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Caring for Country: in Australia to protect the area of natives

The initiative, launched with activities at the Blacktip field, aims to protect local culture and respect the environment.

Protecting heritage with the Thamarrurr Rangers

The Blacktip gas field is located in the Australian offshore Bonaparte basin, where we own 100% of the production licence WA-33-L. Since 2006 it has been part of the "Caring for Country" project and Caring for Country is exactly what we mean to do with this diversified project. The project is comprised of an unmanned wellhead platform (WHP), two producing well, flowlines and a subsea gas export pipeline bringing well stream fluid to the onshore Yelcherr Gas Plant (YGP), within the Aboriginal territory governed by the Northern Land Council (NLC). The YGP is located near the township of Wadeye. Throughout project development, extensive surveys and consultation were undertaken with the Traditional Owners to determine cultural heritage values that need to be protected and conditions for the long term use of the land for the Blacktip Project.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an action programme signed in September 2015 by 193 UN member states. It includes 17 goals for socio-economic development of communities and local areas. In line with goals 3, 14, 15, and 17 we support access to health care for the indigenous community in the Northern Territory (Goal 3), provide training and capacity development for the protection of local underwater biodiversity (Goal 14) and terrestrial diversity (Goal 15), and also socio-economic development of the local community (Goal 17).

 

Turtle Management Plan

Marine turtles are marine air-breathing reptiles that have lived in the oceans for over 200 million years. Flatback turtles (locally referred to as the Greenback) and, to a lesser extent, the Olive Ridley turtles, are known to nest on Yelcherr Beach. During project construction, a temporary module offload facility (MOF) was constructed on Yelcherr Beach to facilitate the delivery of prefabricated modules and other materials for the YGP construction. A Turtle Management Plan was put in place to manage the MOF construction and decommissioning, and the natural beach profile has now been restored.

Aborigines working for the environment: gallery

A forest guard made up of representatives of various local tribes are taking care of the area on a daily basis, monitoring of animals and protecting its cultural heritage.

Safety first

For us, workplace safety is a fundamental principle that we share with employees, contract workers and local communities. That is why we implement all the necessary measures to avoid accidents, including organisational models to assess and manage risks, training programmes, skills development and the promotion of a culture of safety.

Technologies we use

In 2020, a joint project was carried out with Australian Institute of Marine Science and Parks Australia to train the Thamarrurr Rangers in the use of Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) and Drop Cameras to collect data at the nearby Emu Reef. The project was well received and provides a foundation for the Rangers to engage in further monitoring of local underwater habitats. 

How we take on challenges

The MOF decommissioning called for innovative methods to reduce risks and ensure the lack of any damage to people or the environment. There were a number of constraints that needed to be managed properly: lease boundaries, security and seasonal limitations. The lease permit limits the area that we can operate in, and therefore we used a special decommissioning strategy that minimised the footprint on the surrounding beach. Seasonal limitations include both a wet season that brings extreme weather and heavy rainfall, and a dry season during which turtles come ashore for nesting. Thus the decommissioning activity was scheduled in the shoulder period between the turtle nesting season and before the start of the wet season. To avoid security problems and interference to late-nesting turtles, decommissioning activities also occurred only during daytime, as turtles prefer dark quiet beaches for nesting and hatchlings typically emerge at night and use the moonlight to find the sea. Once the MOF was removed, we recreated the sand dunes, installed drainage sumps and rehabilitated the vegetation along the dunes. With the help of the Thamarrurr Rangers, we have continued to monitor turtle nesting at Yelcherr Beach to ensure no impacts from the activities.

Impact on the environment and community

Environmental monitoring is managed full-time by a local community group, the Thamarrurr Rangers. The Rangers comprise of over 17 local Indigenous staff and 4 non-Indigenous support staff, and was established in 2001 by the Traditional Owners of the Thamarrurr Region to actively address land and sea management issues. They patrol more than 18,000 km² of land and around 240 km of coastline, and do a range of work, including coastguard, pest control, monitoring wild animals, protecting cultural assets, education and managing the Marri-Jabin Indigenous Protected Area (IPA). In 2019, with the staff of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), we did a participatory workshop on mapping the marine habitat, in which the land's Traditional Owners and Thamarrurr Rangers were involved. The mapping workshop facilitated the sharing of knowledge to support the protection of local species and habitats.

Among our initiatives to help the local people, we have provided high-tech equipment to the “North Australian Centre for Oil and Gas”, a laboratory at Charles Darwin University. They will use it for education and research. We have also provided Aboriginal women with preventive health care programmes, particularly for breast cancer.  We also helped improve health and cohesion in the community of Wadeye, through a sustainable Australian football programme, by buying and installing a new site and lighting plants for Brown’s Mart Theatre in the city of Darwin, and through the Eni Schoolnet Project. Finally, in 2006 we signed an agreement with the Northern Territory Power and Water Corporation to sell gas for domestic use in the Australian territory. In late 2015 the community of Wadeye saw their old diesel power station replaced with a gas one, to provide cleaner, cheaper electricity to one of the biggest communities in the area. The new station powers the taps for the gas pipeline from the Blacktip gas field and provides access to energy for the village's population of more than 3,000 people. It has the capacity to supply over 1,600 house and businesses.

The value of experience

We have built solid relationships within the indigenous community and the whole region of Thamarrurr, where the YGP is located. We talked with the local Indigenous community right from the planning and construction phases of the project, and continue to have dialogue to protect the local environmental and cultural heritage values and understand their profound sense of belonging to their land. The Indigenous people have a very special relationship with their land; it is not an asset to be bought and sold. We are committed to maintaining a relationship of trust, showing the utmost respect for their culture.

Partnerships

We continue to support the Caring for Country project, working in partnership and collaboration with various governmental and non-governmental organisations, including the Australian government, the Northern Land Council and the Thamarrurr Development Corporation (TDC).  To carry out our Turtle Management Plan, we worked with the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy and the monitoring and assurance team from the Environmental Standards Division. The techniques for protecting the area were supported and developed by Australian government.  To provide capacity building in marine habitat management and monitoring, we partnered with the Australian Institute of Marine Science to undertaken sea country mapping with the Rangers and also deliver BRUV and Drop Camera training.