Tiwi Traditional Owners have secured an injunction to prevent Santos starting work near the Tiwi Islands on its Barossa Gas Export Pipeline while their case is underway.  

The court has imposed an injunction until mid-January to restrain all works on the pipeline, except for in an area about 75km north of the Tiwi Islands and further. 

Jikilaruwu man Simon Munkara lodged civil enforcement proceedings late last month asking the court for an injunction to prevent work going ahead on the pipeline.  

He argues the pipeline poses a significant new impact or risk to Tiwi underwater cultural heritage that was not assessed in the original Environment Plan for the pipeline approved by NOPSEMA, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority. 

If a significant new impact or risk arises, the law requires a titleholder to submit a proposed revision of an Environment Plan to NOPSEMA for approval before work can continue. 

Accordingly, Mr Munkara argues that Santos should not be permitted to proceed with work until it revises its Environment Plan to address the pipeline’s impact and risk to underwater cultural heritage. That Environment Plan would then need to be accepted by NOPSEMA. 

On November 2, Justice Charlesworth ordered an emergency injunction less than an hour before Santos was due to begin laying the pipeline.  

The case returned to court on Monday, November 13, to hear arguments about extending the injunction until a full trial of the case could take place. 

The court also heard applications from two other Tiwi Traditional Owners who wished to join the case as applicants alongside Mr Munkara: 

  • Malawu Traditional Owner Marie Tipuamantumirri, and  
  • Munupi Traditional Owner Carol Puruntatameri.  

Ms Tipuamantumirri and Ms Puruntatameri also have deep concerns about the pipeline’s impact on their Sea Country. 

All three Tiwi Traditional Owners are represented by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO).  

Today, Justice Charlesworth ordered that the injunction be extended until mid-January to allow for an expedited hearing of the full case. 

Senior Elder Molly Munkara said: “My heart is beating, happy one. It’s really our waterways, our place where we go and have traditional life. We are part of that area, the land and the sea. It means a lot to me. And I’m glad, I’m happy. 

“I was calling out to ancestors all this week asking to protect our waterways, marine life, Sea Country. I asked for them to stop Santos, and they listened.” 

EDO Special Counsel Alina Leikin said: “This injunction brings further relief to our clients who can now have their case heard in court without the risk of damage to important areas of their cultural heritage in the sea near the Tiwi Islands. 

“There are now three applicants, all Traditional Owners seeking to protect irreplaceable cultural heritage in their Sea Country. 

“The Federal Court has already established that Santos needs to do proper consultation with Traditional Owners before a valid approval for work can be issued. 

“This case is about ensuring that companies properly assess evidence of new impacts and risks caused by their projects when it comes to light in accordance with the law.” 

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