The applicant, Munupi Senior Lawman and Tiwi Traditional Owner Dennis Tipakalippa, is from the Tiwi islands, a biodiversity haven approximately 80 kilometres north of the Australian city of Darwin. The applicant sued the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), the Australian Government’s offshore energy regulator, and an oil and gas company, Santos Limited, over the approval of plans to drill the Barossa gas field in waters off Northern Australia. The applicant claimed that NOPSEMA did not have jurisdiction because the requisite consultations with the applicant were carried out.
Proceedings regarding an application for an interlocutory injunction restraining Santos from commencing or continuing offshore drilling until the expedited final hearing, which was scheduled for six weeks after the proceedings for interlocutory relief, commenced on July 13, 2022. After accepting that the applicant had demonstrated a prima facie case, the injunction was denied on the basis that drilling will not have gotten underway to a significant extent by the time the hearing came about and of earlier representations made by the applicant indicating he was prepared to accept harm occasioned by the drilling of one well over a short period in order to be availed of the opportunity to stop the vast majority of the approved drilling at an expedited hearing.
In a decision issued on September 21, 2022, the Federal Court of Australia found that NOPSEMA was not lawfully satisfied that consultation had occurred. An order was made to set aside the decision approving Santos Limited’s drilling plans. Work has been paused on the project and Santos Limited will be unable to continue the project without the approval.
The matter decision is currently on appeal before the Full Court. The Full Court’s judgment in the Tiwi Barossa Appeal (Santos v Tipakalippa and Anor). On December 2, 2022, the Full Court dismissed the appeal.