Protests against BP’s plans to drill for oil in Great Australian Bight


Protesters hold a banner opposing BP oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight, in St Kilda beach on May 16. Photo: Chris Peterson

About 100 people rallied at Glenelg in Adelaide to protest against plans by oil company British Petroleum to explore for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

Other demonstrations were held on Kangaroo Island, in Melbourne and on the Sunshine Coast as part of a nationwide protest coordinated by the Wilderness Society.

BP is ploughing ahead with its controversial $1 billion exploration campaign off the South Australian coast in the face of mounting concern from environmental groups. The first well, called Stromlo, is expected to start drilling in October next year in water about 2.2 kilometres deep.

The Great Australian Bight is widely considered one of the most prospective, unexplored offshore basins in the world and potentially holds billions of barrels of oil and gas. US oil companies Chevron and Murphy Oil, and local explorer Santos have also secured offshore permits in the area, but the falling oil price has caused them to defer drilling.

These plans have alarmed environmental groups who are concerned about pollution and disturbance of habitats in pristine waters in the bight.

Wilderness Society of SA director Peter Owen said Australia could not respond to a disaster on the scale of BP's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico if there was a spill in the Bight.

"Where is the infrastructure out in the Great Australian Bight to even start to grapple with the magnitude of that scenario? There was something like 40,000 people involved in that clean-up," he said.

There is huge community concern about BP’s drilling plans. It could devastate marine and coastal environments, fishing and tourism industries.

It is time to send a message to our leaders and the rest of the world that we must protect our marine environment, and invest in renewables for a better future.

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