Designated low aromatic unleaded fuel areas: fact sheets

Indigenous AffairsHealth and WellbeingLow Aromatic Unleaded Fuel
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Publication author(s):
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Publication abstract:

Tennant Creek and Katherine, in the Northern Territory, and Palm Island, in Queensland, are designated low aromatic fuel areas.

It is illegal to sell regular unleaded fuel in Tennant Creek, the Threeways Roadhouse, Adelaide River, Mary River, Hayes Creek, Pine Creek, Katherine, Tindal (the RAAF base), Nitmiluk (the visitor center area), Mataranka and on Palm Island.

Corporations in these areas are prohibited from: 

  1. Supplying regular unleaded petrol to a person
  2. Transporting regular unleaded petrol for supply to a person
  3. Possessing regular unleaded petrol for supply to a person.

This change does not affect the availability of premium unleaded or diesel fuel in these areas. More information 

Daly and Katherine Regions Designations

The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, has used powers under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 to declare Adelaide River, Hayes Creek, Pine Creek, Mary River Roadhouse, Katherine, Nitmiluk, Tindal and Mataranka as low aromatic fuel areas. This prohibits the supply, transport for supply, and possession for supply, of regular unleaded petrol within the area. This legislation came into effect on 19 February 2016.

The Legislative Instrument for Daly Region (including Adelaide River, Hayes Creek, Pine Creek and Mary River Roadhouse) is available on the Federal Register of Legislation website. This includes the Explanatory Statement for the instrument, which contains maps of the areas designated.

The Legislative Instrument for Katherine Region (including Katherine town, Nitmiluk, Tindal and Mataranka) is available on the Federal Register of Legislation website. This includes the Explanatory Statement for the instrument, which contains maps of the areas designated.

Summary of the findings from the Daly Region and Katherine Region Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 Consultations

The Commonwealth Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion has designated Adelaide River, Hayes Creek, Pine Creek, Mary River Roadhouse, Katherine town, Nitmiluk, Tindal and Mataranka as low aromatic fuel areas using powers available to him under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 (the Act).  These designations came into effect from the enactment of two legislative instruments which cover areas in the Daly Region (covering Adelaide River, Hayes Creek, Pine Creek, and Mary River Roadhouse) and the Katherine Region (covering Katherine town, Nitmiluk, Tindal and Mataranka).  These designations prohibit the supply, transport for supply, and possession for supply, of regular unleaded petrol within these areas.

The Minister made these decisions to help prevent petrol sniffing outbreaks and to reduce the harm caused by sniffing to people living in these regions. Consultations required under the Act occurred from 7 September 2015 to 2 October 2015.  

As part of the consultation process, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet wrote to 91 stakeholders outlining the proposal and inviting them to make a submission or provide their views, including fuel retailers and distributors, health professionals, local councils and other relevant persons.

Information outlining the proposal and its consequences was made available on the low aromatic website and handed out to stakeholders and residents as part of the face to face consultations.

The consultation process was also advertised in the local newspaper, in social media posts and on posters placed in the community. 

As part of the consultation process, Departmental representatives were in the Katherine region from 14-17 September 2015 for meetings with:

  • Local businesses
  • Health organisations
  • Indigenous organisations
  • Community groups
  • Residents and other interested persons.

There were a total of 20 discussions or group meetings, and ten written submissions received during the consultation process. This included one-on-one meetings and group meetings.

The consultation process found strong evidence and community support for a regional approach to designate areas within the Daly Region and Katherine Region as low aromatic fuel areas to help prevent petrol sniffing outbreaks and to reduce the harm caused to people living in the two regions from sniffing fuel.

The overwhelming view was that the health and wellbeing of people in the Daly Region and Katherine Region would be improved if Adelaide River, Hayes Creek, Pine Creek, Mary River Roadhouse, Katherine, Nitmiluk, Tindal and Mataranka are declared low aromatic fuel areas.

