Norwegian multinational energy company Equinor has refused to hold a public meeting with the Victor Harbor community and instead held a small private members-only forum with the Victor Harbor Business group.
Equinor, headquartered in Stavanger, Norway, is a petroleum and wind energy company with operations in thirty-six countries who has a plan to drill in the Great Australian Bight Commonwealth Marine Park.
Wilderness Society South Australia Director Peter Owen said Equinor should consult with affected communities such as Victor Harbor, which could be hit by an oil spill from Equinor’s proposed drilling in the Great Australian Bight. ‘Instead it snubs the community and attends a members-only gathering with Victor Harbor businesses trying to talk up its unwanted project. A private soiree is not community consultation.’
A group of about 100 locals held a small vigil on the Victor Harbor foreshore to reiterate their calls for a public meeting.
Victor local Tam Dandridge, who runs Kingo Surf School with partner Chris Kingston said they run a business that relies on the health of our oceans. ‘I was heartened to learn that Equinor was hosting an information night in Victor Harbor,’ said Dandridge. ‘Sadly this was a ticketed event, with limited seats and therefore meant we were excluded from access to information.
‘After hearing many other concerns, I was compelled to contact Equinor to request a town hall-type meeting, so that our whole community could hear from them. The Equinor representative I spoke to stated they would not be able to host such an event.’
Mr Owen said Equinor has not consulted with coastal councils, including the 17 which oppose or have expressed major concerns about the project, Traditional Owners, and environmental groups such as the Wilderness Society which helped create the Commonwealth Marine Park Equinor intends to drill in.
‘Equinor’s oil spill modeling revealed that an oil spill from an uncontained blowout was guaranteed to impact the South Australian coast, and a spill could impact anywhere along much of southern Australia’s coast, from Western Australia right across to Australia’s east coast past Sydney and around the island of Tasmania,’ he said.
‘More than 10,000 people have protested against Equinor’s plans at beaches all around Australia in the past few months, supported by 28 surfing legends, including world champions Stephanie Gilmore, Layne Beachley and Mick Fanning.
‘Recent polling shows that 68 percent of South Australians oppose drilling in the Bight, and only 16 percent support it.
Mr Owen says ultra-deepwater oil drilling is a high-risk operation that caused the world’s biggest oil spill accident, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. ‘Equinor’s drilling operations aren’t as safe as it would like to make out. Just a month after the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, only luck saved Equinor-Statoil from a major disaster at its Gullfaks C platform in the North Sea.
‘The Great Australian Bight waters are deeper, more treacherous and more remote than the Gulf of Mexico.
‘The Great Australian Bight is a unique, pristine marine environment, with 85 percent of its marine species found only in these waters. The Bight is a haven for 36 species of whales and dolphins, including the world’s most important nursery for the endangered southern right whale.
‘It’s the most important nursery for the endangered Australian sea lion and supports Australia’s biggest fishing industry.
‘Equinor plans to drill in the incredibly biologically significant Great Australian Bight Commonwealth Marine Park.’