They formed the shape of a dolphin on Nobbys beach and chanted “whales not gas!” in protest against off-shore seismic testing set to begin off the coast of Newcastle next month.
Over 500 gathered on Sunday in searing heat to show their dismay at Asset Energy’s approval to conduct the underwater acoustic testing.
Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham told attendees to contact their local federal MP and to write to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to express their concern.
“Who asked us? Who asked the people of NSW? Who asked the people of Newcastle if they wanted a massive oil and gas field off the coast?,” Mr Buckingham later said to the Herald.
Asset Energy was given approval off the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority in January to conduct testing, which involves sending repetitive sonic blasts into the ocean floor to identify natural gas deposits. It’s expected testing will take place next month over three-to-four days, but can occur anytime before May 31.
Protesters, which included Greenpeace and Greens councillor John MacKenzie, claim there is evidence air-blasting will impact marine life – particularly whales and dolphins – and may also affect the fishing industry.
“What we know about seismic testing, is that it has an incredibly negative affect for the environment,” Greenpeace’s Simon Black said.
“There is evidence that it can cause massive damage to not just fish, but also to the bottom of the marine food pyramid. It destroys the ecosystem right from the very bottom, to the the very top – from plankton to whales.”
In February, Newcastle City Council voted unanimously to oppose off-shore testing and NSW resources minister Don Harwin voiced his opposition to the project in state parliament. Mr Harwin said the state was unable to revoke the approval without Commonwealth backing
“No one in Newcastle wants our pristine coastline to be turned into an oil and gas field,” Mr MacKenzie said on Sunday. “The problem isn’t that people aren’t supportive of this, it’s that they’re not aware.”
Asset Energy did not respond to calls on Sunday.
“That’s our job over the next couple of months,” Mr MacKenzie continued.
“To raise the awareness of the community about what’s at stake, what’s been proposed and what the risks are associated with that.”
Goh Hock, chief executive of Asset Energy’s parent company – MEC Resources – previously said the testing grounds were “supremely located” to provide gas to the Australian east coast market.