Wattle Range Council condemns Bight oil proposal

STUDY FUNDED: All tiers of government are taking part in a probe of the South East coast Picture: J.L. "FRED" SMITH

WATTLE Range Council has condemned proposals to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight due to the threat of environmental harm.

Following a spirited debate at the September monthly meeting in Millicent, council will state its opposition in letters to government authorities and politicians.

The motion had been prompted by the tabling of a letter and 21-page submission from Beachport resident and Limestone Coast Protection Alliance member Marcia Lorenz.

“We believe seismic drilling and testing in the Great Australian Bight must be permanently banned,” Ms Lorenz wrote.

Her submission included letters supporting the ban from the Grant District Council and the Kingston District Council.

Deputy mayor Moira Neagle opened the debate and said the issue was “perplexing” and the submission used emotive language.

“Should we seek the opinion of our constituents?” Cr Neagle asked.

In reply, chief executive Ben Gower said council could conduct a full public consultation or by other means such as an on-line survey.

Cr Kevin McGrath expressed doubt about the impact of a resolution from the council.

“We can squeal and carry on but it will have no impact on the actions of multi-nationals,” Cr McGrath said.

Cr Deb Agnew said she supported the drilling ban in those waters.

While criticising the language of the ban advocates, Cr Rick Paltridge supported their stance.

“I wish emotional arguments should not regularly be brought into the debate,” Cr Paltridge said.

“It is prudent to go with the other councils as it is a national issue.”

Cr Peter Dunnicliff felt the environmental advocates were playing wedge politics.

“The facts presented are not convincing enough,” Cr Dunnicliff said.

Cr Graham Slarks believed any oil found in the Great Australian Bight would be transported in tankers for refining in Singapore.

“There is a slight element of risk in the drilling and there is nothing in it for us,” Cr Slarks said.

Cr John Drew said there was “no great advantage” for the economy in the search for oil in that area.

“Leave it where it is,” Cr Drew said.

Cr Dale Price said this matter was the core business of Wattle Range as it was a coastal council.

“The economics do not stack up and there is a potential for risk,” Cr Price said,

The council stance will be communicated to other coastal councils and the National Off-shore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.

The Robe District Council also adopted a similar stance at its September monthly meeting.

Member for Barker Tony Pasin said the Federal Government supports the conventional exploration of oil and gas reserves offshore, so long as it is done safely and in an environmentally responsible manner.

“This includes the Bight, where oil and gas exploration has occurred safely since the 1960s,” Mr Pasin said.

“Australia has strong environmental protections overseen by the independent regulator NOPSEMA (National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority).

“NOPSEMA relies on expert scientific evidence and will not allow any activity to go ahead unless it is safe for the environment, the community and workers.

“Development in the Bight has the potential to transform the South Australian economy, providing energy security as well as thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of income.”