Lake Macquarie’s mayor has joined the growing chorus of concerned voices reacting to gas exploration off the east coast.
Though Lake Macquarie council doesn’t have an official stance on Asset Energy’s seismic testing and possible gas drilling operation about 30km south east of Newcastle, Kay Fraser said the community should have had more of a chance to have a say before the project started.
Cr Fraser also said the possible impact that shooting acoustic pulses into the ocean floor could have on the marine environment should have been given more consideration.
Read more: Tropical cyclone Iris delays seismic testing
“The issue of seismic testing has not come before council for discussion but I acknowledge the concerns within the community about the adequacy of consultation prior to the tests being approved and the potential harm to sea animals and the marine environment,” she said.
“I believe there should have been more evaluation of the possible impacts of seismic testing and more opportunity for interest groups such as conservationists, commercial fishers and tourism operators to have their say before any decision was made on offshore testing.”
Newcastle City Council voted unanimously against the exploration plan in February.
Analysis of data collected during April’s seismic testing is underway, but Asset Energy spokesperson Toby Foster told the Newcastle Herald on Tuesday it would take about two months for results to come back.
The findings would then be integrated with the company’s existing data to help the firm “understand the implications”.
Asset Energy has not shied away from the prospect of more seismic testing and a possible drilling operation off the coast of Newcastle if gas deposits are discovered.
The plan has drawn backlash from community members concerned for the environment as well as fishing and tourism sectors.
The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority – the independent federal regulator that approved the exploration – said last week its environmental assessment process imposed “strict controls on any petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters”.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.