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The Bidjara people from South West Queensland are set to benefit from ongoing social and economic opportunities with final government approvals for Santos’ Mount Tabor biodiversity offset project received this month.

In a first for Santos’ Indigenous partnerships programs, the final approval from the Queensland Government means the rich environment that covers over 5,000 hectares in South West Queensland will be conserved, in partnership with local traditional owners.

Santos Managing Director and CEO, Kevin Gallagher, said the final approval has cemented a partnership with the Bidjara people that has been many years in the making.

“We’ve been working closely with the traditional owners of the Mount Tabor property, the Bidjara people, for some time, to develop this project,” Mr Gallagher said.

“With this final approval, I’m pleased we can continue to work with the Bidjara people to protect and even improve this environmentally rich land for many years to come, while ensuring the Bidjara people can reap the financial benefits of the partnership.

“This partnership stems from a long-standing and positive relationship going back many years and we look forward to that relationship strengthening as we work together to protect the environment and cultural values of the area, for many years to come.”

With the Queensland Department of Resources declaring Santos’ proposed project within Mount Tabor an area of high nature conservation value under the Vegetation Management Act 1999 (VMA), the agreement means Santos, utilising areas of the Mount Tabor property, can offset activities from its GLNG development.

Senior Bidjara woman and Mount Tabor Station Manager, Keelen Mailman, said the partnership with Santos will ensure the land is protected for future generations.

“This partnership with Santos is a massive relief for the Bidjara people, securing our future here, and making sure we will never lose Mount Tabor,” Ms Mailman said.

“It means a lot to me for reconciliation. It’s about building a bridge, listening and working together. There are benefits in these agreements for all people – black or white.”

In 2021, Santos entered into the landmark partnership through the owners, Goorathuntha Traditional Owners Limited, for the Bidjara people.

Now formalised and with full Commonwealth and Queensland government approval, the partnership will allow for the regeneration of native vegetation and the development of ecological habitat to support a broad range of native and threatened fauna species, providing biodiversity offsets for GLNG over multiple years of development in the Fairview field.