Opponents of seismic testing off Newcastle coast rally to have message heard

OPPONENTS of seismic testing off the Newcastle coast have sent an emphatic message to the federal government.

“Whales not gas,” about 100 protesters chanted before marching along Newcastle Foreshore on Sunday.

The protest coincided with a delay in the planned survey.

MEC Resources had expected to start seismic testing for oil and gas reserves on Monday but a cyclone in North Queensland stalled the arrival of the testing vessel.

There has been no update on when it is due to arrive.

Protesters chanted “whales not gas” as they stressed the risk the survey could have on marine life.

Others carried signs that read “no rigs off Newy” and “oceans not oil”. One was carrying a sign for the Hemp Party.

The survey was opposed by the state government but approved by the federal regulator.

Wallsend’s Jeff Johnston was walking along Newcastle Foreshroe when he stopped to listen to the commotion.

He said he was aware of the plans for seismic testing and opposed them.

“I think it’s an environmental hazard for it to be done in this area,” he said.

“It’s going to disrupt all of the marine life.”

Jenny Fisher said she hoped somebody would listen to the protesters even though the testing seemed to be imminent.

“Hopefully if enough people raise their voice they can stop it. Anything’s possible,” she said.

NSW Resources Minister Don Harwin old NSW Parliament in February that the state opposed extending the exploration program for reasons including “very significant issues in relation to marine life”, but the federal government had “overruled” the recommendation.

The permit allows the company to fire a sonic gun over 208 kilometres of lines in its exploration zone. Seismic testing for possible oil and gas deposits involves continuous underwater airgun blasts every 3 to 10 seconds for 24 hours continuously for three to four days.

Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan has said previously the testing would be good for jobs.

“For decades, the NSW manufacturing sector has benefited from the gas produced in Bass Strait,” Mr Canavan said. 

“The only long-term way we can protect jobs in many parts of our manufacturing sector is to find new supplies of gas. 

“Oil and gas activities in Commonwealth waters – including extensive seismic activity and large scale production in waters off Victoria and Western Australia – have been effectively regulated for many years.”