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NT must block oil and gas exploration in Watarrka National Park

Posted: Wed, July 31, 2013

Traditional owners of Watarrka National Park are strongly opposed to an application by Palatine Energy Pty Ltd to begin oil and gas exploration in the Park and are demanding that the NT Cabinet block it.

Traditional owners of Watarrka National Park are strongly opposed to an application by Palatine Energy Pty Ltd to begin oil and gas exploration in the Park and are demanding that the NT Cabinet block it.

The traditional owners told Central Land Council staff at a meeting in March this year that they are concerned about the impacts on the cultural values and flora and fauna of the Park and are strongly and unconditionally opposed to any exploration in the Park.  

Traditional owners have a duty to protect the unique values of the Park under joint management legislation and through traditional cultural obligations. A large number of groups are associated with the Park and the traditional owners have obligations to them as well.

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

The traditional owners also said they had worked hard to get small tourist businesses off the ground and the Park provided jobs and opportunities for their young people.

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

“It is an extremely disturbing idea which 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 say they are also concerned for their tourist businesses and for tourism generally in the area.

The exploration applications cover the entire Park and if granted, would lead to a range of exploration activity and may include hydraulic fraccing.  Traditional owners have previously agreed to exploration in areas outside the Park, and it is only within the boundaries of the Park that they object.

The Park is owned by the Watarrka Park Land Trust under NT freehold on behalf of the traditional landowners and jointly managed by the traditional owners and the Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory. Title to the Park was returned to traditional owners in 2012 under the Parks and Reserves (Framework for the Future) Act.  Under this legislation traditional owners do not have the right to veto exploration proposals, and the decision as to whether exploration will go ahead sits solely with the NT government.

The Draft Joint Management Plan for the Park identifies the Park as “a world class tourist attraction; an internationally significant conservation area; and a living cultural landscape”.

The Plan also notes that the Park “protects one of Australia’s most stunning natural and cultural environments and contributes significantly to biodiversity conservation and the Territory economy”

Letters from the traditional owners have been sent to Cabinet Ministers and the Northern Territory Government says the proposal will be considered at the next Cabinet meeting.

 

Contact Jane Hodson 0417877579

30 July  2013

 

www.clc.org.au