Rally organised against seismic testing off Newcastle coast as MEC Resources narrows in on start date

A satellite image of PEP11, off the coast of Newcastle, where seismic testing is proposed as part of gas exploration.
A satellite image of PEP11, off the coast of Newcastle, where seismic testing is proposed as part of gas exploration.

Seismic testing in waters near Newcastle is expected to start next month, the company that wants to drill for gas off the east coast says.

But the organiser of a community rally opposing the plan believes the project would be a “severe environmental disaster”.

Asset Energy, an offshoot of Advent Energy and MEC Resources, has been given approval to fire acoustic pules into the ocean floor over a three to four day period some time before May 31.

NSW Greens upper house representative Jeremy Buckingham will address the rally on Sunday.

NSW Greens upper house representative Jeremy Buckingham will address the rally on Sunday.

While the company has repeatedly said its plan would not adversely affect the environment, it has come under attack from the NSW Greens, Green Peace, the commercial fishing industry and others in the community who argue it would have devastating impacts on sea life.

Natasha Deen, who has organised a rally at Nobby’s Beach at 1pm on Sunday, said the prospect of a gas field off the coast of Newcastle was “unacceptable”.

“We are known worldwide for our beautiful dolphins and whales and have thriving tourism and fisheries industries,” she said.  

“When I heard about the proposed seismic testing off Newcastle I was concerned enough to do some research on what seismic testing is and if there are any impacts on marine life. What I found was really distressing.”

MEC Resources spokesperson Toby Foster told Fairfax Media on Friday that the company expected to start testing in mid-April, pending the arrival of equipment.

“It is public knowledge that seismic surveys have been undertaken off the NSW coast for decades, including by organisations such as ourselves, other oil and gas operators, government research organisations and universities,” Mr Foster said. 

“Keen readers will have also digested the considerable risk and environmental assessment we had to undertake through our environment plan that ultimately was accepted by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).”

NSW resources minister Don Harwin.

NSW resources minister Don Harwin.

While the federal authority approved the plan, Fairfax Media reported last month that NSW resources minister Don Harwin told parliament he was against the project.

Greens upper house member Jeremy Buckingham, Newcastle councillor John McKenzie and Simon Black from Green Peace are booked to speak at Sunday’s rally.

“The Newcastle community simply won’t accept Asset Energy’s proposal for oil and gas exploration and drilling off its precious coast,” Mr Buckingham said.

“Oil and gas activities in the waters off Newcastle are too risky for the health of the ocean, marine wildlife including migrating whales and productive fisheries.

“Strong community opposition saw-off coal seam gas at Fullerton Cove and we’re prepared to stand up for our environment and community against the fossil fuel companies again.”

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