Premier David Alward is promising a new process to communicate and engage with First Nations on the issue of shale gas after weeks of protests on Route 126 in Kent County.

The premier said in a statement on Thursday he would set up the communication and engagement process after there were calls for him to play a direct role in dealing with anti-shale gas protests.

Alward's statement pledged respectful communication and full engagement.

"This partnership is essential on many levels as we rebuild New Brunswick and its economy," Alward said in a statement.


Premier David Alward is promising to start a new engagement process with First Nations communities over the controversial issue of shale gas development. (CBC)

"Our government will ensure First Nations play their rightful role and reap their rightful benefits from this partnership."

But there were no specifics given about the communication and engagement process and Alward didn't speak to reporters about the announcement.

SWN Resources Canada is conducting seismic testing in Kent County. The company is trying to determine if a shale gas industry is viable in the area.

There have been 21 people arrested since the anti-shale gas protests started in Kent County.

Alward said an oil and gas industry is "not automatic" and depends on the outcome of the exploration work.

"Over the next few weeks and months, we will continue dialogue and consultation to clarify any concerns and to respond in a meaningful and respectful manner," Alward’s statement said.

"We are looking for tangible results that ensure any economic benefits improve the quality of life for First Nations and for all New Brunswickers."

Energy Minister Craig Leonard was also unable to offer specific details about what form this new dialogue or partnership will take with First Nations leaders.

"That has to be determined through the discussions that we have, but it's an acknowledgement that it needs to move in that direction," he said.

Susan Levi-Peters, a former chief of the Elsipogtog First Nation, met with provincial government ministers on Thursday and asked for a public meeting on shale gas.

She said she was told the provincial government would get back to her on the request.

The Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick said in a statement this week that First Nations would only work with government and industries that care for the environment and were willing to develop resources responsibly along with First Nations.

Kelly Lamrock, a lawyer for the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick, said this week chiefs are concerned about the consequences of non-natives protesting against shale gas development on First Nations territory.