Traditional owner wins court bid for temporary halt of Top End gas pipeline

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A Tiwi traditional owner has won a last-minute bid to delay the construction of a major gas pipeline off the Top End.

Simon Munkara, a member of the Jikilaruwu clan, applied for an urgent injunction in the Federal Court to prevent Santos from commencing pipeline work while his case is heard.

Santos’ attempts to begin work on the Northern Territory gas project have been frustrated by legal claims.

Munkara argues Santos has not properly assessed submerged cultural heritage along the route of its Barossa export pipeline, which runs within 7 kilometres of Bathurst Island.

Judge Natalie Charlesworth granted the injunction blocking the works on Thursday, hours before Santos was due to start laying the pipe.

Santos submitted the delay to its $5.3 billion development would have significant financial impacts to stakeholders, but Charlesworth ruled the damage to Tiwi traditional owners could be worse.

“I am satisfied that if the works were to continue and if Santos is in breach … that there will be irreparable damage to Mr Munkara,” she said on Thursday morning.

“I am not satisfied that the short-term relief that is presently sought would be such as to render the pipeline program impossible.”

The judge said the costs of delaying the ship, which was set to begin laying the pipe this week, are significant, but Santos should have been prepared.

“In its business operations, we expect that Santos would accommodate risks of the kind involved with cessation or disruption of works,” she said.

Santos and Munkara will return to court on November 13 for a hearing to determine whether the gas company will need to reassess the pipeline’s environmental impacts.

Santos is not permitted to lay any part of the pipe until then.


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