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 area, where mining and manufacturing accounts for about a quarter of the state’s gross product.

But Ms Lawler said she remains confident the territory’s economy will grow to the $40 billion target by the end of the decade – up from the current $26 billion.

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

“We haven’t pinned all of our prospects to a single company or resource.”

However, some observers say the separate restructurings have highlighted the risk of a 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 target remains achievable despite uncertainty about future gas production.(ABC News: Nicholas Hynes)

“You’ve seen how quickly the carpet can be pulled – two big projects in a single week,” said Eytan Lenko, a renewable energy advocate who recently served on a government economic task force.

“We’re on much safer ground as we face the future and foster projects that are future-proof and benefit the economy over the long term, as opposed to things we know we need to phase out.”

Tamboran Investment shows vote of confidence: Industry

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

Days later, federal court vacated a permit for a major offshore project spearheaded by Santos after traditional owners halted drilling on a $4.7 billion project the company previously described as the largest investment in the US Australian oil and gas industry for almost a decade.

A gas platform in the Timor Sea.
Plans to extract gas from the Timor Sea were thwarted by a court ruling last week.(Included in delivery: ConocoPhillips)

The national top oil and gas regulator has dismissed suggestions that Origin’s exit heralds a diminishing role for gas, instead rewording a decision by gas company Tamboran to buy its shares as a vote of confidence.

“The gas industry has been a key driver of the Northern Territory’s economy and that hasn’t changed in the past week,” said Samantha McCulloch of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

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