Cattle baron to fight gas fracker access

A pastoralist will attempt to overturn a court order granting a gas fracking company access to a Northern Territory cattle station.

Tamboran Resources subsidiary Sweetpea Petroleum previously won the legal right to explore parts of Rallen Australia’s Tanumbirini station in the gas-rich Beetaloo Basin.

It started work clearing land, sinking bores and building roads in May on the 5000 sq km property, 600km southeast of Darwin.

The cattle baron is scheduled to appeal the decision that allows access issue the access Agreement in the Supreme Court in Darwin on Monday.

“We’ve had three years of Santos, Origin and Tamboran on our station and we’re seeing that if the full development occurs into production that fracking and cattle don’t mix,” Rallen Australia co-director Luciana Ravazzotti said in a statement.

“The government is doing nothing to ensure companies comply with regulation.”

Rallen has eight potential grounds of appeal, including an argument that the access agreement imposes lesser standards on Sweetpea than the minimum protections required under NT law.

The decision to allow access by the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal also failed to provide sufficient protection for the water infrastructure on Tanumbirini station, which could put livestock at risk, Rallen said.

“In backing this controversial industry, the government risks wrecking the NT’s water and the cattle industry, which has long been the economic backbone of the NT,” Rallen’s co-director Pierre Langenhoven said.

“Sweetpea’s operations are already causing havoc. They have cut our fences, bulldozed access routes and flaunted their own plans for protecting our stock.”

Rallen said Sweetpea is the first gas explorer to force its way onto a cattle station since the NT rolled out amended petroleum regulations in 2021 requiring parties to reach a land access agreement before operations started.

The cattle baron leases 1.1 million hectares of land on six stations in the NT with 70,000 head of Brahman cattle. It has spent $200 million in the past four years developing the properties.

The stations are Tanumbirini, Kalala, Big River, Larizone, Mt McMinn and Forrest Hill.

Tamboran has an exploration permit (EP 136) for exploratory fracking that covers parts of Tanumbirini and the neighbouring Beetaloo Station.

The Beetaloo is one of a number of gas fields the previous Morrison government planned to develop to help boost the economy and secure Australia’s energy supply.

It caused concern among many in the territory, who fear it could jeopardise efforts to meet the nations’s emissions reduction target and contaminate groundwater in a series of linked aquifers.

The federal government granted Tamboran $7.5 million earlier this year under the program subsidising exploration. The company later failed to appear at a federal Senate inquiry into the funding program.

About 90 per cent of the NT’s water supply comes from groundwater.

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