NT Government says $40-billion economy by 2030 still in reach despite disruptions to Origin and Santos projects

Northern Territory treasurer Eva Lawler has insisted an ambitious economic target is still on track despite disruptions to major gas projects.

Recent decisions involving gas giants Origin and Santos have raised questions about the future of gas in the territory, where mining and manufacturing represents about a quarter of gross state product.

But Ms Lawler said she remained confident the territory economy would grow to the target of $40 billion by the end of the decade — up from the current $26 billion.

“To drive this, we have been working on a range of major projects by both government and private sector,” she said in a statement.

“We have not pinned all our prospects to a single venture or a single resource.”

However, some observers say the separate shake-ups have shown the risk of continued focus on the oil and gas sector.

NT Government Minister Eva Lawler stands next to her colleague Chaney Paech at a press conference.
Treasurer Eva Lawler says the ambitious goal remains viable despite uncertainty over future gas production.(ABC News: Nicholas Hynes)

“You’ve seen how quickly the rug can be pulled — two big projects in a single week,” said renewable energy advocate Eytan Lenko, who sat on a recent government economic taskforce.

“We’re on much safer ground if we’re facing the future and we’re encouraging projects that are future-proof and are going to be beneficial to the economy for the long-term future, versus things that we know we’re going to have to phase out.”

Tamboran investment shows vote of confidence: industry

After years of exploring the region, Origin last week sold its gas exploration interests in the Beetaloo Basin at a multi-million dollar loss, to focus on other priorities including the transition to clean energy.

Days later, the Federal Court overturned an approval for a major offshore project spearheaded by Santos after a challenge by traditional owners, halting drilling at a $4.7 billion project the company has previously described as the biggest investment in Australia’s oil and gas industry in almost a decade .

The gas platform in the Timor Sea.
Plans to extract gas from the Timor Sea were blown by a court ruling last week.(Supplied: ConocoPhillips)

The nation’s peak oil and gas body has suggestions Origin’s exit heralds a declining role for gas, instead reframing a decision by gas company Tamboran to buy its interests as a vote of confidence.

“The gas industry has been a critical driver of the economy in the Northern Territory and nothing in the past week has changed this,” Samantha McCulloch from the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association said.

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