Community campaign to stop seismic testing off the coast of Newcastle gains momentum

SPLASHBACK: A whale in the waters off Port Stephens. Picture: Lisa Skelton/ Imagine Cruises
SPLASHBACK: A whale in the waters off Port Stephens. Picture: Lisa Skelton/ Imagine Cruises

THE community is galvanising in opposition to any further seismic testing in the waters off Newcastle. 

A new community group Stop Seismic Testing Newcastle has been formed to continue to oppose the federal government sanctioned tests, which got underway in April. 

Asset Energy conducted survey testing about 30km southeast of Newcastle. It is part of a staged plan which could see rigs off the coastline by 2020. 

Both the State Government and Newcastle City Council have opposed the testing. However, licenses are administered at a federal level. 

Newcastle Greens councillor John Mackenzie said the “standards of both environmental assessment and community consultation required for off-shore mining is less rigorous than onshore”. 

“We don’t have sufficient environment safeguards to ensure the risky seismic testing isn’t leading to damage to the marine ecosystem including fish populations and whale migration,” Cr Mackenzie said. 

The new community-based organisation, which opposes the testing due to potential impact on marine life, has collected thousands of signatures from local residents. A petition was presented in the Federal Parliament by the Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon, according to the group. 

Stop Seismic Testing Newcastle’s Natasha Deen said the group hoped to mobilise the community to engage in ongoing peaceful protests to stop the development of gas fields off the coast of Newcastle. 

“We need to speak up to protect our precious marine animals who are unable to defend themselves against this threat,” Dr Deen said.

“We need to continue to protect our beautiful coast from the dangers of offshore fossil fuel exploration and voice our objection to this gas field  planned  off our coast.”

The testing has also been slammed by the local recreational and professional fishing community, as well as marine-based tourism operators. 

A spokesperson for Greenpeace said the consultation had been inadequate and “the diversity of opposition to this shows how poor their consultation was”.

Asset Energy said its practices meet the standards set out by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority. 

Asset Energy’s Toby Foster said its stakeholder consultation included a diverse mix of interests, including government agencies, local councils, professional and recreational fisheries and representative bodies, various interest groups and charter industry representatives. 

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