• Cliffs at the Great Australian Bight. (Getty)Source: Getty
Traditional Owners and environmental activists who have fought against drilling in the Great Australian Bight have welcomed Equinor's decision to scrap it's plans for oil exploration off the South Australian coast.
Keira Jenkins

25 Feb 2020 - 4:59 PM  UPDATED 25 Feb 2020 - 4:59 PM

Norwegian company Equinor has pulled out of its plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, saying the project was "not commercially competitive".

The company was granted environmental approval in December to drill about 400 kilometres off the South Australian coast, which was met with an outcry from Traditional Owners and environmental activists.

Mirning Elder Bunna Lawrie said knowing Equinor has scrapped it's plans has given him joy.

"To wake up and to hear that news it meant that all our hard work and our battles - we've finally won," he told NITV News.

"It was just fantastic news to hear. To hear that news, it's going to be a collective future for all to enjoy and for our Mirning Elders and our people to continue to celebrate and to practice our culture and traditions and song and dance and our connection to that country.

"We'll continue to protect that land. It's awesome, just awesome. What a day."

The Wilderness Society's Peter Owen also welcomed Equinor's decision. 

"It's fantastic," he said.

"We commend Equinor for making the right decision and doing the right thing here. It's high time they made this decision.

"The Australian people have opposed drilling in the bight over a number of years. It's inappropriate to be expanding the fossil fuel industry when we're in the middle of a climate emergency and we should be transitioning away from fossil fuels."

Mr Lawrie said the Great Australian Bight is significant to Mirning people for many reasons, one being that the area is a breeding ground for whales.

He said now Equinor has abandoned its plans to drill in the Bight it is time for healing.

"It takes a lot of pressure off and it brings back the healing because we fight, we fight we fight with all this anger in our bodies," he said.

"We fight with all this bad feeling in our bodies about the greedy people and the people who want profit. we feel anger towards people who want to cause destruction.

"This is beautiful country, especially to our people. We have a right to protect that place, our lore tells us so because it's in our blood to do so."

'Always got to be ready'

BP withdrew its plans to drill in the Bight in 2016 and Chevron followed, abandoning its drilling plans in 2017.

Mr Lawrie said although there is now time for healing, he will remain vigilant in protecting his country.

"We're always ready for someone who will change their mind or who wants to destroy or kill or do harm.

"We've always got to be ready, we can't let our guard down. You don't trust the devil, you don't trust the demons, that's what I believe.

"The Federal Government will always see that place as a future oil place. When their pockets are empty of money, what are they going to be doing, they're going to be 'oh yes, why don't we get that oil out of there'.

"We don't trust anybody, while they know there's something there that's valuable there to make money but we're going to fight all the time.

"We've beaten off BP, we've beaten of Chevron, we've beaten off Karoon, and now we've beaten off Equinor.

"Our Mirning Elders continue to work tirelessly to protect that place and we will continue to do so because it's our land, it's our culture, it belongs to us, it's our responsibility and duty, not for someone to come along and destroy a beautiful place."

While BP, Chevron and Karoon Gas have all withdrawn from the Bight, Santos, Murphy Oil and Bight Petroleum still have plans to drill there.

Approval to drill in the Bight to be challenged in the Federal Court
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