Annual Review 2019: Taking the Fight for the Bight to Norway

Annual Review 2019: Taking the Fight for the Bight to Norway

With BP and Chevron having pulled out of the Great Australian Bight in recent years, Norwegian firm Equinor now has designs on the marine wilderness. National Climate Change Campaigner Jess Lerch took the fight to their doorstep.

Jess Lerch gives a talk in Norway on Equinor's plans for the Bight. Image: Hallvard Kolltveit.

“In May 2019, the Wilderness Society led a delegation of Bight Campaign allies to Oslo, Norway, to take the Fight for the Bight to Norwegian oil company Equinor’s backyard. With my Wilderness Society colleague, South Australia Campaign Manager Peter Owen, we were joined by fellow Aussies Bunna Lawrie, Mirning Aboriginal Elder and Whale Songman, Heath Joske, ex-pro surfer and Patagonia surfing ambassador, and Brynn O’Brien, Executive Director of the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility. 

Equinor is a majority publicly owned company, so our main goal was to ensure that the Norwegian people (and politicians) knew that their oil company was doing something risky, irresponsible and unwanted halfway around the world in our wonderful Great Australian Bight.

We worked with our allies in Norway to stage a massive paddle-out protest right on the waters of the fjord in front of the Oslo Opera House [pictured above; image by Petter Foshaug]. We achieved dozens of stories across print and social media in Norway and around the world.

SA Campaign Manager Peter Owen and Aboriginal Elder Bunna Lawrie take the protest to the waters of Oslo's harbour. Image: Hallvard Kolltveit

We also ensured that Equinor’s private investors learned about the risks of its Australian plans, by barraging the board with questions about the Bight drilling project at the company’s Annual General Meeting.

It was inspiring to receive so much support for our campaign from organisations and the people of Norway - everything from Norwegian political groups to expat Aussies, Norwegian surfers and the indigenous Saami people. Importantly, the trip shows that the opinion in Norway matters a lot to Equinor. We will need to continue to ramp up pressure in their backyard over the coming year."

Joining forces

The paddle-out at Victor Harbor. Image: Darren Longbottom

SA Campaign Manager Peter Owen on the Australia-wide paddle-outs that sent a powerful message.

In March of this year, Peter Owen joined more than a thousand surfers to paddle out into the waters of the Great Australian Bight off Victor Harbor in protest at Equinor’s plans to drill for oil. "To stand with thousands of Australians at events across southern Australia was inspiring," says Peter. "This one is in our backyard, on our watch!" 

Over in Victoria, more than a thousand people came together in protest on the waters off Torquay prior to the Bells Beach pro surfing event. This was another stand-out in a series of paddle out events around the country - it represented an unprecedented level of national and community opposition.

The Wilderness Society is a founding member of a powerful alliance to put a stop to the plans from Chevron, BP and now Equinor. "We launched the Great Australian Bight Alliance to create a platform for people, organisations and businesses to stand together, united against risky deep-sea oil drilling in the Bight, for the protection of this magnificent marine wilderness," Peter says.

"The Fight for the Bight is Australia's line in the sand moment. We must stop the expansion of the fossil fuel industry to have any chance of a liveable climate." – SA Campaign Manager, Peter Owen