Impact of perception worth looking at

Rex Patrick
Rex Patrick

IT SEEMS as though there were a number of good things to come out of South Australian Senator Rex Patrick’s visit to Port Lincoln late last week when he met with local industries to hear their concerns about Equinor’s plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight.

With the Port Lincoln City Council’s forum on the Bight looming these meetings are important, especially as it could help turn up more answers and transparency on the issue.

One of the people attending was Southern Ocean Express director Gavin Meyers and he raised a really interesting point.

He said one of the major concerns for the industry was that the reputation of local seafood could be affected by allowing drilling in the Bight. 

It is one of the arguments some Kimba residents have been using in the fight against the nuclear waste facility site selection – that the mere idea of nuclear waste, or in this case oil drilling, could have a negative affect on what the region is best known for producing.

Eyre Peninsula seafood is known world-wide as some of the best and it fetches a premium price overseas and at home so it would be worth knowing if that reputation could be damaged by the oil drilling industry.

It is clear what affect a spill, however unlikely, would have on the region and the environment but if people’s perceptions of the local seafood and tourism industries was put at risk then the region might suffer without anything even going wrong.

As important as it is to have the economic benefits of drilling activity quantified, it is also equally important to recognise that the industry could be affected by drilling even without a spill. 

Mr Patrick also seemed keen to get to the bottom of what the economic benefits might actually be and that is information a lot of people would be interested in.

While it might be hard for Equinor to talk about things like the jobs the industry might create before the plan has been given the tick by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority it is important information if the council and the public are to make an informed decision.

Surely it can only be positive that more people are being heard and given the information they need to figure out where they stand on an industry that could shape the region’s future.