Santos wins Barossa gas battle against Tiwi Islanders

Tiwi Islander and plaintiff Dennis Tipakallipa sitting on the beach looking out at the sea (santos barossa)
Tiwi Islander Dennis Tipakallipa (Image: Rebecca Parker)

Gas giant Santos will resume work on its $5.7 billion Barossa gas project after winning a legal battle against a group of Tiwi Islands elders.

Related article: Tiwi Islander’s victory: Santos to vacate Barossa gas

Santos was forced to stop work on the project last year after the elders, led by Jikilaruwu traditional owner Simon Munkara and represented by the Environmental Defenders Office, applied for an urgent injunction, arguing Santos had failed to adequately assess whether its pipeline would damage underwater cultural heritage sites.

The court received both written and oral evidence from 23 First Nations people from the Tiwi Islands in addition to 26 expert reports.

Yesterday, Justice Natalie Charlesworth gave Santos permission to resume its pipeline works, saying, “I have concluded that the evidence asserting that the songlines relate to or extend into the area of sea country through which the pipeline will pass is insufficient.”

In a statement, Simon Munkara said, “This outcome is very disappointing. We brought this case to protect our Sea Country. I am a true believer for my Country. We are hurting and need some time to think.”

The plaintiffs have been ordered to pay Santos’ legal costs.

Related article: Woodside and Santos confirm talks of merger

Santos welcomed the Federal Court’s decision in a statement, saying, “As per the ruling and in accordance with the Environment Plan in force for the activity, Santos will continue pipelaying activity for the Barossa Gas Project.”

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