REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Energy companies in hot water over plans to frack in the wet

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Katherine Times editor Chris McLennan.

It's all about the environment in the NT. Pick the endangered one?

It's all about the environment in the NT. Pick the endangered one?

There's not much sport played in the tropical parts of the country at this time of the year.

It is the wet, there's supposed to be torrential monsoon rain which stops life in its tracks.

Just because it is not here yet, doesn't mean it won't be here this afternoon, or tomorrow.

The wet arrives with little warning.

It is not unusual to not see the sun for a whole week.

Families traditionally come into outback centres like Katherine in the Northern Territory to wait out the wet, a time when the roads are cut and food is hard to get.

Older members of the family needing regular medical attention are top of mind as well.

Just as well, most other people have headed "home" from the NT for the Christmas holidays to leave these centres ghost versions of themselves.

Origin Energy says it is well prepared to contain its waste fluids from fracking even during the wet season. File picture.

Origin Energy says it is well prepared to contain its waste fluids from fracking even during the wet season. File picture.

Shops have closed, businesses have hung up signs saying "Back after the wet", it really does impact on life.

So when a bunch of scientists, the best experts the Territory could buy, suggested the wet season was not time to be exploring for onshore gas, most people agreed that was a good idea.

Much of their science was lost on us simple folk, but shutting down for the wet was something we could understand.

While many states in Australia have banned the practice of drilling deep for shale gas, the floodgates have been opened here in the Territory this year.

These scientists spent more than year checking it out and reported back to our government saying it wasn't dangerous at all, we had no idea why these states down south were worried at all.

So the energy companies have brought in the drills and are going their hardest to see if the optimists (insert here Canberra pollies) can find the 200 years worth of natural gas they reckon they will.

The threatened Gouldian finch is known to inhabit some of the proposed gas exploration areas in the Beetaloo basin of the NT.

The threatened Gouldian finch is known to inhabit some of the proposed gas exploration areas in the Beetaloo basin of the NT.

Fair enough, many people here are still not happy but the government said they could.

But when those companies said they were going so well in their exploring they reckoned they could keep going even during the wet.

Everyone paused over that.

Big trucks, outback dirt roads, dangerous machinery.

There is also the fear of fracking, where they drill down and the sideways to use chemicals and water under pressure to "stimulate" the gas by fracturing or fracking the shale.

Gas and oil companies are spending many millions of dollars to "prove" gas resources before the wet arrives.

Gas and oil companies are spending many millions of dollars to "prove" gas resources before the wet arrives.

The dangerous chemicals used in this process are stored in tanks and ponds on the site.

Where rain is measure in metres and not millimetres, it does sound like a hazard we were not to be exposed to.

Oh well, at the time writing it still hasn't rained, and looking at all the fires and droughts everywhere else, perhaps it doesn't want to for a while.

But if you hear the tropical monsoons have arrived in the Top End and see the TV weather presenters excitedly sticking lightning symbols on their national charts, spare a thought for an industry trying so desperately hard to be born it has ignored the basics of life up here.

Chris McLennan, Katherine Times editor

Sign up below to receive the Voice of Real Australia newsletter direct to your inbox each weekday.

Other stuff happening around the country