Issues raised included:

  • A number of respondents said that petrol sniffing is now a generational issue in the region. People who have grown up petrol sniffing, who now experience the resulting brain injury and health impacts, are having children of their own. There is a significant risk that this new generation will also experience neglect and begin petrol sniffing.
  • It is reported that children as young as six are sniffing petrol and there is significant evidence that petrol sniffing will almost certainly have life-long effects on these children and their families.
  • The flow on effects from sniffing were also raised, including the social dysfunction such as violence, break-ins and the risk that many of the youth involved will become parents at an early age.
  • There were also several stories told regarding deaths related directly to petrol sniffing, including one person interviewed who knew of several kids who had died from sniffing petrol.
  • The seasonal nature of petrol sniffing and the way it spreads rapidly through a community.
  • There was also concerned that petrol is the most likely form of volatile substance abuse in the Daly Region and Katherine Region because it is cheap and easy to access, especially if it is brought into a community in a car or small engine.
  • A regional approach addresses a number of key issues including:
    • The availability of regular unleaded fuel in close proximity to Indigenous communities
    • It creates an even retailing environment
    • It reduces opportunity for regular unleaded fuel to be transported through deliberate or accidental means.

The Department worked with fuel retailers and distributors, and the affected communities, during the transition process to address residual concerns to using low aromatic unleaded fuel. Representatives from the Department were in Katherine from 7 - 11 December 2015 to assist fuel retailers and mechanics with any questions or concerns they had about low aromatic unleaded fuel.


The information below was used during the consultation process in Katherine.

Introduction

The Australian Government is considering whether to use the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 to reduce the impact of petrol sniffing on local communities in the Katherine region.

The object of the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 is to enable special measures to be taken to reduce the potential harm caused by petrol sniffing. The Act promotes the supply of low aromatic unleaded fuel and controls the supply of other fuels, such as regular unleaded fuel.

The information collected during the consultation and submission process will then be taken into account for the Minister for Indigenous Affairs to consider. Based on this information and in accordance with the Act, the Minister will decide whether there is sufficient reason to designate a 'low aromatic fuel area' or 'fuel control area' in the Katherine region.

What is the problem?

Petrol sniffing is a form of substance misuse and people who sniff petrol inhale petrol fumes on purpose to become high. It mainly occurs in regional and remote communities and can lead to poor health (including brain damage or death), increased violence and crime, and the breakdown of communities and families.

Petrol sniffing has caused significant harm in the Katherine region and the Australian Government wants to work with the regional community and other key stakeholders to ensure that petrol sniffing does not continue to wreck people's lives.

The Australian Government wants to support a future where the kids go to school, adults go to work and everyone is safe. This future will be put at risk if we do not stop petrol sniffing.

Research has shown that the rollout of low aromatic unleaded fuel has significantly reduced petrol sniffing. To date low aromatic unleaded fuel has been successfully rolled out to approximately 150 retail sites on a voluntary basis.

A number of Katherine fuel retailers have agreed to convert their supply to low aromatic fuel (LAF) in response to community concerns about petrol sniffing problems in the region.

What is low aromatic unleaded fuel (LAF)?

LAF contains lower levels of the toxic aromatic compounds such as benzene, toluene and xylene which give people who sniff petrol a "high". LAF has a minimum octane rating of 91 so it can be used in any engine in which manufacturers recommend the use of regular unleaded 91 fuel. This includes cars, boats and small engines such as lawn mowers, whipper snippers, generators, chainsaws, motor bikes and all-terrain vehicles. LAF has undergone independent testing to ensure that it complies with Australian Fuel Standards.

Independent tests have shown that consumers who use LAF can expect equivalent performance to regular unleaded fuel in boats, cars and other small engines in which manufacturers recommend the use of regular unleaded 91 fuel.

Katherine consultation and submission process

The Government invited people to have their say about the impact they think this might have on them and their community.

