New analysis shows the NT Government has implemented less than half the recommendations of the Fracking Inquiry, even as it hastens towards issuing production licences to companies that want to turn the Beetaloo basin into an industrial gas field.

A summary report prepared by the Environmental Defenders Office shows the NT Government is not, and cannot be, in a position to sign off on all Fracking Inquiry recommendations in the coming month because it has failed on major recommendations on water protection, cultural heritage and community legal rights. [1]

The report highlights that the NT Government’s own Independent Oversight adviser admitted in his update to the Chief Minister the recommendation to provide communities with the right to challenge the lawfulness of fracking approvals had not been properly implemented. [2]

Overall, this report combined with a second detailed analysis commissioned by Lock the Gate from Earth Justice of implementation of recommendations to date shows the NT Government has only implemented about 45% of the Pepper Inquiry’s 138 recommendations properly to date. [3]

EDO Special Counsel Alina Leikin said: “The NT Government has failed to meet its own deadline for implementing the recommendations of the Pepper Inquiry and there is now a dark cloud hanging over the Beetaloo.

“The government made a promise that it wouldn’t detonate the carbon bomb in the Beetaloo unless every single Fracking Inquiry recommendation was implemented. [4]

“Our work shows the NT Government has no basis to claim the recommendations have been implemented, when promised federal water protections are not in place and cultural heritage assessments and consultation processes for Traditional Owners fall far short.

“It’s telling that the NT Government’s own Independent Oversight advisor has acknowledged that crucial recommendations about community legal rights to challenge fracking approvals are inadequate.”

Lock the Gate National Coordinator Carmel Flint said: “Even if we look at just the 104 recommendations the government claims to have implemented, 40% of those claims are either untrue or only partially true.

“The government is not just falling short of what it promised to deliver, it is failing spectacularly. It’s not even halfway there, and these shortcomings are not trivial.

“They relate to critical issues like proper processes for consulting First Nations peoples, adequate facilities and strong regulations for dealing with millions of litres of toxic water, and giving communities the right to ask courts to review planning and licensing decisions.

“It is time to accept that implementation of the Pepper Inquiry has gone off the rails, and abandon plans to frack the Beetaloo.”

The NT Government accepted the findings of the final Fracking Inquiry report and lifted the moratorium on the basis that it would implement all recommendations by the end of 2022.  

NOTE: Traditional Owners are available on request to speak about failures in relation to Aboriginal and cultural rights.


Protecting water   There is still no federal “water trigger” law that applies to onshore gas development, as required by Pepper Review Recommendation 7.3 (p118).  The government has also failed to install facilities and procedures for treating and disposing of wastewater from fracking, as required Pepper Review Recommendation 5.5 (p76).     Not met   Not met
Mitigating climate change   The Northern Territory and Commonwealth governments have not guaranteed there will be no net increase in greenhouse gases in Australia before allowing fracking to proceed, as required by Pepper Review Recommendation 9.8 (p 239).      Not met
Protecting Aboriginal & cultural rights   There has been no comprehensive assessment of likely cultural impacts of fracking on First Nations people and cultural rights, as required by Pepper Review Recommendation Rec 11.8 (p293).    Aboriginal people are not receiving “reliable, accessible, trusted and accurate” and effectively communicated information about fracking (Rec 11.6).Interpreters are not always present at consultations (Rec 11.5).Petroleum exploration agreements (PEAs) between Traditional Owners and exploration companies have not been made public (Rec 11.7).  Not met     Not met   Not met Not met  
Community third-party legal appeal rights    The government has not given broad community rights to appeal gas project approvals based on the merits of the decision (third-party appeal rights), as required by Pepper Review Recommendation 14.24 (p421) . Not met


Pepper inquiry recommendations
Total recommendations138*
The NT Government’s claims re implementation
31 = recs the governments admits it hasn’t implemented31
104 = recs the government says it has implemented104
EJ analysis of the 104 recs the NT Govt claims are implemented. 
Fully implemented62 (45% total recs)
Partially implemented23 (17% total recs)
Not implemented19 (14% total recs)

*This number varies because sub-recommendations are sometimes counted as separate recommendations.


[1] Summary of findings, 2023-04-28.pdf

[2] Dr David Ritchie letter, November 2022

[3] NT Fracking Recommendations – Implementation Table 2023-04-28.  A review of the Pepper Inquiry recommendations and the government’s progress report and assessment of implementation, by Earthjustice, a US-based environmental law organization.

See also the Pepper Inquiry report Final Report of the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory, 2018.

[4] Government accepts all recommendations of the inquiry, NT Government.


EDO | James Tremain | 0419 272 254

Lock the Gate | Dom Geiger | 0447 355 565