Where to now in Bight drilling debate?

Last Monday evening, a crowd of different people from across the community gathered at the Nautilus Arts Centre for a special meeting of the Port Lincoln City Council to discuss oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

While this was a small portion of the community, more than 150 people, you could not doubt the passion in the arguments presented.

It was clear the majority of people were very much against any drilling in the Great Australian Bight but good arguments were brought up from both sides.

Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Association chief executive officer Brian Jeffries (pictured) presented the concerns a spill or activity would have on the Great Australian Bight, where 90 per cent of the world’s one-to-three-year-old southern bluefin tuna go to feed for a period of six months.

Other arguments included the need to go towards renewable energy in the face of climate change, the effects seismic testing would have on local marine life and maintaining Port Lincoln’s reputation for its pristine environment and quality seafood.

On the flip side Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association external affairs director Matthew Doman highlighted how offshore drilling across Australia had a good track record for environmental consideration and benefiting the local communities.

It was also a good point that despite a shift to renewables, there is still a demand for oil, we all use it with our fuel and electricity needs and this industry could mean money and jobs for the region.

The fear of a spill is a significant one to consider, many of us remember the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in 2010 and the effect it still has on that area.

Port Lincoln has spent many years building local industries and its reputation and a guarantee is needed to ensure these would not be affected.

At the same time, the industry had the potential for local investment and jobs while helping Australia meet its ongoing demand for oil.

There are still many questions that need answering and hopefully Equinor, who were not present at the meeting, can provide some answers when it releases its environmental plan later this year.

Meanwhile all eyes are on the Port Lincoln City Council to what direction they will take on the issue, now that they have had a chance to hear all sides.