First interstate council joins South Australian councils voicing concerns on oil drilling in Great Australian Bight

  • Victoria’s Moyne Council (Port Fairy) demands consultation on Bight oil drilling proposals
  • 11 SA local governments now oppose Bight oil exploration, representing 540,000 residents
  • Opposition has jumped since Kangaroo Island Mayor fronted Statoil-Equinor AGM

The first interstate council has weighed in on oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight after 11 South Australian local governments have voted their opposition to risky ultra-deepwater drilling in Australia’s southern seas.

Victoria’s Moyne Council, centred on the tourist hotspot of Port Fairy, passed a motion on Monday expressing its concerns about oil exploration in the Bight and asking Norwegian oil giant Equinor (formerly Statoil) and relevant federal ministers to be included in any consultation over any proposals.

Eleven South Australian coastal local governments representing 540,000 people have now flexed their muscle voting to oppose oil and gas exploration in the Great Australian Bight.

Local government opposition has stepped up dramatically since Kangaroo Island Mayor Peter Clements fronted the Statoil-Equinor annual general meeting in Norway in May to ask the company to drop its Bight plans. Shortly after, South Australia’s biggest council, Onkaparinga City, voted its opposition followed by the state’s third biggest council, City of Port Adelaide Enfield, last month.

Wilderness Society South Australia Director Peter Owen said: “The opposition to oil and gas exploration in the Great Australian Bight is escalating rapidly, with 11 South Australian local governments representing more than half a million residents now opposed, and now interstate councils are demanding to be consulted.

“Five South Australian councils ‑ Port Adelaide, West Torrens, Onkaparinga, Marion and Alexandrina – have passed resolutions opposing oil and gas in the Bight since May when Kangaroo Island Mayor Peter Clements travelled to Statoil-Equinor’s AGM in Norway to ask the oil giant to drop its plans to drill in the Bight.

“In May more than a thousand people lined the shores across Australia to oppose offshore oil and gas exploration and calling Statoil-Equinor to drop its Bight plans at Hands Across the Sands events from New South Wales right across to Western Australia. About 500 people attended the Adelaide event at Semaphore Beach while 300 turned up to the Port Fairy event.

“Will Statoil-Equinor defy this huge community opposition to push ahead with risky ultra-deepwater drilling in the pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight?”

The Moyne Council motion states: “That Moyne Shire Council acknowledges concerns regarding deep sea oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight and commits to writing to Equinor and the relevant Federal minister to request full consultation from Equinor in relation to the development of its proposed Environmental Plan.

“That Moyne Shire Council seek regular updates from Fight for the Bight Port Fairy Group, Equinor and the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority (NOPSEMA) in relation to the application, with particular emphasis on oil spill risk and risk mitigation strategies.”

Mr Owen said: “Equinor has thumbed its nose at the growing community opposition and extraordinarily reasserted its intention to attempt risky ultra-deepwater drilling in the Great Australian Bight Marine Park next year while pushing for an extension to its drilling timeline. Statoil-Equinor’s continued dismissal of the community’s concerns brings the reputation of the entire offshore oil and gas industry into disrepute.

“Equinor should start listening to the people and quit its plans to drill in the deep, rough and remote waters of the Great Australian Bight, just as BP and Chevron have already done.

“The international Hands Across the Sand movement grew from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 when 800 million litres of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.

“The Great Australian Bight waters are deeper, more treacherous and more remote than the Gulf of Mexico. BP’s own oil spill modelling showed a spill from an ultra-deepwater well blowout in the Great Australian Bight could impact anywhere along all of southern Australia’s coast, from Western Australia right across to Victoria through Bass Strait to NSW and around Tasmania. A spill could hit Adelaide in 20 days and could hit Port Lincoln and Kangaroo Island in 15 days.

“A spill would be devastating for South Australia’s $442 million fishing industry and its tourism industries in coastal regions, worth more than $1 billion. The two industries employ more than 10,000 full-time positions.

“There is no established offshore oil and gas industry in South Australia to deal with a disaster. More than 6800 boats were involved in the Gulf cleanup but the South Australian Oyster Growers Association says that SA and neighbouring states probably have only 20 vessels that could operate safely in the waters where BP-Statoil planned to drill.

“The Great Australian Bight is a unique, pristine marine environment, with 85 per cent of its marine species found only in these waters. The Bight is a haven for 36 species of whales and dolphins, including the world’s most important nursery for the endangered southern right whale. The Bight is Australia’s most important sea lion nursery and supports seals, orcas, giant cuttlefish, great white sharks and some of Australia’s most important fisheries.”

The South Australian councils opposing oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight are: Port Adelaide-Enfield, Kangaroo Island, Victor Harbor, Yorke Peninsula, Onkaparinga, Yankalilla, Holdfast Bay, Marion, West Torrens, Elliston and Alexandrina.

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