Media Releases - 07 February 2024

NSW government moves to end PEP-11 and legislate ban on offshore oil and gas exploration

A Hands Across the Sand event at Nobbys Beach, Newcastle. Image: Linda Gill.

The NSW government has announced that it will move to legislate a ban on offshore oil and gas exploration and infrastructure.

The legislation, which would effectively kill the controversial PEP-11 project that was opposed by tens of thousands of people in coastal communities from Northern Beaches to Newcastle, has been welcomed by the Wilderness Society. The high water mark for Australia’s fossil fuel industry is behind us. This new bill shows that the tide is turning.

If the legislation is passed, NSW will make history as the first jurisdiction in Australia to ban oil and gas in its coastal waters. An alarming number of new oil and gas projects are on the table for Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The Wilderness Society challenges other jurisdictions to follow in the footsteps of NSW.

The Wilderness Society has worked alongside communities to challenge this project for many years, due to the devastating impact the project would have for people, nature and climate if it were to go ahead. With this announcement, the government has shown they are listening to NSW communities. Now, the Wilderness Society is urging parliament to support the bill, in line with the calls of NSW communities, and secure a gas-free coast line for NSW.

Victoria Jack, Campaigns Manager for Wilderness Society NSW, said, “This legislation is a real opportunity to secure the gas free coastline that NSW communities want and deserve. After years of overwhelming opposition to PEP-11, we are hopeful that parliament will support the bill and we can finally say goodbye to the threat of fossil fuels off the NSW coast.

Tim Beshara, manager of Policy and Strategy for the Wilderness Society, said, “The community was against it, the electoral politics was against it, the science was against it. The only barrier that ever existed with killing off this project was politicians' fear of any retribution the fossil fuel industry could carry out against them. This move by the NSW Government shows that the political influence of the fossil fuel industry is waning."

In the lead up to the 2023 NSW election, the Wilderness Society campaigned for a legislated ban on offshore exploration or mining for commercial purposes. Last year, following an inquiry into the Coalition’s bill to ban offshore fossil fuel mining, the Wilderness Society argued that many of the risks identified by the inquiry were either hypotheticals that were unlikely to occur, or could be remedied with minor amendments that would not undermine the intent of the bill. The Wilderness Society is pleased to see that the government appears to agree and has now moved to legislate the ban.