Legal joust continues over NT station

Heavy machinery at Tanumbirini cattle station (file image)
Rallen said it was concerned a gas explorer's heavy construction machinery could stress cattle. -PR Handout Image

A legal battle to stop a gas fracking company accessing a Northern Territory cattle station is set to continue despite the lifting of an interim stop-work order.

Cattle company Rallen Australia is attempting to overturn a court order granting Tamboran Resources subsidiary Sweetpea Petroleum access to Tanumbirini station in the gas-rich Beetaloo Basin.

The pastoralist has also applied for a court order to stop Sweetpea working on the 5000sq km property while the Supreme Court in Darwin assesses the case. 

An interim stop-work order was lifted on Thursday, with Sweetpea agreeing it would not start some road work before Rallen's application to stop all work is heard on July 15.

"The injunction brought by Rallen Australia was misconceived as Tamboran is yet to issue a formal notice to Rallen regarding the construction of a Western Access Track," a Tamboran spokesman said.

"Nor did Tamboran have any present intention to undertake works on that track."

Earlier, Rallen said it was concerned the heavy construction machinery required to build the proposed 18-metre wide access track across a breeding paddock could stress its cattle.

"Our cattle's welfare is extremely important to us," director Luciana Ravazzotti said.

"Station managers are concerned vehicle movements could cause calves to separate from their mothers and not subsequently 'mother up', causing orphaned young calves to die."

The company estimates there are 60 bulls and 1500 breeder cows in the paddock, many with young calves.

Sweetpea previously won the legal right in the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal to explore parts of Tanumbirini station, 600km southeast of Darwin. 

Rallen has appealed the decision saying the tribunal erred when it interpreted parts of the legislation, and failed to balance it and Sweetpea's competing land-use interests in the five-year agreement.

Tamboran has an agreement with the Northern Land Council, the native title holders of the area, and a permit for exploratory fracking in parts of Tanumbirini and the neighbouring Beetaloo station. 

"We remain committed to the development of the Beetaloo Basin, which is projected to deliver thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in royalties to the benefit of all Territorians, and look forward to working with all stakeholders, including traditional owners," a spokesman said.

Tamboran has held the permit to explore the properties for more than a decade.

Rallen leases 1.1 million hectares of land across six NT stations, with 70,000 head of Brahman cattle. It has spent $200 million in the past four years developing the properties.

The Beetaloo is one of a number of gas fields the previous coalition government planned to develop to help boost the economy and secure Australia's energy supply.

It caused concern among many in the territory, who fear hydraulic fracturing in the basin could jeopardise efforts to meet the nation's emissions reduction target and contaminate groundwater in a series of linked aquifers.

About 90 per cent of the NT's water supply comes from groundwater.

A judgment following the appeal hearing earlier in the month over access to the cattle station will be released at a date to be fixed.