A controversial license to allow oil and gas drilling off the coast of NSW could ruin summer forever for residents living in Australia’s most populous state – as high-profile surfers and marine experts fight to make sure one businesses’ plan doesn’t go ahead.
The Petroleum Exploration Permit 11, known as PEP-11, is an offshore oil and gas exploration permit currently held by Advent Energy and Bounty Oil and Gas.
The company has grand plans of building oil rigs and drilling into the Earth but their deal with the license expired in February 2021.
While it has applied to renew its application, strong opposition from the community has abounded, with many saying it could lead to leaks, destroy marine life and affect our climate.
The permit parameters begin as close as six kilometres from the shoreline and extend for a 4,575 square kilometre zone off the coast between Manly in Sydney’s northern beaches and Newcastle.
The Petroleum Exploration Permit 11, known as PEP-11, is an offshore oil and gas exploration permit currently held by Advent Energy and Bounty Oil and Gas (stock image)
The permit starts as close as six kilometres from shore and extends for a 4,575 square kilometre zone off the coast between Manly in Sydney’s northern beaches and Newcastle
Patagonia Surf Activist and Co-Founder of Surfer For Climate Belinda Baggs grew up in Newcastle and told Daily Mail Australia that she considers the ocean and coastline her backyard and would do anything to try and protect it from any threat.
‘Gas is not a transition fuel, gas is a fossil fuel and drilling for gas will obviously increase global warming and further the climate impacts that we’re seeing across the coastline,’ Ms Baggs said.
‘It would be industrialising the horizon. Every time we go to the beach, it’s a place for me to connect with my family and I know a lot of the other community feel that as well – it’s our coastal culture.’
Patagonia Surf Activist and Co-Founder of Surfer For Climate Belinda Baggs (pictured) has been campaigning against the permit as it would jeopardise the coastline
‘So to look at a bunch of oil rigs or to be always on edge thinking what if there is a leak or some kind of spill, like we don’t want to have an oil machine washing up on our shores. So I think that’s always going to be in the back of our mind,’ she added.
Laura Wells, a science communicator, model and Survivor contestant, told Daily Mail Australia the potential offshore drilling would be ‘detrimental’ to Australians’ ecosystems and livelihoods.
‘If that was to occur and go ahead, we will be seeing oil and gas rigs from our coastline, which is not only an eyesore but detrimental to so many ecosystems in our future, and it will affect the livelihood and lifestyles of many Australians.
‘If oil and gas exploration does occur in the area with oil and gas rigs, we have a very high chance of an oil spill that could occur, which would be extremely difficult to all marine life in the area.’
Laura Wells (pictured), a science communicator, model and Survivor contestant, said the potential offshore drilling would be ‘detrimental’ to Australians’ ecosystems and livelihoods
‘It can disrupt the lives of marine life, especially when we look at our humpback whales – they migrate from Antarctica to Queensland every single year and this will be right in the middle of their migration routes,’ she added.
The model and science communicator said that the burden of offshore drilling carried implications for tourism, especially in summer.
‘When we look at it, the coast of New South Wales, it is heavily associated with tourism and also obviously property and property prices,’ Ms Wells said.
‘So having oil and gas rigs off our coast not only damages that, but we’re looking at a huge, huge problem with tourism.’
Ms Wells mentioned that the coast is used in many ways, not only economic-wise but also health-wise and believes that the potential of having these areas inundated with oil and gas is a potential for oil spillages.
The model and science communicator said that the burden of offshore drilling carried implications for tourism, especially in summer (Pictured: Beachgoers at Manly Beach)
‘I mean, we’re looking at changing the landscape of our future forever if we let it go ahead.’
After seeing the worst bushfires in Australian history in 2019 and 2020 and recent flooding events, Ms Baggs said the climate impacts would be heightened if the permit is allowed.
‘No offshore drilling comes without risks so there are definitely implications that could impact our natural environment and obviously heightened climate impacts.’
‘We’re all gonna be feeling the brunt of this from coastal erosion to more fires, more floods, and more intense storm activity.’
The former surf champion added that Australia is the biggest exporter of gas on the planet and doesn’t understand why there is a need for more.
‘They keep telling us that we’re in a gas shortage in Australia, which I don’t understand because we export more than anybody else on the planet.’
The opposition to the controversial permit reached parliament last week as Warringah MP Zali Steggall introduced a bill to stop PEP-11, but the government blocked the motion (Pictured: Laura Wells and Belinda Baggs with fellow campaigners)
The opposition to the controversial permit reached parliament last week as Warringah MP Zali Steggall introduced a bill to stop PEP-11.
Despite previous support from Liberal MPs along the NSW coast and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the government blocked the motion to debate and vote on the bill.
Ms Steggall said: ‘Communities up and down the coast are united in opposition to this project. It must be stopped.
‘Despite all the assurances of backbench MPs and even Scott Morrison, the licence remains active. It’s clear that they are not prepared to vote for their community.’
After the right to debate and vote the bill was blocked in parliament, both Ms Wells and Ms Baggs raised concerns that the potential crisis is being ignored.
‘It’s now down to the single hands of Keith Pitt as a Resource Minister to make the decision now that it was blocked in Parliament, and it was blocked by politicians that said they don’t actually support PEP-11,’ Ms Wells said.
After the right to debate and vote the bill was blocked in parliament, both Ms Wells and Ms Baggs raised concerns that the potential crisis is being ignored (stock image)
Ms Baggs said: ‘It makes you think are they just telling us what we want to hear? Or are they going to put their money where their mouth is? Because we need action and we need this off the cards.’
The former surfer has also urged residents to get educated on the issue, sign the petitions online available on the Save our Coast and Surfrider Foundation websites, and contact their local MPs to let them know that there shouldn’t be new gas drillings in NSW waters.
Ms Wells added that Surfrider Foundation, Surfers for Climate and Save our Coasts have been working hard with coastal communities to get their voices heard, and they will keep continuing the fight.
‘At this stage, we will keep raising our voices, we will keep making our voices heard and telling the government exactly we want and it takes all of us to band together to really do that.’
‘This is our livelihood as a collective. It’s not just people that enjoy the surf or enjoy the ocean, it’s about everyone and everyone’s future now.’
‘We will be taking this all the way to the end.’