NT fracking inquiry assesses social impact

In Inquiry is underway in Darwin.

In Inquiry is underway in Darwin.

The Independent Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing of Onshore Unconventional Reservoirs in the Northern Territory (Inquiry) has released a draft Social Impact Assessment Framework (Framework) produced by Coffey Services Australia.

The Framework is part of a series of reports comprising the social impact assessment that Coffey has completed pursuant to the tender awarded to it on 28 June 2017 by the Inquiry.

These reports, listed below, are now available on the Inquiry’s website for public consultation:

  • a Summary Report (of the three Coffey reports listed below)
  • a Framework for Social Impact Assessment of Shale Gas Development in the Northern Territory
  • a Beetaloo Sub-basin Social Impact Assessment Case Study
  • a Social Licence to Operate in the Beetaloo Basin and Northern Territory report.

The tender required Coffey to develop a leading practice framework for the identification, assessment and management of the social impacts associated with any onshore shale gas development in the Northern Territory.

The work included describing how a best practice framework would operate within existing Northern Territory and Commonwealth environmental assessment frameworks.

Working with its partners, the University of Queensland Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) and CSIRO, Coffey was also required to describe how a social licence to operate applies to any Northern Territory onshore shale gas industry.

Coffey’s scope of work incorporated research and analysis of submissions provided to the Inquiry and its consultations with key stakeholders and local communities.

The Inquiry Chair Justice Rachel Pepper said Coffey was asked to use the Beetaloo Sub-basin as a case study to show how the proposed Framework might operate.

“The Beetaloo Sub-basin is an area of the Northern Territory where exploration for onshore shale gas is most advanced, and includes towns and communities typical of urban, rural and remote areas of the Northern Territory. This made it the most appropriate case study to test to efficacy of the proposed Framework,” said Justice Pepper.

“The case study sought to demonstrate how the Framework could operate, including how risks are to be identified, assessed and managed.”

Justice Pepper noted that Coffey’s delivery of the social impact assessment Framework was delayed when the Inquiry discovered that Coffey’s sub-contractor, Cross Cultural Consulting (CCC), had compromised the community engagement work undertaken by it.

The Inquiry rejected the CCC work in its entirety and requested that the work be undertaken again. As a result, Coffey employed a new sub-contractor, Indigenous Agreement Solutions (IAS), to re-do this ground work. However, this delayed the completion of the Coffey work.

To ensure that the public’s opportunity to comment on the draft Final Report was not compromised, the Inquiry determined to release its draft Final Report, without the completed Coffey work, on 12 December 2017.

As a consequence of the delay by Coffey, the Inquiry is extending the date by which it would like all final written submissions to be received to 2 February 2018.

“The Inquiry has committed to providing its Final Report to Government in March 2018, and in order to meet this timeframe, written comments and submissions on the draft Final Report and the Coffey social impact assessment, particularly if they are detailed, complex or lengthy, should be provided to the Inquiry by 2 February 2018,” said Justice Pepper.

 

The Inquiry will hold its final round of public hearings from 5 to 12 February, which will be live streamed at the Inquiry’s website.

The Inquiry will also hold its final round of community forums in urban centres, rural and remote communities from 30 January to 16 February 2018, the dates, times and locations of which may be found on the Inquiry’s website.

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