The Northern Territory cattle industry cannot co-exist with gas fracking companies in the Beetaloo Basin, a cattle baron has told a Senate inquiry.
Many traditional owners don't want gas producers on their land, saying it risks destroying ancestral lands and scared sites for future generations.
The Beetaloo is one of a number of gas fields the federal government wants to develop to help boost the economy, under its "gas-led recovery" from the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Rallen Australia director Pierre Langenhoven doesn't believe pastoralists and the gas industry can share the basin, saying there is not enough water.
"This season we got half the rain we got last year, already we're starting to muster ... We are trying to prepare for the dry," he told the Senate committee hearing on Tuesday into the push to develop gas production in the basin.
"The industry doesn't care if there's a drought because for them water is limitless."
Rallen has six cattle stations with 70,000 head of cattle in the Beetaloo Basin. It's spent $200 million in the past four years developing the properties.
"The cattle industry in the NT is very different to any other. It's very fragile. People think you put the cattle out in the bush and pick them up twice a year. It's not the case," he said.
"You have to look after the land and animals to get any productivity."
Plans to frack the basin have caused concern among many Territorians, who fear it could not only jeopardise efforts to meet the nations's emissions reduction target but also contaminate groundwater.
Mr Langenhoven is also worried about the hazardous chemicals used during the hydraulic fracturing process.
"It's not just us as pastoralists but total communities that are all scattered around the aquifer. It would not be an isolated incident. It would be a tragedy," he said.
He said gas companies had shown "a total disregard for us as a business and landowners" when they had entered Rallen's stations.
"We don't have any rights as the leaseholder. They have an arrangement from the government to extract resources, so we are just a hindrance," he said.
Johnny Wilson, Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation chair, lives in the basin at Lighting Ridge about 20km from exploration wells, near the Gulf of Carpentaria.
He said traditional owners weren't being consulted by their designated representative body, the Northern Land Council, which it denies.
"We want to make decisions for ourselves. We do not want fracking full stop," he said.
"We have seen the photos of places where fracking has done so much damage. Our cultural heritage is so important to us, our songlines, our dreaming, our water. It is our life."
Mr Wilson said gas companies had moved near to his home causing fear among traditional owners.
"What is going to be left for us on our country?" he said.
"All they are there for is what we have under the ground."
He said he felt ashamed to see gas well flames across his country in the night.
"It is terrible. It is sad and the worst nightmare," he said.
"We are humans and this is our country. We want to take care of our sacred sites, take care of our water."
Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe said the optimistic view from the gas industry was that the basin had the potential to produce 11 trillion cubic feet of gas annually.
"If the Beetaloo sub-basin were to be exploited on that scale it would contribute more carbon dioxide than Australia's current emissions from all sources," the respected environmental scientists said.
"Even a quite novice scale of production would add somewhere between 10 and 20 per cent, comparable to the entire transport sector."
Environment Centre NT Director said the federal and NT governments must stop funnelling millions of dollars of taxpayers' money to the gas industry, which was contrary to a 2018 NT fracking inquiry's recommendations.
"People in the NT have absolutely no trust in this industry and that these promises are going to be delivered on, and are increasingly frustrated," she said of the 100 recommendations not implemented.
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.