The Northern Territory Government has lifted its fracking moratorium with gas exploration to commence by the end of the year.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner announced the state government had accepted all 135 recommendations of the independent Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing.
The inquiry concluded the challenges and risks associated with any onshore shale gas industry in the NT could be appropriately managed.
Mr Gunner said implementation of the recommendations would begin immediately.
“We promised to be a government that restores trust, listens to the community and creates jobs,” Mr Gunner said.
“We promised an independent, scientific inquiry after which we would either ban fracking or allow it in highly regulated circumstances in tightly prescribed areas.
“We have kept our promise. We have accepted the key finding of the report – that if all the recommendations are implemented the risk from fracking can be reduced to an acceptable level.”
Mr Gunner said the government has also accepted the inquiry’s advice about “no go zones”.
“Coupled with areas where there is no petroleum potential, 49 per cent of the Territory will be frack-free, including in National Parks, Conservation Areas, Indigenous Protected Areas, towns, residential and strategic assets, and areas of high cultural, environmental or tourism value,” he said.
“In the remainder of the Territory, strict new laws and regulations will be put in place to ensure that when fracking takes place, we protect the environment, the cultures and lifestyles that rely on it, and the many tourism, pastoral and agricultural jobs that depend on it.”
An independent officer will be appointed to oversight the implementation of all 135 recommendations.
Gas producer Santos has welcomed the decision, which will allow the company to commence onshore gas exploration in 2019.
“This is a great outcome for Territory communities because it will reinvigorate the economy there, generating jobs, local business opportunities and the social investments that gas companies make to help build a better future for the communities in which we operate,” Santos CEO Kevin Gallagher said.
“Territory businesses, contractors and workers are counting on the quick ramp up of the onshore gas industry to get the Territory moving again.
“As soon as we can get back to work, we will employ local people, engage local companies and resume royalty payments to host Traditional Owners.
“Santos does not want to let them down and we will be ready to go in the 2019 dry season.
“Opening up access to this clean energy resource in the Territory is a great outcome for national energy security, potentially attracting new energy-intensive industries to Darwin and supporting new and expanded pipelines connecting to the east coast domestic gas market.”