An Upper House inquiry into the impacts of seismic testing on marine life and fisheries will give coastal communities in Newcastle and Northern NSW a voice, the Greens senator instrumental in establishing the investigation says.
Peter Whish-Wilson told the Newcastle Herald on Tuesday the inquiry would take public submissions and hold hearings in communities affected by seismic testing as a form of oil and gas exploration, "potentially in Newcastle".
The inquiry, which will hand down a report in May, will look at the affect of seismic testing on fisheries and the marine environment with reference to regulation, the international approach to the method and the body of research that exists regarding its impacts.
On Monday, the majority of the Senate voted in favour of Senator Whish-Wilson's motion to start an inquiry.
He said there was "limited science" regarding the impacts of seismic testing.
"At a minimum [the Commonwealth authority] should be withholding any permit until more research is done," he told the Herald.
"Coastal communities in Newcastle have a right to know what impact seismic testing is having and the right to say whether they want seismic testing in their communities.
"[The Senate inquiry will] give communities in Newcastle and Northern NSW a voice. Ultimately the government will hear their voice."
- Government announces public consultation before testing, drilling
- Seismic testing approved off Newcastle coast
- Hundreds gather at Nobbys to protest against seismic testing
- Council could oppose offshore gas exploration
- PMG Pride finishes seismic testing off Newcastle coast
- Seismic test results to be compared with existing data
The inquiry comes amid Asset Energy's plan to conduct 3D seismic testing off the coast of Newcastle, after it completed 2D seismic testing in April, 2018, in search of gas.
The project has generated vocal opposition from some parts of the community, including the region's fishing industry and those concerned about potential environmental impacts.
Asset Energy has repeatedly said the method, which involves shooting acoustic pulses into the ocean floor, did not have an adverse impact.
The Morrison Government's Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonathon Duniam told the Senate on Monday seismic testing had been performed safely for decades.
"There are strict safety and environmental standards overseen by an independent expert regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, otherwise known as NOPSEMA, which takes into account publicly available research findings in its decisions," he said.
"A large body of international and Australian scientific research shows that, when properly managed, seismic surveys can be conducted safely."
Save Our Coast spokesperson Natasha Deen said there was much "literature and anecdotal evidence that shows the impact that seismic testing has on the entire ecosystem".
"The fact is that oil and gas companies have been able to conduct this inhumane and destructive method of searching for oil and gas without pause for thought for marine animals and the fragile marine ecosystem, and this inquiry is long overdue," Dr Deen said.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said the establishment of the Senate inquiry was a positive step.
"Research has proven that seismic blasting kills crustaceans like lobsters, shellfish, and plankton and may also cause death to animals like dolphins and whales that rely on sonar for navigation," he said.
While you're with us, did you know Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here.
IN NEWS TODAY:
- Kobe Duck has returned to school after rare disease, acute flaccid myelitis, left him paralysed and unable to breathe, eat or swallow
- Claims union pressure left student strikers to raise $600 for stage
- Trinity Thompson found: The 15 year-old from Cooks Hill has been reunited with her family
- AP Eagers succeeds in Automotive Holding Group (AHG) takeover: What it means for Newcastle and the Hunter
- Klemmer cleared for end-of-season Tests