Territory students to reap onshore gas royalties

NT Chief Minister Adam Giles

NT Chief Minister Adam Giles

Students in the Northern Territory could soon have their studies financially assisted by royalties earned from unconventional onshore gas projects, according to the state’s Chief Minister Adam Giles.

At day one of the 21st South East Asia, Australia Offshore Conference (SEAAOC), Mr Giles announced an ambitious policy to bolster the state’s education levels by funnelling government royalties from new projects into the education system.

Mr Giles said the policy will be in effect by the time the first royalties are realised from the first NT onshore project.

The NT is facing an influx of onshore business, according to the Minister, with an estimated 200 Tcf of gas across six onshore basins and $150 million in exploration investments already committed in the NT’s onshore basins.

Meanwhile, the tendering process for the North East Interconnector Pipeline, which has been coined as the NT’s opportunity to penetrate dwindling gas supply markets in the eastern states, is almost complete. Construction is expected to begin on the massive project as soon as next year and commissioned by 2018.

However it remains unclear which subjects of tertiary qualifications will be the main beneficiaries of the lucrative royalties scheme.

“That is one of the detailss we are working out now. Initially we wanted to say all VET, and then thought maybe we should target our shortages in skilled services or put that towards certain qualifications in technical industries,” he said.

“And we’re obviously trying to match up levels of financial cost and cost structures of their higher education.”

The NT government has however decided that to be eligible for financial assistance from the proposed royalty scheme, students must live in the territory, study in the territory and go to a facility in the territory.

Mr Giles said the government is considering whether to put the policy out for public consultation.

“There is an argument to say we should target skills shortages, and to target technical analysis, but there is an argument to say ‘support everybody’,” he told the room of oil and gas representatives.

“We might really need people to work on mines and oil and gas, but we still need people who are hairdressers, bakers and all those sorts of things … We cannot be all things to everybody, but we want to try to support everybody.”

The government Minister’s speech at the annual SEAAOC conference was topped off with the announcement of the Onshore Oil and Gas Principals, which will assist in determining best practice when granting licenses to petroleum exploration firms.

The principals will be followed by the government’s a full draft Petroleum (Environment) Regulation, a review of all approvals under the new suite of regulations, industry consultation and eventually introduction of new petroleum legislation by the end of this year.

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