Consultations were held in September 2015. Residents and other stakeholders were given the opportunity to provide feedback via face to face and/or written submissions during the consultation period.

Representatives of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet visited the Katherine region in September 2015 to talk to residents, business and other organisations about the Minister's proposal.

Residents of these areas were also invited to attend community discussions during the visit.

The Katherine submission process has now closed.

Consequences of designating a 'low aromatic fuel area'

The information below outlines how the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, wants to use his powers under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 to designate areas of the Katherine region as 'low aromatic fuel areas'.

The Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 requires Minister Scullion to consult with the following people and organisations before making a decision about whether to designate an area as a 'low aromatic fuel area':

  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people and community representatives and bodies;
  • manufacturers and suppliers of fuel;
  • persons with an interest in or knowledge of human health; and
  • any other person that the Minister considers appropriate.

The offences under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 only apply to corporations. If the areas in the Katherine region are designated as a 'low aromatic fuel area' then a corporation will be prohibited from:

  • Supplying regular unleaded petrol to a person in a low aromatic fuel area.
  • Transporting regular unleaded petrol for supply to a person in a low aromatic fuel area.
  • Possessing regular unleaded petrol for supply to a person in a low aromatic fuel area.

If a corporation does any of these things then they will commit an offence under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 and may be fined up to $54,000.

Palm Island Designation

Outcome of Palm Island Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 Consultations

On 27 November 2015 Palm Island was designated as a low aromatic fuel area under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013.

The Commonwealth Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion has designated Palm Island as a low aromatic fuel area using powers available to him under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 (the Act). This prohibits the supply, transport for supply, and possession for supply, of regular unleaded petrol within the area.

The Minister made this decision based on his concern about the risk of petrol sniffing outbreaks in the local community following the reintroduction of regular unleaded petrol on Palm Island in August 2015. Consultations required under the Act commenced on Palm Island on 17 August and concluded on 11 September 2015. The consultation process found strong evidence and community support to designate Palm Island as a ‘low aromatic fuel area’ to reduce the harm caused to people living in Palm Island from sniffing fuel.

As part of the consultation process, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet wrote to 54 stakeholders outlining the proposal and inviting them to make a submission or provide their views, including retailers and distributors, health professionals, the local council and other relevant persons.

Information outlining the proposal to designate Palm Island as a low aromatic fuel area and the consequences was also made available on the Low Aromatic Unleaded website and handed out to stakeholders and residents as part of the face to face consultations.

Advice about the consultations was also included in local newspaper advertisements, social media posts, posters placed in the community, through local radio announcements, and through a letter box drop advertising residents of the consultation process and how to contact representatives from the Department.

As part of the consultation process, Departmental representatives were on Palm Island from 25 - 27 August and 9-10 September 2015 for meetings with:

  • Local businesses
  • Health organisations
  • Indigenous organisations
  • Community groups; and
  • Residents and other interested persons.

There were a total of 30 discussions which included one-on-one meetings, group meetings and phone consultations. Two written submissions were received.

The overwhelming view of those who were interviewed was that the health and wellbeing of people on Palm Island would be improved if it was declared a low aromatic fuel area.

Issues raised included: 

  • Stories about the high levels of petrol sniffing in the community prior to the introduction of low aromatic unleaded fuel in 2014 and the personal accounts of the harm done to individuals and families by petrol sniffing. 
  • The social dysfunction resulting from petrol sniffing, including issues with noise, anti-social behaviour, crime and damage to property caused by petrol sniffers breaking into places in search of petrol. 
  • Significant concern was expressed by community members regarding the return of regular unleaded, fuel to Palm Island. And with it the return to petrol sniffing, associated health effects and antisocial behaviour that occurred prior to the introduction of low aromatic fuel in 2014. 
  • Requests for increased alcohol and drug rehabilitation and youth diversion programmes as well as additional supporting resources to be provided to the Palm Island community. 
  • Concerns were expressed by some residents about the Commonwealth Government controlling the community’s choice of fuel. 
  • Concerns were also raised regarding the perceptions around the quality of low aromatic unleaded fuel, damage to engines and requests for more education on its use in engines.

