Groups urge Bight drilling ban

Tim Dornin
Environmentalists have staged a mock oil spill to protest drilling in the Great Australian Bight

Oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight is too risky, with a major spill putting the tourism and fishing industries at risk along with Australia's coastal way of life, environmental groups say.

The Wilderness Society and Greenpeace came together with traditional owners and local councils on Tuesday to protest over plans by Norwegian energy company Statoil to drill in the Bight by October 2019.

They gathered outside the annual conference of the Australian Petroleum and Production and Exploration Association, urging the company to heed community concerns.

"There is no social license here, there is no support in Australia," Wilderness Society SA director Peter Owen said.

"The people of South Australia do not want this risky deep-sea drilling happening in our Bight.

"We can't put our tourism industry, our fishing industry and our coastal way of life at risk."

Tuesday's protest also came ahead of Kangaroo Island Mayor Peter Clements attending the Statoil AGM in Norway where he will seek to read a letter from Kokatha elder Sue Haseldine, telling the company it does not have consent to explore.

"We write on behalf of people around the world that are fighting to protect their country, livelihoods, and water from dangerous oil drilling and climate change," the open letter says.

"Consent to drill the Bight has been neither sought, nor given.

"Together, we ask that Statoil abandon their plans to pursue risky deepwater oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight, and around the globe."

But federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan said locking up areas such as the Bight would impact on Australia's ongoing energy security.

"We must secure energy supplies both for our own economic future but also for our national security," Senator Canavan told reporters at the APPEA conference.

He said areas like the Great Australian Bight were integral to protect Australia's future production of liquid fuels and the country had extremely robust regulatory processes in place to govern offshore production of oil and gas.

"Any individual proposal for the Great Australian Bight will be properly assessed," the minister said.

"But to just put up the white flag and say we can't do it flies in the face of the experience we have had as a nation for nearly 50 years now in safely operating oil and gas infrastructure in challenging environments."