The Hunter’s Federal MPs are voicing their opposition to drilling off Newcastle’s iconic coastline.
Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon, Shortland MP Pat Conroy and Paterson MP Meryl Swanson released a joint statement on Friday (19 February) calling upon the federal government to “put an end” to the PEP11 project.
PEP11 – also known as the Petroleum Exploration Permit – allows exploration in a 8,200km2 stretch of ocean from Wollongong to Newcastle.
The permit expired earlier this month and the region’s MPs are concerned the project’s renewal will see oil and gas rigs off the coast, which may negatively impact sea life.
Ms Claydon said she struggled to understand why the Morrison Government hadn’t already rejected the project.
“Given the unshakeable opposition from the state government, the Federal Opposition, local elected representatives and communities right along the coast, this is a project that hasn’t got any friends,” she said.
“While the chance of an accident may be small, if it does happen, the impacts for our precious marine environment could be catastrophic, not to mention the damage to our reputation as a tourist destination.
“My focus has always been ensuring that oil and gas fields never darken the waters near Newcastle.
“The renewal of PEP11 doesn’t require legislation, so it will never come before the federal Parliament. This decision now rests solely with the Federal Minister for Resources [Keith Pitt].
“That’s why it’s so important for him to reject the extension once and for all.”
Shortland MP Pat Conroy added Advent Energy’s proposal to drill off the coast of Lake Munmorah was “distressing”.
“They have plans to drill a well that would be around 2.2 kilometres deep, and their drilling target would be a huge 6,000 acres,” he said.
Mr Conroy also heaped criticism on Minister Pitt, who said in an interview that any rig off the coast was “unlikely to be visible”.
“This not only gives a strong indication about which way he is leaning with his decision, but the possibility of offshore gas drilling rigs ruining the stunning view from our coast is just one problem with this permit,” Mr Conroy said.
“Mr Pitt’s comments don’t address the direct and indirect impact this project would have on thousands of local fishing, tourism, and hospitality jobs.
“They don’t address the devastating environmental impacts this will have if there’s an accident. And, they don’t address the fact that there are already projects under development that will produce gas more cheaply and in less sensitive environments without endangering existing industries.
“PEP11 makes no sense from an economic, environmental or energy perspective.”