Based on the evidence provided during the consultation process the Minister decided to use his powers under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 to designate Palm Island as a low aromatic fuel area.

The Department worked with fuel retailers and distributors, and the greater Palm Island community, to address any residual concerns to using low aromatic unleaded fuel.

The Legislative Instrument for Palm Island is available on the ComLaw website.


Information used during the consultation process on Palm Island can be found here.

Background

Petrol sniffing has caused harm on Palm Island and the Australian Government wants to work with the Palm Island community and other key stakeholders to ensure that petrol sniffing does not continue to wreck the lives of the Island's people.

The Australian Government wants to support a future where the kids go to school, adults go to work and everyone is safe. This future will be put at risk if we do not stop petrol sniffing.

Research has shown that the rollout of low aromatic unleaded fuel has significantly reduced petrol sniffing. To date low aromatic unleaded fuel has been successfully rolled out to approximately 150 retail sites on a voluntary basis, including, until recently, Palm Island.

Low aromatic fuel was introduced on Palm Island at the community's request in March 2014. The Government has been working with the local service station proprietors and residents of Palm Island since May 2015 to resolve concerns about the perceived impact of low aromatic unleaded fuel on engines. A fuel expert and a marine mechanic have visited the island and to date no fault has been found with the low aromatic unleaded fuel.

What is low aromatic unleaded fuel?

Low aromatic unleaded fuel contains lower levels of the toxic aromatic compounds such as benzene, toluene and xylene which give people who sniff petrol a "high". It has a minimum octane rating of 91 so it can be used in any engine in which manufacturers recommend the use of regular unleaded 91 fuel. This includes cars, boats and small engines such as lawn mowers, whipper snippers, generators, chainsaws, motor bikes and all-terrain vehicles. Low aromatic unleaded fuel has undergone independent expert testing to ensure that it complies with Australian Fuel Standards.

Independent tests have shown that consumers who use low aromatic unleaded fuel can expect equivalent performance to regular unleaded fuel in boats, cars and other small engines in which manufacturers recommend the use of regular unleaded 91 fuel.

Details of the Palm Island Consultations

The information below outlines how the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, used his powers under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 to designate Palm Island as a low aromatic fuel area.

The object of the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 is to enable special measures to be taken to reduce the potential harm caused by petrol sniffing. The Act promotes the supply of low aromatic unleaded fuel and controls the supply of other fuels, such as regular unleaded fuel.

Petrol sniffing is a form of substance misuse and people who sniff petrol inhale petrol fumes on purpose to become high. It mainly occurs in regional and remote communities and can lead to poor health (including brain damage or death), increased violence and crime, and the breakdown of communities and families.

Consequences of designating a 'low aromatic fuel area'

The Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 requires Minister Scullion to consult with the following people and organisations before making a decision about whether to designate an area as a low aromatic fuel area: 

  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people and community representatives and bodies;
  • Manufacturers and suppliers of fuel;
  • Persons with an interest in or knowledge of human health; and
  • Any other person that the Minister considers appropriate.

The Minister proposed to declare the entire Island a low aromatic fuel area. What this meant is that regular unleaded fuel would no longer be legally available on Palm Island if a designation was made.

The offences under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 only apply to corporations. If the area of Palm Island is designated as a low aromatic fuel area then a corporation will be prohibited from:

1.Supplying regular unleaded petrol to a person in a low aromatic fuel area.

2.Transporting regular unleaded petrol for supply to a person in a low aromatic fuel area.

3.Possessing regular unleaded petrol for supply to a person in a low aromatic fuel area.

If a corporation does any of these things then they will commit an offence under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 and may be fined up to $54,000.

Palm Island consultation process

Consultations started on 17 August 2015 and ended on 11 September 2015.

