Early start for fracking inquiry

SOLID OPPOSITION: There was a big turnout when the scientific panel 's inquiry opened in Alice Springs on Monday. Picture: supplied.
SOLID OPPOSITION: There was a big turnout when the scientific panel 's inquiry opened in Alice Springs on Monday. Picture: supplied.

KATHERINE’S gas frack meeting will start much earlier than scheduled tomorrow because of the huge interest in the inquiry.

The scientific panel has brought forward the first meetings at Knotts Crossing to 8am to try and cater for all the people who have registered to make presentations tomorrow.

The panel hopes to be finished at Knotts Crossing by 3.30pm before it moves at the Katherine High School for the evening sessions starting at 5pm.

The inquiry began at Alice Springs on Monday with a huge turnout of local people.

More than 250 people attended the first community meeting hosted by the NT Government-appointed scientific panel, with standing room only at the back of the room. 

Ninety-nine per cent of the people in the room voted in support of a ban on fracking, as hundreds of hands shot up in response to the question put by one community participant.

A Katherine Times poll in the past week has showed those who responded were solidly against gas mining.

Several representatives of the gas industry kept their hands by their sides. 

The meeting tested support for a continued ban on fracking in response to the NT Government’s decision, due at the end of the inquiry, for either ban fracking or allow it to proceed in tightly regulated areas. 

The scientific panel moved to Tennant Creek today and Katherine tomorrow, before other sessions and its return to Mataranka on March 23.

ROUND TABLE: There will be round table discussions in Katherine tomorrow as well. Picture: supplied.

ROUND TABLE: There will be round table discussions in Katherine tomorrow as well. Picture: supplied.

Inquiry chair, Justice Rachel Pepper, said the hearings are an opportunity for a range of stakeholders and members of the community to present their views on hydraulic fracturing of shale and to provide comment on the issues and risks identified in the Inquiry's Background and Issues Paper.

“The Inquiry is seeking feedback on the issues and risks identified in our Background and Issues Paper, which will form the basis of the Inquiry's work going forward.

"The Hearings are also a formal opportunity for members of the public, environmental groups, the gas industry and other interested persons and organisations to make an evidence based submission to the Inquiry regarding onshore hydraulic fracturing of shale."

Justice Pepper said the hearings will be streamed live on the Inquiry's website and members of the public can also attend in person to watch and listen to the proceedings.

The Katherine Times has provided a link to that “stream” today.

 "The Inquiry has received a large number of registrations from interested parties to present at the hearings. There will be further opportunities mid year when additional hearings are held following the release of the interim report," Justice Pepper said.

 "There has also been significant interest from people who want to attend our community meetings to find out more about the Inquiry.

PROTEST ACTION: An anti-fracking rally was held outside the first hearing in Alice Springs on Monday. Picture: supplied.

PROTEST ACTION: An anti-fracking rally was held outside the first hearing in Alice Springs on Monday. Picture: supplied.

"At these community meetings I will be outlining the role and work program of the Inquiry and there will be a presentation explaining the process of onshore hydraulic fracturing of unconventional shale reservoirs.

"The Inquiry will also seek feedback from those attending the community meetings on the risks and issues identified in the Background and Issues Paper, with each panel member conducting this discussion in small groups."

Justice Pepper said people unable to make the hearings or community meetings this week still had many opportunities to express their view.

Where the gas is, map supplied by NT Government.

Where the gas is, map supplied by NT Government.

"Anyone can write or email the Inquiry with their views or submit a feedback form via the ‘have your say’ page on the Inquiry's website," Justice Pepper said.

"This week is the first round of consultations by the Inquiry, focusing on the content of the Background and Issues Paper. But anyone can submit a feedback form or lodge a submission with the Inquiry at any time.  

"The Inquiry will be holding further hearings and consultations around the middle of this year, once we release the Interim Report.

 "Comment on the Background and Issues Paper closes on April 30, but the Inquiry welcomes specific submissions and comment on hydraulic fracturing of shale, relevant to the Inquiry's Terms of Reference at any time."

On Monday, Alice Springs business owner Marli Banks participated in the event as a member of the Central Australian Frack Free Alliance. 

"It was very encouraging to see the amount of community participation taking place across the room.

"Every table reported back with clear concerns about the negative impacts of the shale gas fracking industry and suggestions for the scope of the Issues Paper to be expanded. 

"There was overwhelming support to protect Central Australia and the Northern Territory from shale gas fracking. 

"Australian scientists have estimated that thousands of shale gas wells could be drilled and fracked across the Central Australian Armadeus Basin. 

"Participants showed they simply do not believe that any supposed benefits outweigh the very real risks to our water supply if we let shale gas fracking go ahead," she said.