Australia

Activists rally to protect the Great Australian Bight from oil exploration

Surfers take part in a paddle-out part as part of a protest at Bells Beach, south of Melbourne. Source: AAP

As activists come together for a national day of action, new polling suggests growing support among South Australians to protect The Great Australian Bight from oil exploration.

Environmentalists have come together across the country as part of a national action to oppose oil drilling plans by Norwegian energy company Equinor.

The company is looking to drill an exploration well about 370 kilometres off the South Australian coast.

The federal regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, recently called for more information on the company's environmental plan with Equinor expected to respond by the end of November.

Surfers protest at Bells Beach as part of a National Day of Action against Equinor and its plans to drill for oil in waters off the Great Australian Bight.
Surfers protest at Bells Beach as part of a National Day of Action against Equinor and its plans to drill for oil in waters off the Great Australian Bight.
AAP

A growing number of South Australians want the Great Australian Bight protected through World Heritage Listing as a decision on the oil exploration plan looms.

A poll of more than 500 people by the progressive Australia Institute has found 84 per cent now support World Heritage protection, up from 77 per cent in March.

The survey also showed that 66 per cent believe the Bight would be a more productive asset for SA as a marine park rather than an oil field.

Australia Institute SA director Noah Schultz-Byard said the polling was a clear indication South Australians wanted the Bight protected.

"Properly valuing an internationally significant environmental and ecological asset such as the Great Australian Bight means protecting it from exploitation," he said.

"More than 10,000 jobs in coastal tourism, fisheries and aquaculture rely on healthy oceans in SA. That would all be put at risk if a catastrophic oil spill was allowed to take place."

However, Equinor has always maintained it can drill safely in the Bight and adequately manage any risks or incidents.

The company has also promised to continue to consult with local communities and others impacted by its exploration program.

If approved, it is scheduled to begin work on the Stromlo-1 exploration well in the summer of 2020/21.

A surfer and a man playing a didgeridoo are seen as part of a protest at Bells Beach.
A surfer and a man playing a didgeridoo are seen as part of a protest at Bells Beach.
AAP

On Saturday, thousands of people are expected to gather at beaches and other locations across the country to protest over Equinor's plans.

In Adelaide, activists will clean up a mock oil spill at the feet of Colonel Light's statue while others will hang banners from the Bluff at Victor Harbor, south of the city.

Many people will take to the water, paddling out from the coast to mark the event at venues including Bondi, Manly, the Gold Coast, Torquay, Bells Beach and Byron Bay.

Anti-oil drilling protesters are seen at Currumbin on the Gold Coast.
Anti-oil drilling protesters are seen at Currumbin on the Gold Coast.
AAP

South Australian Wilderness Society director Peter Owen said the opposition to drilling in the Bight was not going away.

"The vast majority of Australians do not want oil drilling in the deep, rough and pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight," Mr Owen said.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch