Land Rights News Central Australia: Land Rights News (August 2013)

Published: August, 2013

No mining in Watarrka

Traditional owners of Watarrka National Park are "extremely worried" the NT Government could allow oil and gas exploration in the park by explorer Palatine Pty Ltd.

The group has told the Central Land Council it’s concerned about the impacts of exploration on the park, and is unconditionally opposed to it.

"Watarrka is special," they said in a letter to local MLA Alison Anderson. "Many of us have worked hard to get small businesses off the ground that need tourists to survive.

"We are very proud of our young people getting work with national parks and know that the more tourists there are the more opportunities there will be."

The traditional owners said they were worried about the Park becoming a ‘drilling place, not a tourist place" if the exploration is allowed to go ahead.

The letter was signed by 11 senior traditional landowners.

Traditional owners have a duty to protect the unique values of the Park under joint management legislation and through traditional cultural obligations.

The exploration applications cover the entire Park and if granted, would lead to a range of exploration activity and could include hydraulic fraccing.

The Park hosts many significant cultural sites, is a popular tourist destination and supports a rich and diverse number of species and habitats. A number of threatened species are found there.

CLC Director David Ross said allowing exploration in Watarrka would cut across the core values of the joint management agreement.

"It is an extremely disturbing idea that violates the very idea of national parks," Mr Ross said.

"I thought that the whole idea of declaring national parks was to protect those areas from this type of activity."

Traditional owners have previously agreed to exploration in areas outside the national park.

NT Minister for Mines and Energy Hon Willem Rudolf Westra van Holthe MLA told the ABC the application would be considered in due course.