Alexandrina Council joins fight for the bight by opposing oil drilling

In a strong move to protect the Great Australian Bight (GAB), the Alexandrina Council has joined a number of other SA councils in opposing oil drilling in Australia’s southern seas.

At it’s May 7 council meeting, elected members voted to become the seventh SA council to join a growing opposition that includes businesses, Traditional Owners, tourism and fishing operators, surfers and conservationists.

Their support also creates a united front amongst the Fleurieu councils, with the District Council of Yankalilla and City of Victor Harbor already expressing their opposition.

At the meeting, councillors voted unanimously that council advocate to oppose oil drilling in the GAB and endorse the mayor or chief executive to participate in opportunities that communicate this position as they arise.

Mayor Keith Parkes said council was concerned about the risks posed by drilling for oil.

We are concerned about the impact on our community should the worst happen and a spill occur

Mayor Keith Parkes

“The council highly values it’s pristine river and coastal environment and critical nature of industries like tourism and we are concerned about the impact on our community should the worst happen and a spill occur” he said.

He said council was listening to its neighbouring councils and communities who are also opposed and wanted to support them.

On Tuesday morning, Mr Parkes will join the Wilderness Society SA as it protests oil drilling in the GAB at the convention centre in Adelaide.

Director of the Wilderness Society SA Peter Owen said Norwegian oil giant Statoil, which is currently searching the bight for oil, should note the growing community opposition.

“The councils opposed to oil and gas exploration in the Bight now include Kangaroo Island, York Peninsula, Victor Harbor, Alexandrina, Holdfast Bay, Yankalilla and Elliston,” he said.

“That means there are local governments opposed to Bight oil drilling in South Australia’s capital, on the Bight’s biggest island and the state’s three major peninsulas: the Fleurieu, Yorke and Eyre peninsulas.”

He said it was time Statoil, and other oil companies, listened.

“It (Statoil) should quit its plans to drill in the deep, rough and remote waters of the Great Australian Bight, just as BP and Chevron have already done,” he said.

“A spill would be devastating for South Australia’s $442 million fishing industry and its tourism industries in coastal regions, worth more than $1 billion. The two industries employ more than 10,000 full-time positions.”

Mr Owens said it was important to remember there is currently no established offshore oil and gas industry in South Australia to deal with such a disaster.

“More than 6800 boats were involved in the Gulf cleanup but the SA Oyster Growers Association says that SA and neighbouring states do not have that many vessels and probably only 20 could operate safely in the waters where BP-Statoil planned to drill.”

He said the GAB was far too precious to risk.

“The GAB’s pristine waters are the world’s most important nursery for the endangered southern right whale. It´s a haven for 35 other species of whales and dolphins, including humpback, sperm, blue and beak whales,” he said.

“It’s also Australia’s most important sea lion nursery and supports seals, orcas, giant cuttlefish, great white sharks, some of Australia’s most important fisheries, and migratory seabirds Australia has international obligations to protect.”