Media Releases - 24 February 2023

King Island has spoken. Will ConocoPhillips & the Govt respect or ignore residents’ Community Rights?

The King Island community held what is said to be the largest ever protest in the island’s history against ConocoPhillips’ proposed plans to seismic blast in the area, which were ultimately approved.
  • Island-wide survey in 2021 found that more than 90% of King Island residents oppose fossil fuels

  • ConocoPhillips urged to respect the views of the community on threat of gas drilling

  • King Island community shows why Australia’s Government needs to deliver strong Community Rights

With US fossil fuel giant ConocoPhillips announcing its intention to visit King Island to again ‘consult’ with residents, this time about up to six fossil fuel gas drilling rigs 30km west of the island, Wilderness Society Tasmania and Surfrider Tasmania are urging government and corporate decision-makers to respect residents’ Community Rights.

“Communities deserve the right to be meaningfully consulted about decisions that affect their local environment. This is an integrity issue,” said Tom Allen for Wilderness Society Tasmania.

“The 2021 survey results showed that 77% of King Island residents said they weren’t genuinely consulted by ConocoPhillips' previous ‘consultation’, 97% wanted a meaningful say about seismic testing in local waters, and 94% were opposed to fossil fuel exploration.

“The fact that seismic testing went ahead despite the community’s clear opposition—and now ConocoPhillips plans to roll out the rigs—shows that community views are yet to make any difference to its plans. This shows a lack of integrity and an absence of genuine consultation.

“In addition to disregarding the community, the company is misrepresenting the role of gas. In an interview with ABC Tasmania’s Leon Compton this week, a ConocoPhillips representative claimed that fossil fuel gas was required to help transition to renewables. This is simply untrue*.

“The international peak energy body, the International Energy Agency, has charted a roadmap to net zero by 2050 that necessitates no new fossil fuels, which must stay in the ground.

“King Island is a case study of the need for strong Community Rights. Communities everywhere want more transparency, integrity and accountability in government and corporate decisions that affect them. It’s Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s job to ensure that new Community Rights reforms to the national environment laws deliver on these fronts so that there are better outcomes for nature and for people,” said Mr Allen.

“We are looking at a significant push for gas and oil exploration off Tasmania’s north-west coast and throughout Bass Strait,” said Ally King for Surfrider Tasmania.

“Multiple corporations like ConocoPhillips, Schlumberger, Beach Energy and TGS are currently moving to exploit the marine environment around Tasmania. These projects are approved based on so-called ‘acceptable risk’, yet the science to establish the risks to our marine environment has not been conducted and there is no ‘acceptable risk’ for more fossil fuels.

“In 2021 ConocoPhillips even refused to work with scientists who wanted to conduct further research on commercially valuable species such as scallops and southern Rock Lobster when they were due to seismic blast just 30km off King Island,” said Ms King. “This is not just an issue for the marine environment but for local communities and economies that rely upon it for health and wellbeing and for their livelihoods,” concluded Ms King.

Tom Allen, Wilderness Society Tasmania, 0434 614 323

Ally King, Surfrider Tasmania, 0488 400 791

The King Island Survey

In 2021, the Wilderness Society commissioned independent polling company EMRS to conduct an island-wide survey on seismic blasting proposed by ConocoPhillips. The results included:

  • 94% oppose oil and gas exploration

  • 96% oppose seismic blasting for gas

  • 97% want a say on seismic blasting

  • 99% think the marine environment is important

* Gas is not a transition fuel to a safe climate. That ship has sailed

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