Emma Treves - 31 May 2014

Dear Dr Hawke

I would like to make a submission to the Hydraulic Fracturing Inquiry specifically addressing :

i) fracking companies’ access to NT ground and surface waters for their operations

ii) political influence on the administration of the Water Act 

Water Use

The Northern Territory Water Act (as in force on 28 August 2013) opens with these words “ An Act to provide for the investigation , allocation, control, protection, management and administration of water resources and for related purposes”.

However shortly into the Act mining and petroleum activities are expressly excluded from the controls the Act imposes on ground and surface water use, including licensing requirements to extract surface and ground water.

As one frack requires about 11 million litres of water according to International Gas Union estimates and many wells are proposed across the Territory, the amount of water fracking operations remove from the Territory’s surface and ground resources without any  controls, could be considerable and beyond what the hydrological cycle can annually replenish . 

What is the point of legislating to control water usage in the Territory when the same legislation exempts the Territory’s biggest economic contributor from its controls, especially when the industry wishes to expand.  It is also very unjust that one industry has free access to water while others do not.     

What also is the point of risking the security of the Territory’s water resources for short term fracking gains. The royalties and development the NT government is anticipating from the industry do not justify this and may not materialise anyway.

Political influence over the application of the Water Act

The opportunity for this to occur looms large:

Therefore even if mining and petroleum activities were bought within the remit of the Water Act, the exemptions could in effect be retained through other means.

My submission to the inquiry is this:

In view of this I believe there is a real risk of the Territory’s water resources being over extracted by fracking companies, starting in the near future, regardless as to whether mining and petroleum activities are exempt or covered by the Water Act in its present form.

I would therefore like to see a moratorium placed on all hydraulic fracturing activities in the NT until changes are made to the Water Act to:

Water is the life blood of everything and I cannot believe that we are so stupid as to let a high cost very profits focussed industry have unrestricted access to the Territory’s water resources.  Or to allow political interference to override legislation designed to protect and allocate water resources for the overall benefit of the Territory’s natural environment and the people and businesses who live and operate here.

Thank you

Yours sincerely

Emma Treves