Community Update #9 - 27 April 2017

Submissions on the Background and Issues Paper released by the Independent Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory close on 30 April 2017.

Inquiry Chair, Justice Rachel Pepper said that since the release of the Background and Issues Paper on the 20 February 2017, the Inquiry has conducted an extensive effort to hear the views of Territorians.

 “The Inquiry has visited 14 major, regional and remote communities across the Territory and had over 1000 people attend community information and engagement sessions,” Justice Pepper said.

“Thirty seven organisations and individuals made presentations at formal hearings in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine and Darwin. The video recordings and transcripts of these presentations are available to view on the Inquiry’s website.

“I also attended the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association annual conference, the Amateur Fishermen's Association NT’s annual general meeting and an Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority board meeting – all of which have assisted in understanding the diverse range of views present in the community.

“To date the Inquiry has also received more than 80 written submissions by email and post, and almost 200 feedback forms have been provided to the Inquiry since being distributed at our consultation sessions and through the website’s ‘Have Your Say’ page.

“I expect to receive many more submissions as this first stage of consultation draws to a close, with all of the submissions to be published on the Inquiry’s website.”

Justice Pepper said the Inquiry had also recently released a public tender for an economic impact assessment of the potential onshore unconventional gas industry in the Northern Territory and will very soon release a second tender for a social impact assessment of hypothetical hydraulic fracturing of onshore unconventional shale gas reservoirs in the Beetaloo Sub-basin.

“The economic procurement is an important body of work, which will assist the Inquiry Panel in gathering evidence for assessment,” Justice Pepper said.

“The type of economic modelling and analysis we are procuring is highly specialised and will provide a comprehensive independent assessment of the potential benefits and risks to the Territory’s economy in relation to hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.”

The economic assessment will include the potential beneficial impacts on the Northern Territory economy, under the following three scenarios:

  • Scenario 1, or the baseline scenario, where the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing of unconventional shale gas reservoirs remains in place;
  • Scenario 2, which involves the development of the onshore unconventional shale gas industry in the Northern Territory;  and
  • Scenario 3, which involves the development of unconventional shale gas reservoirs in the Beetaloo sub-basin only.
The economic assessment will also look at the economic risks associated with the three scenarios, describing the actual and possible adverse impacts on and risks to the Northern Territory economy under the current regulatory regime.  

Furthermore, the economic assessment will consider the impacts of development on other industries in the Northern Territory, such as, for example, tourism, agriculture, horticulture and pastoral.

Justice Pepper said the only current economic report provided to the Inquiry on hydraulic fracturing, with a specific focus on the Northern Territory, was the Deloitte Access Economics report commissioned by APPEA in 2015. 

“Given the Inquiry Panel does not include an economist, and the only other relevant economic study the Inquiry Panel can draw upon is the Deloitte Access Economics report commissioned by APPEA, it is appropriate that the Inquiry seeks further independent economic modelling,” Justice Pepper said. 

The economic tender closes on 4 May 2017 and is accessible here.  The scope of works for the economic tender requires that a final economic report is provided to the Inquiry Panel by 1 September 2017.

The Inquiry expects to release its Interim Report mid 2017, which will summarise the risks and issues identified during the first stage of consultation and provide an overview of all submissions received between December 2016 and June 2017.

Justice Pepper said that the Interim Report will also summarise the activities undertaken by the Inquiry to date. 

Additional consultation is planned to take place after the release of the Interim Report.

A draft Final Report is expected to be published around October 2017, with the Final Report to be handed down to the Northern Territory Government by the end of the year.​