Community Update #12 - 28 June 2017

The independent Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing of Onshore Unconventional Reservoirs in the Northern Territory has today awarded a social impact assessment tender to a Territory based company and confirmed the dates and locations for its next round of public hearings.

The Inquiry awarded Coffey Services Australia Pty Ltd (Coffey) the tender to undertake a social impact assessment of potential onshore unconventional shale gas development in the Northern Territory.

The Inquiry Chair, Justice Rachel Pepper, said that Coffey demonstrated significant relevant expertise and experience in the Northern Territory.

“Coffey demonstrated direct experience in completing social impact assessments and social impact management plans related to the development of onshore petroleum resources,” Justice Pepper said.

“Coffey will draw on a highly experienced team and will partner with local Indigenous organisation Cross Cultural Consultants to form a dedicated local Indigenous engagement project team.

“This engagement team will also have focus on the broader community within the Beetaloo Sub-basin to undertake this critical piece of work for the Inquiry.”

Justice Pepper said the social impact assessment to be undertaken by Coffey will be multifaceted and will enable the Inquiry Panel to address the full terms of reference for the Inquiry, which includes a requirement to assess the risks and benefits of the unconventional shale gas industry on social and cultural conditions in the Northern Territory.

“First, Coffey will develop a leading practice framework for the identification, assessment and management of social impacts associated with any potential development of onshore unconventional shale gas in the Northern Territory,” Justice Pepper said.

“Second, Coffey will identify the people or groups of people that are most likely to be impacted by potential development of onshore unconventional shale gas resources in and around the Beetaloo Sub-basin, and make an assessment of the potential impacts and recommend strategies that could be applied to either mitigate negative social impacts or maximise social benefit.

“Third, Coffey will describe, having regard to the current literature and to examples from other jurisdictions, the concept of a ‘social licence to operate’ as it might apply to any onshore unconventional shale gas industry in the Northern Territory.

“Coffey will also be required to define the measures that any onshore unconventional shale gas industry and the Government can take to enable such an industry to earn and maintain a social licence to operate in the Northern Territory and how that social licence to operate can be assessed in the Northern Territory.”

Throughout its process Coffey is required to develop and implement a leading practice community consultation program and to liaise with a wide range of stakeholders in the Northern Territory.

Coffey must provide a final report to the Inquiry by mid September 2017, which the Inquiry will release publicly.

The cost of the Coffey tender is $413,513.00.

Four companies submitted applications for the social impact tender. The tenders were assessed against current Northern Territory Government procurement processes. Justice Pepper was a member of the tender assessment panel. The tender panel assessment process was overseen by an independent probity advisory.

Justice Pepper said the Inquiry is currently finalising its Interim Report which will be released in early July 2017.

“The Inquiry will release its Interim Report in early July and will hold a second round of public hearings in Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek from 31 July to 10 August 2017,” Justice Pepper said.

“The second round of hearings will be an opportunity for organisations, stakeholder groups and members of the public to provide additional information or evidence to the Inquiry, provide feedback on the Interim Report, and to give the Inquiry the opportunity to clarify information it has been provided with from more than 250 public submissions.”

Justice Pepper said participants at this round of hearings will have the option of 30 or 60 minute time allocations to present and respond to questions from the Inquiry.  

“Longer hearing times will offer an opportunity for presenters, if they wish, to provide greater detail in their submissions and to enable a more rigorous examination of the evidence by the Panel,” Justice Pepper said.

More information about the hearings and how to register for them will be released next week.

The hearing schedule is:

31 July 2017 Darwin Hearing Darwin Convention Centre
1 August 2017 Darwin Hearing Darwin Convention Centre
2 August 2017 Darwin Hearing Darwin Convention Centre
3 August 2017 Alice Springs Hearing Alice Springs Convention Centre
4 August 2017 Alice Springs Hearing Alice Springs Convention Centre
8 August 2017 Katherine Hearing Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre
9 August 2017 Katherine Hearing Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre
10 August 2017 Tennant Creek Hearing Tennant Creek Civic Hall

Following the hearings, from 22 August to 1 September 2017 the Inquiry will also conduct a second round of consultations in towns and communities throughout the Northern Territory, details of which will be released closer to that time.

The Inquiry’s draft Final Report will be released towards the end of the year, and the Final Report delivered by the end of 2017.