Community Update #22 - 7 October 2017

The Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory (Inquiry) would like to express its profound dismay and concern at the comments allegedly made by Cross Cultural Consulting (CCC) as aired in a story by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) today.

On 28 June 2017 the Inquiry engaged Coffey Services Australia Pty Ltd (Coffey) to conduct a social impact assessment on its behalf.  The social impact assessment work was awarded to Coffey on the basis of a public tender. As part of that tender, Coffey engaged CCC to assist it with its on-ground community consultation activities.

At no time did the Inquiry contract with CCC, this company was engaged by Coffey, the author of the social impact assessment report.

The ABC news story featured audio believed to have been recorded during a consultation being conducted by CCC on behalf of Coffey at Elliott.

The Inquiry has listened to the entire 36 minutes of audio obtained by the ABC.

“I am shocked by the opinions and comments expressed by the person in the recording, who appears to be leading the community consultation in his capacity as a representative of CCC,” the Inquiry Chair, the Hon Justice Rachel Pepper, said.

“The opinions and comments expressed by that person in no way reflect the views of the Inquiry.

“The Inquiry rejects them in their entirety. At no time was the Inquiry aware that comments of this nature would be made by CCC.”

Justice Pepper said the Inquiry is working with Coffey to urgently address these issues.

“The Inquiry has requested Coffey to undertake an immediate review of the work completed by CCC,” Justice Pepper said.

“When the Inquiry receives this review, a decision will then be made on the consultation work completed by CCC from within the Beetaloo Sub-basin.

“I would like to emphasise, and assure the communities consulted by CCC, that the Inquiry is taking this matter very seriously. Upon the matter having been brought to its attention by the ABC, the Inquiry has acted immediately by directing Coffey to provide an explanation as to the content of the audio file, how the opinions and comments came to be expressed by CCC, and the nature of the consultation activity being conducted by CCC on Coffey’s behalf.”

Justice Pepper said that an identical copy of the audio file obtained by the ABC was provided to the Inquiry by a member of the public following a community consultation at Elliott on 30 August 2017. At the time the audio file was given to the Inquiry, it was provided as a submission.

“Because it is one of more than 470 submissions currently being assessed by the Inquiry as it prepares its draft Final Report, it had not yet been processed,” Justice Pepper said.

“I have now listened to the audio file and have discovered that it is not, as it was represented to be, a submission.

“Had the audio file been given to the Inquiry as a complaint, it would have been acted upon immediately.

“No details of the circumstances of the recording have been provided to the Inquiry and it is not clear from the recording if any of the persons that were recorded have consented to it being made.”

Justice Pepper reiterated that the role of the Inquiry is to report on the risks and issues of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in the Northern Territory.

“It is not the Inquiry’s role to make a recommendation as to the future of the moratorium in the Northern Territory,” Justice Pepper said.

“Any decision on the retention of the moratorium is the responsibility of the Northern Territory Government.”

Although Coffey’s completion of its social impact assessment report will be delayed while the matter with CCC is being resolved, the Inquiry is nevertheless progressing the draft Final Report for release in early November, with the Final Report to be completed by the end of 2017.

The Inquiry is currently processing the submissions that it has recently received in order to identify whether any complaints regarding on ground consultation in the Beetaloo Sub-basin area have been made.

For more information visit or contact the Hydraulic Fracturing Taskforce:

Phone: (+61) 08 8999 6573