By ERWIN CHLANDA
If you have any views on fracking – good or bad – the time to make them known is now.
And shouting it from the rooftops won’t do you much good: Judge Rachel Pepper (pictured), who heads up the Scientific Enquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the NT, made it clear today only evidence that comes before her commission will make it into her report due in December.
It will be delivered to the NT Government, which commissioned the enquiry, and it will be made public.
Public comment about the “background issues paper” she released today, at hearings and by submissions, will close on April 30.
The Alice Springs News Online raised with Judge Pepper a point in the terms of reference, that she will need to “advise the level of environmental impact and risk that would be considered acceptable in the Northern Territory context”.
How will she define the context, and what people think is acceptable? we asked.
Apart from advice from the 10 scientists on the panel, “anybody who makes a submission or presents or writes to the enquiry, that is all the information that goes towards forming the determination of those issues”.
Isn’t she required to double-guess public opinion?
“We will be making recommendations and exploring the issues based on the evidence we get from the scientists, the stakeholders, from community engagement.”
NEWS: Does that mean the information will come from people who come forward and present evidence to you, but not necessarily from a cross-section of the NT Population?
JUDGE PEPPER: It will be based on the evidence of people who give evidence to us. In the absence of the evidence we won’t be able to make the appropriate recommendations. That’s why it iso important and so critical hat people do come forward, do have their say, do tell us what they re thinking.”
NEWS: The methodology part of the terms of reference says the report will be public “subject to any request for a submission or any part thereof to be kept confidential”.
JUDGE PEPPER: My very strong view as an independent chair of an independent enquiry is to be transparent as possible. My very firm view is that people who want to put in submissions, those submissions will be publicly available, they will be put up on a website, anybody can read them, anybody can comment on them, in the public engagement sessions coming up or later down the track.
In The Centre, hearings will be held in Alice Springs (March 6), Tennant Creek (March 7), Yuendumu (March 28) and Hermannsburg (March 29).
By ERWIN CHLANDA