Victoria approves gas production just 5km away from the Twelve Apostles

The Victorian government has consented to gas production at a site less than 5km from important landmark, the Twelve Apostles.

South Australian oil and gas company Beach Energy was granted permission to explore a gas well beneath the Port Campbell national park in early 2019.

However, recent documents tabled in Victorian Parliament reveal Victoria’s energy and climate change minister, Lily D’Ambrosio gave consent for the site to be developed for gas production.

Image: Great Walks of Australia

The company’s work underneath the national park was made public in June 2021, when the federal Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources published maps showing areas that had been extracted from.

Beach Energy’s site extends 3.5km, 1.3km of which is beneath the national park.

In February, the company applied for consent to branch into gas production.

The state’s decision to allow their application means the company has permission to extract commercial quantities of gas from the site.

Victorian Greens deputy leader, Ellen Sandle, criticised the expansion. She asserted that visitors would be deterred from the Twelve Apostles “if it’s surrounded by gas drilling rigs”.

She added that the decision is “bonkers” against the backdrop of the recent IPCC report, which highlighted the dire state of our climate.

The risks are very profound for our climate. We know that burning any more gas is contributing to more fires, more floods,” she explained.

There’s also risks to the marine environment – this is an area that is a migratory path for humpback whales and the southern wright whale.”

According to The Guardian, a spokesperson for the Victorian government emphasised that the Twelve Apostles are protected as a marine national park.

They stated that no drilling would occur within its boundaries, and that offshore drilling would be “subject to strict environmental and safety regulations led by the national authority”.

Executive director of Earth Resources Regulation, Anthony Hurst, said that such regulations will: “ensure the precious environmental and cultural value of the Port Campbell national park, including the Twelve Apostles, continues to be protected”.

Any operations will only see activity above ground within Beach Energy’s existing onshore footprint,” Hurst elaborated.

This discovery enables Beach Energy to potentially boost Victoria’s gas supply with no need to disrupt the marine environment.”

It’s critical that the expansion should be considered alongside the cultural significance of the Twelve Apostles.

The Parks Victoria website acknowledges that “Port Campbell National Park is part of an Aboriginal cultural landscape.”

“Parks Victoria respects the deep and continuing connection that Traditional Owners have to these lands and waters, and we recognise their ongoing role in caring for Country”, it says.

When the map of Victoria’s drilling sites was released in June, Jess Learch of the Wilderness Society made a statement to The Guardian.

The carving up of the oceans to hand them to the fossil fuel companies happens without any environmental consideration and without any meaningful space for the community to have their say,” she said.

It is really just the latest horrifying example of the Morrison government’s determination to sidle up alongside the fossil fuel industry to thumb its nose at the experts advising us of what’s needed to ensure a safe climate“.