“No evidence” to doubt marine safety from seismic blasting says local MP

August 8, 2023 8:20 am in by
riordan and tehan crop

A mass seismic test of the Otway Basin in a search for gas can be done safely according to a local MP.

Outrage is growing over a plan to spend 200 days blasting a 5.5 million hectare area of ocean between Tasmania, Victoria and the South Australian border.

Polwarth MP Richard Riordan’s electorate covers much of the shoreline where coastal communities are scrutinising the plan, he says there is no reason to distrust a sector that has been operating in the region for half-a-century.

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“The industry have demonstrated time and time again, for the last 50 years, that we can look after our wonderful environment here in Western Victoria and south west coast and also reap some of the benefits that the environment has to offer,” he said.

The latest mass survey of the ocean’s sub-surface from multinational gas and oil services company TGS would be one of Australia’s biggest should it be given the green light to proceed.

The company’s 1400-page Environment Plan is currently with the federal governments offshore regulator NOPSEMA, and outlines how it plans to limit the impacts on marine life of regularly emitting 256 decibel blasts for up to 200 days.

“We just call on all those responsible for looking after the project that they adhere to the rules and regulations of the times that are stipulated and there’s no evidence that that can’t be done,” Mr Riordan said.

“It has been coexisting now for the last 50 years, this is not a new activity, it’s been an activity that has been ongoing and regular now for a very long time.”

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The Surfrider Foundation is the latest local representative body vowing to stand in the way of the proposal, citing unacceptable risks to aquatic and bird life, and the wider climate impacts from opening up a vast new area of gas reserves.

The Surf Coast, Colac-Otway and Moyne Shire councils have each formally stated their opposition to blasing in waters off their coast.

One of the last visits to the region from TGS caused considerable local concern after it was discovered that the company had – in partnership with oil and gas giant Schlumberger – sonar blasted over a World War I and II dump site for chemical and artillery weapons.

That matter is being investigated by NOPSEMA, who only learnt of its occurrence when tipped off by a local conservation group.

Federal Wannon MP Dan Tehan says he’ll back the regulators call on the investigation, but is otherwise confident the latest proposal can be managed.

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“NOPSEMA have processes and procedures to make sure that the approach that is set out for any company that is undertaking seismic testing is followed, and they follow up to ensure that is the case,” he told local media late last year.

Public comment on the proposal closes August 11, to view or comment click here.

Image: State MP for Polwarth Richard Riordan (right) and Federal MP for Wannon Dan Tehan are backing the gas sectors search for new reserves in the Otway Basin (Geelong Broadcasters).