Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert says the Government is being reckless in releasing oil and gas acreage in and around marine parks and areas proposed as marine reserves.
“Once again, long term marine protection and sustainable industries are being threatened in the interests of short term financial gain,” Senator Siewert said today.
“Proposed marine sanctuaries and blue whale feeding grounds in the Western Otway Basin, one of only three such places in Australia, are under threat from exploration and these areas should be immediately withdrawn from the process.
“For example, W12-6 and W12-7 in the North West are overlapping the proposed marine sanctuaries currently under consideration by the Environment Minister as part of the Marine Bioregional Planning Process.
“Sadly, almost exactly the same scenario played out twelve months ago, when oil and gas exploration licences were released over areas under consideration as marine sanctuaries in the North West Marine Bioregion.
“Why have these areas been released now when the bioregional planning process is so near completion?
“I am very concerned that the Department of Environment will not be able to halt Minister Ferguson’s grand plans for exploration and that these exploration leases are compromising the planning process.
“It is all well and good to say that these are only preliminary releases in a protracted process that ends with an oil rig but the reality is Minister Ferguson is trying to keep the boom going, with total disregard for environmental values or other industries that are operating in these areas.
“There needs to be a significant increase to the public comment and scrutiny process around acerage releases and the Minister needs to be more accountable for his decisions,” Senator Siewert concluded.