Representatives of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet were on Palm Island from 25 to 27 August 2015 and 9 to 10 September 2015 to talk to residents, business and other organisations about the Minister's proposal.

The Palm Island submission process has now closed.

Tennant Creek Designation

The Minster for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, has used his powers under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 to declare Tennant Creek and the Threeways Roadhouse as low aromatic fuel areas. This prohibits the supply, transport for supply, and possession for supply, of regular unleaded petrol within the area.

The Legislative Instrument for Tennant Creek, including the Explanatory Statement with maps of the two areas designated, is available on the Federal Register of Legislation website.

Outcome of Tennant Creek Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 Consultation Process

Tennant Creek and the Threeways Roadhouse have been designated as low aromatic fuel areas under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 (the Act). This prohibits the supply, transport for supply, and possession for supply, of regular unleaded petrol within these areas. This legislation came into effect on 17 February 2016.

The Minister made this decision based on his concern about the risk of petrol sniffing outbreaks in communities neighbouring Tennant Creek.

Consultations under the Act commenced in Tennant Creek on 31 August and concluded on 25 September 2015. The consultation process found strong evidence and community support to designate these areas as low aromatic fuel areas to reduce the harm caused to people living in communities neighbouring Tennant Creek from sniffing fuel.

As part of the consultation process, the Department wrote to 54 stakeholders outlining the proposal and inviting them to make a submission or provide their views, including retailers and distributors, health professionals, the local council and other relevant persons.

Information outlining the proposal to designate Tennant Creek and the Threeways Roadhouse as low aromatic fuel areas and the consequences was also made available on the Low Aromatic website (see below) and handed out to residents as part of the face to face consultations.

Information about the consultations was also included in local newspaper advertisements and social media posts. Posters were placed in and around the community advising residents of the consultation process and how to contact representatives from the Department.

Representatives from the Department were in Tennant Creek from 7-11 September 2015 for meetings with retailers, health providers, Indigenous organisations, residents and other relevant persons.

There were a total of 17 discussions or group meetings, and eleven written submissions received as part of the consultation process.

This included one-on-one meetings, group meetings and phone consultations with concerned residents, as well as

  • Health organisations
  • Fuel distributers
  • Fuel retailers
  • Community groups.

The consultation process found strong evidence and community support to designate Tennant Creek and the Threeways Roadhouse as low aromatic fuel areas to reduce the harm caused to people living in the area from sniffing fuel.

The overwhelming view of those who were interviewed was that the health and wellbeing of people in Tennant Creek would be improved if these areas were declared low aromatic fuel areas.

Issues raised included:

  • There was a strong view amongst those interviewed that a reduction in the availability of regular unleaded fuel in Tennant Creek would have a significant impact on the number of people sniffing petrol in the area.
  • Discussions with health workers and community residents provided examples of issues impacting on the health of petrol sniffers and their families.
  • Stories of young children being placed in rehabilitation centres in Darwin and Alice Springs as a result of sniffing petrol, creating significant family upheaval to support them through the rehabilitation.
  • Risks that sniffing can spread rapidly and become much harder to deal with once there are a larger number of people involved. Even small scale sniffing incidents cause a great deal of unrest in communities.
  • The need for increased alcohol and drug rehabilitation facilities and youth diversion programmes for the Tennant Creek community.
  • Concerns were also raised regarding the perceptions around the quality of low aromatic fuel, damage to engines and requests for more education on its use in engines.

Based on the evidence provided during the consultation process the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, has decided to use his powers under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 to designate Tennant Creek and the Threeways Roadhouse as low aromatic fuel areas.

The Department worked with fuel retailers and distributors, and the Tennant Creek community, during the transition process to address residual concerns to using low aromatic unleaded fuel. Representatives from the Department and a fuel expert from Viva Energy Australia (Shell) were in Tennant Creek from 17-18 November 2015 to assist fuel retailers and mechanics with any questions or concerns they had about low aromatic unleaded fuel.


