry.

“Evidently even gas companies aren’t sure if they really want to get involved in the NT, so why is the Gunner Government rolling out the red carpet for this dangerous polluting industry and potentially putting landholders at risk?” said Protect Country Alliance spokesperson Graeme Sawyer.

The Protect Country Alliance previously attempted to highlight concerns over current land access laws and insurance risks to the NT government but was ignored.  A legal expert in land access matters, MaryLou Potts, also travelled to Darwin in an attempt to explain to politicians the concerns and the flaws in Territory legislation.

Rod Dunbar, owner of Nutwood Downs cattle station near Daly Waters said, “This latest development just shows how governments are not taking the threat of fracking seriously.

“Regulations in the Petroleum Act are being drawn up right now, but there are no checks and balances for pastoral properties or farms at all.

“Fracking companies are proposing that they can come onto your property despite what your wishes are. If you don’t want to sign an access agreement they refer you to a tribunal and the tribunal allows them on to your property on whatever terms they deem fit.

“It’s not an access agreement, it’s an order.”

Mr Sawyer said the laws in place in the NT left landowners and occupiers at risk of being legally responsible for damages that could occur as a result of risky hydraulic fracturing activities, despite the landowner having no control over a company’s actions.

He said this transfer of liability extended to pastoral lease holders, Native Title holders, local shire councils, and others.

“The seriousness of this issue is highlighted by the insurers telling QLD farmers they will not offer public liability cover to a property that has CSG infrastructure on it,” Mr Sawyer said.

“We fully expect a similar scenario to play out in the NT as insurance companies understand the risk posed by unconventional gas operations.”

“The NT government has inadequate plans to mitigate these risks or to provide landowners with protection.

“I call on the NT government to explain its plans for the implementation of recommendation 4.6 on Page 39 of the Pepper report, where the inquiry found this deficiency needs to be addressed in order to do a final risk assessment.

“The insurance companies are clear in their risk assessments, but the Gunner Government seems willing to risk the Territory’s agricultural sector in favour of propping up the fracking industry.”

For further comment contact

Graeme Sawyer

Protect Country Alliance NT

graeme@protectcountrynt.org.au