By JULIUS DENNIS
No fracking can take place in Alice Springs itself, but that should not limit the next council from taking a stance, says Hannah Ekin.
She is the spokesperson for the Central Australian Frack Free Alliance (CAFFA), who says 103 local government areas around Australia have pronounced a global climate emergency, but declaring current national goals is simply not enough.
Those 103 LGAs represent over 36% of the Australian population, and Ms Ekin and CAFFA believe that Alice Springs should join them: “It’s an official binding motion that acknowledges the impacts of climate change.”
So far, the only LGA in the NT to do so is the City of Darwin.
Ms Ekin says that this may have something to do with the outgoing Mayor: “Damien Ryan, also the president of the Local Government Association of the NT, has blocked motions of Alice Springs trying to address fracking through LGANT.
“With different people in positions of power in LGANT, we could look at taking an official position of opposing fracking, which would be a really strong statement of broad opposition to fracking.”
Mayoral candidate Jamie De Brenni also holds a position as an LGANT representative to the Administration and Legislation Advisory Committee which “makes recommendations to the Minister for Local Government largely on local government legislation”.
Ms Ekin says that while it would be largely symbolic, should the Alice Springs Town Council “declare Alice Springs gas field free” which would “demonstrate the lack of social licence for fracking in Alice Springs”.
Further, it could have an effect more broadly across the Territory. Smaller councils, where fracking could take place, like Roper Gulf and Katherine, are already opposed to the idea. Should ASTC throw their weight behind a frack free stance, it could become the official stance of LGANT.
“There’s disproportionate weight to these bigger councils like Alice Springs.
“They could be supporting and enabling [smaller councils] to express those concerns through LGANT and advocate for them, as opposed to blocking that. That’s something we’d like to see from both the new mayor and also councillors.”
Ms Ekin says there is a history of ASTC advocating to protect residents from the harms associated with fracking in areas outside their remit: “Some positive things they’ve done in the past have been to advocate for the Alice Springs water control district to be a no go zone for fracking.
“Although that hasn’t officially been accepted by the Northern Territory Government, with that council motion and demonstrated public concern on the record, it would be very risky politically to allow fracking in the Alice Springs water control district.”
CAFFA has decided to stay out of the fray in terms of endorsements for mayor and council candidates, but does urge all candidates to “publicly declare their stance on fracking” prior to Alice Springs residents heading to the ballot box next month.