Media Releases - 06 May 2019

Bight Alliance delegation heads to Norway to protest oil drilling


  • More than 10,000 have protested against Equinor’s drilling plans around Australia 
  • Bight alliance delegation takes protest to Oslo harbour and Equinor AGM
  • Liberals and ALP need tell voters where they stand on Bight drilling 

A Great Australian Bight Alliance delegation is taking the ongoing protests against Equinor’s plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight to Norway for the company’s annual meeting in Stavanger, where shareholders will be asked to vote on the company’s Bight plans.

“Norwegian oil giant Equinor said it will not push through resistance, so we need to show Equinor just how much opposition there is,” said Wilderness Society South Australia Director Peter Owen. “Yesterday, thousands protested against Equinor’s plans at Adelaide’s Brighton Beach and around the state, as well in Victoria and Western Australia. In the past two months, more than 10,000 people have already protested against Equinor around the country, including Melbourne, Perth, the Gold Coast, Torquay and Bondi.

“Meanwhile, with the federal election looming, it’s time the Liberal Party and ALP tell voters where they stand on oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

“We're heading to Norway today to tell Equinor, its shareholders—including the Norwegian Government and the Norwegian s—just how unpopular Bight drilling is. We will take our protests to Oslo’s harbour and the Equinor AGM, where shareholders will vote on a motion banning oil exploration in sensitive areas such as the Bight.”

The Bight Alliance delegation will include Mr Owen, First Nation leader and whale songman Bunna Lawrie, Bight fisherman and former pro surfer Heath Joske and Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility Executive Director Brynn O’Brien.

“Equinor is trying to steamroll a huge and growing community opposition, including 17 southern Australian local governments representing more than 600,000 people,” Mr Owen said. “These councils cover the home of the southern hemisphere’s biggest fishing fleet in Port Lincoln and some of Australia’s biggest tourist attractions, including the Great Ocean Road and Twelve Apostles. Recent polling¹ shows that 68 per cent of South Australians oppose drilling in the Bight, and only 16 per cent support it.

“Equinor is treating the Australian people with contempt. Equinor executive Oystein Michelsen told Port Lincoln councillors that Equinor would not ‘push through resistance’² yet it has officially sought approval by lodging its Environmental Plan with Australia’s offshore oil and gas authority, NOPSEMA. Equinor’s draft plan attracted more than 31,000 submissions overwhelmingly in opposition, yet just 13 comments led to any changes to the final plan.

“This was the eighth Hands Across the Sand event in Australia and the numbers attending keep on growing. Hands Across the Sand started in the United States after BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, when 800 million litres of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days. The Bight waters are deeper, more treacherous and more remote than the Gulf of Mexico. Just a month after the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, only luck saved Equinor from a major disaster at its Gulfaks-C platform in the North Sea.³ 

“Modelling has shown that an uncontained oil spill from an ultra-deepwater well blowout in the Great Australian Bight could impact anywhere along much of southern Australia’s coast, from Western Australia right across to NSW and Tasmania. Port Lincoln and the Yorke Peninsula can still get hit by a lethal oil spill from a blowout even if Equinor can stop the flow with a blowout preventer in one day.

“A spill would be devastating for South Australia’s $442 million fishing industry and its tourism industries in coastal regions, worth more than $1 billion. The two industries employ more than 10,000 full-time positions.

“There is no established offshore oil and gas industry in South Australia to deal with a disaster. More than 6,800 boats were involved in the Gulf clean-up, but the South Australian Oyster Growers Association says that SA and neighbouring states probably have only 20 vessels that could operate safely in the waters where Equinor plans to drill.

“The Great Australian Bight is a unique, pristine wilderness marine environment, with 85 per cent 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. The Bight is Australia’s most important sea lion nursery and supports seals, orcas, giant cuttlefish, great white sharks and some of Australia’s most important fisheries.” 

More information

For further comment, please contact Wilderness Society South Australia Director Peter Owen on 0423 550 018. 

Click here for information, images & footage of the Bight & Gulf of Mexico (or contact Wilderness Society Media Adviser Alex Tibbitts on 0416 420 168). 

Read our Bight brief (May 2019)

The Great Australian Bight Alliance includes: The Wilderness Society Sea Shepherd Australia & Sea Shepherd UK, Surfrider Foundation Australia, Bob Brown Foundation, First Nations Mirning and Kokatha elders, Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Conservation Council South Australia, Oil Free Seas Kangaroo Island, Fight for the Bight Port Fairy (Victoria), Clean Bight Alliance Australia (West Coast SA).