Newcastle City Council will vote this week on whether to ask the state and federal governments to review plans for gas exploration and drilling off the east coast of NSW.
The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority approved an application from Advent Energy to conduct seismic testing in its search for gas deposits on a 12.25 square-kilometre patch off the coast of Newcastle.
Greens councillor John McKenzie’s notice of motion, listed for Tuesday’s meeting, says council should “reaffirm opposition to both offshore exploration and mining activity due to unacceptable environmental impacts, and negative economic impacts on the recreational and commercial fishing and tourism industries”.
Read more: Concern over seismic test
It also calls for council to write to the state and federal governments and ask for a review of the approval, an investigation into the environmental impacts of exploration and mining, and that all oil and gas projects off the NSW coast between Port Stephens and Illawarra be banned.
It comes after NSW resources minister Don Harwin said in parliament last week that he had told the federal government he was against Advent Energy’s plan, but the state could not revoke approvals if the Commonwealth did not agree.
Cr McKenzie told Fairfax Media on Friday that the seismic testing approval was “ill conceived”.
He said he hoped Newcastle council and the state government could stand together in opposition to the plan and future offshore mining.
“No one in Newcastle wants to see our pristine coastline turned into a gas field and it is important for council to take a proactive stance that reflects this,” he said.
“Offshore mining would be disastrous for our recreational and commercial fishing industries, for our budding cruise ship tourism and for our marine environment.
“But the proposed seismic testing is not benign either. The acoustic blasts have well documented impacts on fish populations, effectively creating fish deserts in the exploration area.”
Advent Energy director Toby Foster said the company was confident the offshore petroleum authority would continue to enforce “a very stringent and onerous regulatory regime”.
Mr Foster said the plan involved one of the smallest seismic tests that had been put to the authority and it would take place over three to four days outside the peak whale migration and recreational fishing periods, using a vessel that was smaller than many of the bulk carriers that frequented the waters off the coast of Newcastle.
“This regulatory oversight is one of the most stringent globally, and has direct effects on Australia’s energy security, economic wealth, and employment,” he said.
“We look forward to working with all stakeholders constructively into the future in our efforts to achieve successful natural gas exploration.”