The Information below was used during the consultation process in Tennant Creek.

Introduction

The Australian Government is considering whether to use the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 to reduce the impact of petrol sniffing on local communities in and around Tennant Creek.

The object of the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 is to enable special measures to be taken to reduce the potential harm caused by petrol sniffing. The Act promotes the supply of low aromatic unleaded fuel and controls the supply of other fuels, such as regular unleaded fuel.

The information collected during the consultation and submission process will then be taken into account for the Minister for Indigenous Affairs to consider. Based on this information and in accordance with the Act, the Minister will decide whether there is sufficient reason to designate a 'low aromatic fuel area' or 'fuel control area' in and around Tennant Creek.

What is the problem?

Petrol sniffing is a form of substance misuse and people who sniff petrol inhale petrol fumes on purpose to become high. It mainly occurs in regional and remote communities and can lead to poor health (including brain damage or death), increased violence and crime, and the breakdown of communities and families.

Petrol sniffing has caused harm in the Tennant Creek and the broader Barkly region and the Australian Government wants to work with your community and other key stakeholders to ensure that petrol sniffing does not continue to wreck lives.

The Australian Government wants to support a future where the kids go to school, adults go to work and everyone is safe. This future will be put at risk if we do not stop petrol sniffing.

Research has shown that the rollout of low aromatic unleaded fuel has significantly reduced petrol sniffing. There has been an 88% decrease in the number of people sniffing across select communities surveyed since 2005-07. To date low aromatic unleaded fuel has been successfully rolled out to approximately 150 retail sites on a voluntary basis.

In 2012, following discussions with community stakeholders and fuel retailers in Tennant Creek, two service stations in Tennant Creek agreed to convert their supply to LAF in response to community concerns about petrol sniffing problems in the region.

What is low aromatic unleaded fuel (LAF)?

LAF contains lower levels of the toxic aromatic compounds such as benzene, toluene and xylene which give people who sniff petrol a "high". LAF has a minimum octane rating of 91 so it can be used in any engine in which manufacturers recommend the use of regular unleaded 91 fuel. This includes cars, boats and small engines such as lawn mowers, whipper snippers, generators, chainsaws, motor bikes and all-terrain vehicles. LAF has undergone independent testing to ensure that it complies with Australian Fuel Standards.

Independent tests have shown that consumers who use LAF can expect equivalent performance to regular unleaded fuel in boats, cars and other small engines in which manufacturers recommend the use of regular unleaded 91 fuel.

Tennant Creek consultation and submission process

The Government invited people to provide submissions on what they thought were the impacts to them and their community.

Consultations were held in September 2015. Residents and other stakeholders were given the opportunity to provide feedback via face to face and/or written submissions during the consultation period.

Representatives of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet visited Tennant Creek in September 2015 to talk to residents, business and other organisations about the Minister's proposal.

Residents of Tennant Creek and surrounding communities were also invited to attend community discussions during this visit.

The Tennant Creek submissions process has now closed.

Consequences of designating a 'low aromatic fuel area'

This information below outlines how the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, wants to use his powers under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 to designate areas in and around Tennant Creek as 'low aromatic fuel areas'.
The Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 requires Minister Scullion to consult with the following people and organisations before making a decision about whether to designate an area as a 'low aromatic fuel area':

  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people and community representatives and bodies;
  • manufacturers and suppliers of fuel;
  • persons with an interest in or knowledge of human health; and
  • any other person that the Minister considers appropriate.

The offences under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 only apply to corporations. If the proposed areas in and around Tennant Creek are designated as 'low aromatic fuel areas' then a corporation will be prohibited from:

  • Supplying regular unleaded petrol to a person in a low aromatic fuel area.
  • Transporting regular unleaded petrol for supply to a person in a low aromatic fuel area.
  • Possessing regular unleaded petrol for supply to a person in a low aromatic fuel area.

If a corporation does any of these things then they will commit an offence under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 and may be fined up to $54,000.

 

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