Application deadline for seismic testing off Newcastle coast extended

From above: Satellite image of the area of the NSW east coast where seismic testing is proposed. Picture: National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority
From above: Satellite image of the area of the NSW east coast where seismic testing is proposed. Picture: National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority

A plan to conduct seismic testing off the coast of Newcastle has been delayed.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority has given Perth-based company Asset Energy an extra month to submit its application for the survey.

While standard practice in petrol and oil exploration, the plan to shoot acoustic pulses into the ocean to get a picture of what is underground has prompted concern among the NSW Greens and the commercial fishing community.

Fairfax Media reported earlier this month that NOPSEMA had asked Asset Energy for a revised application after the authority was “not reasonably satisfied that the environment plan meets the criteria” of regulations.

But NOPSEMA has extended Asset Energy’s deadline from September 2 to October 15.

Asset Energy director Toby Foster said on Thursday the extension was to allow the company “sufficient time” to modify its application.

“More exact timing of the survey is yet to be considered,” he said.

Greens marine spokesperson Justin Field said the state government should cancel Asset Energy’s exploration license to ensure seismic tests wouldn’t go ahead.

“The community has raised concerns about the threat of seismic testing on local fishing opportunities, ocean habitat and marine wildlife including whales that will soon begin migrating down past the Newcastle coast,” he said.

“The authority has listened to community views and extended by about a month the timing for a revised project proposal, but doubts remain over whether gas exploration, good fishing and a healthy marine environment can coexist.”

The test is proposed to take place in about 12 square kilometres off the coast of Newcastle.

Mr Foster said earlier this month that the test would be among the smallest that Asset Energy had ever conducted.

He said the volume of the acoustic pulses would be about five per cent of a typical seismic survey.