Barossa gas project: Santos appeal to Full Bench of Federal Court dismissed after challenge by traditional owners
Cheers from traditional owners on the Tiwi Islands after the Federal Court Full Bench dismissed an appeal by Santos regarding its Barossa Gas Project in the Northern Territory.
Tiwi Islanders had appealed the start of drilling that they had not been consulted in the project to start drilling off the coast and the installation of a gas pipeline to Darwin to process the gas in the Proposed Darwin LNG plant.
They won their initial injunction. Santos then appealed to the Full Bench of the Federal Court, which today was dismissed.
Tiwi Islander Dennis Tipakalippa and other Tiwi residents initially launched legal action in June 2022 to halt drilling, fearing it could damage their sea country.
Justice Debra Mortimer from the Federal Court ordered that the appeal be dismissed. This ruling means Santos must revise the drilling environment plan for the project to address matters contained in the judgment.
According to Renew Economy, Santos claimed in earlier court proceedings that consultation with Traditional Owners took place 2016, however planning documents submitted to the regulator suggested just two unanswered emails and one missed phone call were recorded during the consultation period.
Santos has vowed to be producing gas from the field by 2025. But the company will need to prepare new environmental approvals, including to engage in meaningful consultation with Munupi clan leader Dennis Murphy Tipakalippa and others on the Tiwi Islands.
The Federal government is subsidising Darwin harbour Middlearm LNG plant to the tune of $1.5 billion. This plant is being built to process Barossa gas and fracked gas from the Beetaloo Basin.
Activists from the Stop Barossa Gas highlight the climate and environmental impacts of the project:
- When the Barossa gas is extracted, developed and burned, it would release 15.6 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. That’s more than three million passenger cars for each year the project operates.
- The project would also put pristine marine life at grave risk. The pipeline connecting the Barossa gas field to land would run through a protected marine park and along the entire length of one of the Tiwi Islands – Bathurst Island.
- The construction of the pipeline poses a major threat to turtle hatchlings and nesting beaches, involving extensive seabed disturbance, dredging, increased shipping and helicopter movements over the islands and significant noise and light pollution.
There is also the cultural impact on traditional Tiwi and Larrakia First Nation culture and songlines:
According to the Stop Barossa Campaign, Santos’ proposed pipeline will be laid through Tiwi sea country and into Darwin, Larrakia country. It will put the Tiwi Islanders’ pristine sea country at risk and threaten sea life, and cut right through a critical cultural site for the Dangalaba and Larrakia people.
“It doesn’t matter to them if something goes wrong. But that’s my country and they have no right to be making choices and decisions about it like that.” – Marie Munkara, Traditional Owner of Cape Fourcroy, Tiwi Islands
“We are strong people here on the Tiwi Islands and we’ve cared for this sea country for thousands of years. We don’t want to see it destroyed.” – Antonia Burke, Dardawunga Impajimawu, Tiwi Islands resident
“There are many sacred sites around Darwin harbour – both on land and in the water. The most important site for Dangalaba and Larrakia people is the site of Darramarrangamanidj (our creator). She resides at a place on Cox Peninsula, but the gas pipeline through the harbour cuts right through her dreaming track.” – Kevin Lance Quall, Senior Larrakia Traditional Owner
“I’m very worried about this pipeline. If it goes ahead it’s going to have a massive impact on our lifestyle, on the environment… Just the fact that the boats and the ships are going to be travelling up and down – that’s going to have an impact on our waters and our sea life, our food, everything like that.” – Therese Burke, Tiwi Islands resident