Shortland federal MP Pat Conroy has welcomed the Australian Government’s belated decision to reject the proposed extension of Advent Energy’s Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 (PEP-11).
Only a couple of days ago, the local member aired his frustration over the delays in Minister for Resources Keith Pitt’s ruling on the controversial project.
He even called on the government to give the Hunter and Central Coast an early Christmas present, by saying no to PEP-11 once and for all.
Now, finally, he’s got his wish.
The Petroleum Exploration Permit 11, which would have allowed offshore oil and gas drilling off the NSW coast between Newcastle and Wollongong, had long been the subject of vocal community opposition.
But, on Thursday 16 December, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the government would refuse the application.
“This project will not proceed on our watch,” he said.
“Gas is an important part of Australia’s current and future energy mix, however this is not the right project for these communities and pristine beaches and waters.
“From Newcastle through to Wollongong, my government has listened to the concerns of their communities and we’re putting our foot down.”
Although thrilled by the outcome, the Prime Minister’s announcement brought a wry smile to Mr Conroy’s face.
“This is a decision – more than 300 days overdue – that could have been made quickly in February with a stroke of a pen by Mr Pitt who had the final say on the future of the licence,” he said.
“Extending PEP-11 has never made sense from an economic, environmental or energy perspective.
“It would have put at risk thousands of local jobs in tourism, hospitality, and recreational and commercial fishing.
“Let’s be clear: the Morrison-Joyce government left our community in limbo and ignored our wishes for nearly 12 months despite the overwhelming opposition to PEP-11.
“This is a huge win for local residents – and they deserve to be congratulated and recognised for their advocacy.”
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese backed Mr Conroy’s sentiments.
“Scott Morrison doesn’t care about the [Newcastle] community, otherwise he would not have inflicted this uncertainty on them for so long,” he said.
“This is a Prime Minister whose priorities are his Liberal mates and making announcements that suit his short-term political prospects.
“He has surrendered to the massive campaign ran by the community and Labor to stop this awful project.
“Actions speak louder than words.
“Mr Morrison has been saying he doesn’t approve the PEP-11 extension since March, so Labor looks forward to the official confirmation that it has been rejected once and for all.”
The NSW Government and National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator were also informed of the decision.
Surfers for Climate Action co-director Belinda Baggs, who has been heavily involved in community opposition to PEP-11, was a relieved woman today.
“Swimming out into the ocean this morning I’ve never been so relieved to look at a beautiful blue horizon – not a gas rig in sight, and it’s going to stay that way, for good,” she said.
“After years of campaigning against this polluting project, my heart is full to know that the community’s passion for the ocean and care for our climate has overcome the petroleum industry.
“We have all stepped up and protected our shared aquatic backyard.
“I thank the federal government for listening to our calls and having the sense to make a decision that will benefit the people who live along this coast and keep this pocket of fossil fuels underground.
“When enough of us unite, we do have the power in stopping big gas and oil.
“We did it in the Great Australian Bight, we did it in Newcastle and next we will do it along the Great Ocean Road.
“Most surfers don’t want their beaches destroyed for a polluting fuel we no longer need.
“It’s clear the tide is changing – and we will continue kicking gas out of our line-ups.”
Surfrider Foundation national campaign director Damien Cole admitted it was a historic win for the coastal communities between Newcastle and Sydney.
“It demonstrates the power we have as individuals, when we come together and stand up for what we believe in,” he said.
“This project has been the cause of so much angst throughout our communities for far too long, so to have it finally cancelled once and for all is an incredible relief for all.
“Surfrider Foundation is proud to have worked with other organisations Save Our Coast, Surfers For Climate and Living Ocean and help to provide a historic win for all ocean lovers and future generations.
“This is a win for every community member who stood up in opposition to this ridiculous project.
“It’s a win for everyone who attended paddle out events, contacted their local politicians, signed petitions and spread awareness of this issue.
“This is the true meaning of people power.
“This win has given future generations a chance to enjoy one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world.
“It’s a monumental win for our communities all over Australia and serves as a reminder of the power we have when we come together for a common cause.”
Get all the latest Newcastle news, sport, entertainment, lifestyle, competitions and more delivered straight to your inbox with the Newcastle Weekly Daily Newsletter. Sign up here.