A motion in Federal Parliament yesterday opposed the extension of gas exploration off the Northern Beaches.

In an unexpected move in Parliament, two government MPs put forward a motion to ban gas exploration off the coast of Sydney and the Central Coast.

Jason Falinski in Parliament

Jason Falinski in Parliament

Northern Beaches MP Jason Falinski presented a motion to Parliament against the extension of Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 (PEP 11).

The motion called on Parliament to oppose oil or gas drilling off the coast of Sydney. The motion was moved by Member for Mackellar Jason Falinski with the support of Member for Wentworth Dave Sharma.

“I am calling on the government to oppose oil and gas drilling off the coast of Sydney, and specifically in the PEP 11 zone. My community has spoken loud and clear, we do not want to see the renewing of the PEP 11 licence,” he said.

In his speech to Parliament, Mr Falinski reflected on the natural beauty of the coastline of the Northern Beaches.

“From Palm Beach to Manly, Bondi to Little Bay, and even across Pittwater to Patonga — Sydney has one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world,” he said.

“Rich biodiversity and all-round stunning views make it a wonder to behold. Not only is it something us locals derive great pleasure from, but it is a pivotal part of Sydney’s tourism economy and in a post-COVID world it will be more important than ever.”

Mr Falinski also said the licence holder Advent Energy Ltd had not been successful in finding any gas during exploration, and the community should not be subject to ongoing uncertainty.

“Like Damocles’ Sword, it hangs over the heads of our communities. A stretch of ocean covering 4,500 square kilometres from Palm Beach to Newcastle, PEP 11 threatens to continue exploration activity off our coasts.

“Where after 16 long years Mr Deputy Speaker, no useful data has been uncovered, no useful discovery has been made. There has been so much risk, so much worry, and never before has there been so little reward for all of this.”

A report to the NSW Parliament in 2011 confirmed that Advent Energy Ltd had not found gas in an exploratory well.

Mr Falinski also said the PEP 11 licence should not be renewed because of the importance of Sydney’s waterways to the ecosystem.

“My community do not want gas rigs off our beautiful coasts. We do not want to see the rich biodiversity that occupies our great coastline put at risk, for an area of ocean which clearly doesn’t have anything to offer in terms of gas, but has so much to offer our generation and future generations,” said Mr Falinski.

Zali Steggall

Zali Steggall

Member for Warringah Zali Steggall OAM agreed with the call for an end to PEP 11 exploration in a speech to Parliament yesterday.

“I thank the Member for Mackellar for tabling this motion. Earlier this year I tabled a petition with 60,000 signatures to this Parliament opposing PEP 11.

“The permit area exists adjacent to the coastal boundaries of Warringah, and many constituents have written to me with their concerns.

“Offshore oil and gas exploration and production through PEP 11 could have dire consequences for our ecosystems, tourism businesses, coastal communities and climate. Under no circumstances should it proceed,” said Ms Steggall.

Mr Falinski’s motion also received support from environmental activist group Save Our Coast, which gathered and presented 76,000 signatures against the continuation of the PEP 11 licence.

Natasha Deen

Natasha Deen

Save Our Coast Founder and Director, Dr Natasha Deen, said it was significant to have the support of Liberal MPs calling for an end to PEP 11.

“This is the result of intense community opposition since 2018 to PEP 11, with 76,000 people on our Save Our Coast petitions and 26,000 taking part in our STOP PEP 11 action, to lobby MPs against the dangerous plan to drill off our beautiful coast that risks catastrophic harm to our coast, our beloved marine animals, our climate and our way of life,” she said.

“It is wonderful and moving to have the support of our MPs and to know they have heard us and are willing to speak up to represent our concerns in Federal Parliament, and call out the environmental injustice that is PEP 11, and we thank Jason Falinski for leading this motion today, to help Save Our Coast that we all love,” said Dr Deen.

The decision on PEP 11 licence renewal rests with Minister for Resources Keith Pitt. Mr Falinski has previously called on the Minister not to renew the licence. A decision to renew is required by February 2021, when the licence will lapse and expire.

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