Surfers from the Hunter and Central Coast will travel to Parliament House in Canberra next Monday in a bid to persuade the government to cancel an offshore petroleum exploration licence between Sydney and Newcastle.
Several petroleum companies have explored the 4500-square-kilometre zone (Petroleum Exploration Permit 11) since 1999 with each concluding that there is little viable resource to be extracted.
But, the latest holder of the licence, Advent Energy, has sought to extend it for another five years when it expires next February.
A contingent of protesters gathered at Newcastle Beach on Wednesday to voice their opposition to offshore gas exploration.
"This is not just a Newcastle issue, this dirty polluting project should be of national concern. If this project goes ahead, it will be one of the biggest gas drilling projects in Australia, and could see gas rigs dotting our blue horizon. The risk to oceans, our local hospitality sector, the fishing and tourism industries and the coastal environment could be serious." Jo Lynch from the Hunter Community Environment Centre said.
Every federal MP between Newcastle and Sydney recently spoke against the proposal arguing that it risks enormous environmental damage for next to zero economic return.
Senator Peter Whish-Wilson is also scheduled to table a Notice of Motion opposing the licence renewal on Monday.
In addition, more than 76,000 people have signed a petition calling for PEP-11 to be extinguished.
Despite the opposition, federal resources minister Keith Pitt has not ruled out renewing the licence.
"As the government has made clear, gas will provide the base for our economic recovery and we support exploration. I am awaiting a recommendation from the titles administrator and the NSW member of the joint authority before any decisions on the permit terms and conditions are made," Mr Pitt recently told the Newcastle Herald.
"I am concerned that without further gas exploration, Australian businesses, manufacturers and households would be faced with higher energy prices - especially those in NSW who are almost totally reliant on gas from other states."
But Eleanor Lawless from the Wilderness Society Newcastle said a growing number of people were opposed to offshore gas.
"It is clear that across Australia we will not accept offshore gas in our coastal waters," she said.
"Offshore gas threatens coastal industries, delicate marine ecosystems and our climate. Enough is enough; we simply cannot have any new fossil fuel basins opened."
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