News

Bight Oil Drilling Plan Abandoned

Norwegian oil company Equinor has walked away from its plan to drill in the Great Australian Bight, despite getting the green light from authorities earlier this year.

While Equinor said the venture wasn't commercially viable, the decision will be seen as a win for community groups across the country which had fiercely opposed oil drilling in one of the world's most pristine and tempestuous marine environments.

Equinor had planned to drill 372 kilometres south of the Nullarbor coastline in the wild Southern Ocean. In the event of an oil spill, emergency assistance could have been delayed for days by storms and huge swells which can be up to 20 meters high, hampering efforts to contain it.

#Tournotes: Fight for the Bight
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After a lay day is called at the Rip Curl Pro, athletes head to Cosy Beach to #fightforthebight together. Peter King goes behind the scenes.

In fact, the company's own modeling had predicted that a major spill could send oil right around the Australian coastline, from Albany in Western Australia to Port Macquarie in New South Wales.

Surfers had a vocal role in opposing the plans on behalf of their communities, including a National Day of Action last year which saw thousands paddle out across Australia to let Equnior know it wasn't welcome. Events like this had the support of some of surfing's biggest names, such as Mick Fanning, Stephanie Gilmore, John John Florence and Lakey Peterson, to name just a few.

Sean Doherty, Heath Joske, Damien Cole and Dave Rastovich played an especially important role in pushing back against Equinor's plans, which were also strongly opposed by indigenous elders.

"The early goal was to create some kind of public awareness," Doherty, a well-known surf journalist based in Australia's Byron Bay told the WSL in 2019. "Every Australian knows the Great Barrier Reef, but they don't know the Bight even though the biodiversity is on par. So we did it through the surf lens, which was a challenge because you're not allowed to shoot the surf breaks. But to save it they've had to let people see it."

While Equinor still holds exploration permits for other parts of Australia, and plans to "maintain other ongoing interests" in the country, there's no doubting this is a big victory, and welcome news.

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