Court OKs work on Santos’ Timor pipeline – but not near sea-bottom Indigenous heritage site

Deep beneath the waters of the Timor Sea  the heritage of the First Australians lives on.

Deep beneath the waters of the Timor Sea the heritage of the First Australians lives on. Photo: AAP

Gas giant Santos will be able to begin work on its gas export pipeline in the Timor Sea, apart from a specific area, after the Federal Court ordered a qualified injunction.

In early November the court granted Tiwi traditional owner Simon Munkara, a Jikilaruwu man, an urgent temporary injunction against Santos’ construction of the Barossa export pipeline.

Mr Munkara argued the company had not properly assessed submerged cultural heritage along the route of the pipeline, which runs within seven kilometres of Cape Fourcroy on Bathurst Island.

On Monday the case returned to court, where Mr Munkara’s legal representatives argued for a continuation of the injunction.

On Wednesday Justice Natalie Charlesworth said, while she was satisfied there should be a further order restraining works on the pipeline, that should not apply to the entire route.

Justice Charlesworth said the risks to important cultural heritage sites were greater the closer the pipeline route was to the Tiwi Islands, including to songlines.

“However, I do not consider that the evidence should be understood as asserting  connection to all areas of the sea, no matter how far distant from the Tiwi Islands,” she said.

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