A small contingent of Katherine activists are in a race against the clock to expose the costs of fracking in the Northern Territory.
About two dozen residents have raised almost $8500 since October 2019 to engage researchers to investigate the Northern Territory Government, which they say is "propping up an industry that is not viable".
The findings will culminate in The Sunshine vs Fracking Report, which will also underline the benefits of transitioning to renewable energy.
"We're a bunch of concerned residents in Katherine who are outraged at the millions of dollars the NT labor Government is putting towards the fracking industry," Pavel Sraj said.
A resident of Katherine, Mr Sraj said the group wanted to do their part on a local level.
We got together because we were outraged, and thought we should do our bit at a very local level in Katherine.Pavel Sraj
"The report is basically to look at what the NT would look like if the millions spent on fracking went to renewables instead," Mr Sraj said.
"[The NT Government] is cutting services and jobs, and communities like Katherine are crying out for more services, not cuts. It was that which drove the need for this report."
Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping water, chemicals and sand underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release trapped oil and gas.
Bitter opposition to the NT Government's decision to lift a moratorium on fracking in 2018 has seen a myriad of local protests in an attempt to put an end to the controversial extraction process.
Last year in September a group of Katherine residents attempted to block a truck from travelling along the Stuart Highway to the Beetaloo Basin, where Origin Energy has drilled its first well.
Katherine students ramped up pressure on the NT Government to respond to the climate crisis as they joined thousands in the Global Strike for Climate.
And last year, anti-fracking groups and the town's council successfully lobbied for the whole of the Katherine municipality to be declared a fracking no-go zone.
It was to underline the lunacy of giving big mining corporations millions of dollars. If it should happen at all, it should happen without taxpayer input.Pavel Sraj
"People are dumbfounded [fracking] is going ahead, that this is still happening despite everything we've seen," he said.
"Despite the climate emergency, despite two terrible wet seasons, and destocking at so many stations across the Territory, despite tourism being hit really hard, we're still going ahead with fracking which will not benefit Katherine, it will benefit big corporations that pay little tax in Australia.
"To add insult to injury, you have the government pouring millions of dollars towards the fracking industry to set it up.
"The Northern Territory is one of the sunniest places on earth it makes perfect sense to put that money towards solar and renewables."
Through social media, small fundraisers, film nights and dinners, the group is now just $500 off their target of $9000.
Protect Country Alliance spokeswoman Lauren Mellor said the report is expected to be released by March, ahead of this year's Northern Territory election.
"The fact that Katherine residents raised such a substantial amount of money will now allow us to go out to the research community and commission an analysis of the NT's budget papers to determine the exact value of subsidies to the fracking industry over the last decade," she said.
"To date, questions through parliament and directly to the Chief Minister and Treasurer regarding recent budget allocations to the fracking industry have mostly been unanswered, forcing community members to dig into the detail themselves."
She said the report's findings will be used to make the case to voters a transition to clean energy is in the best interests of the NT's economic and environmental future.
"Next steps post-report will be to release findings on the true cost of gas fracking industry development to the NT public, and campaign for commitments on the removal of all subsidies from the gas fracking industry in the NT election.
"The Gunner Government's claims that fracking represents a boost to the NT economy are unlikely to be borne out when compared to the actual costs of subsidies."
The NT Government's Minister for Primary Industry and Resources declined to comment on its budget allocations to the fracking industry, but conceded it "understands the concerns of Territorians in relation to hydraulic fracturing."
Minister Paul Kirby said the government had implemented all 135 recommendations set out in the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing, "reducing risks... to an acceptable level."
"Our reforms are world leading and they will protect the environment," he said.
He said the NT Government recognises the "incredible economic opportunities" and "the enormous potential that cheap, reliable and renewable energy presents for local job creation".
"We think that the Territory is perfectly placed to be an energy hub which not only delivers cheap energy to attract investment and jobs to the Territory, but also an exporter of energy to the nation and the world," he said.
"It's why we are implementing our plan for 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
"When we first came to Government, the share of renewables was 2.6 per cent - we're now at 8 per cent.
He said the government has approved agreements that will seelarge-scale solar farms built in Batchelor and Manton Dam.
And just 5km outside of Katherine, major oil and gas company Eni, has almost completed building the Northern Territory's largest solar farm.
"The 25MW Katherine Solar Farm will soon deliver enough power for 8,000 homes and is in final commissioning phase," Mr Kirby said.
"We are on track and will continue the work to achieve our renewables target because it means more jobs, cheaper power and a more secure economic future for the Territory."
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