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First Nations group responds to gas licence approval on Great Ocean Road

MEDIA RELEASE: The Southern Ocean Protection Embassy Collective and communities across the Great Ocean Road and South West Victoria are shocked and angered by today’s decision to grant a gas production license to Beach Energy.  

The new license will allow production of gas at the Nirranda South site, accelerating the development of gas mining infrastructure both onshore and offshore at the gateway to the Great Ocean Road, and follows a 2021 decision from the State Environment minister late in 2021 to grant consent to drill beneath a national park

First Nations community members are concerned about the potential damage to marine and cultural landscapes from ongoing coastal industrialisation.

“Every year Koontapool (Southern Right Whales) return to their birthing grounds along the coastlines of South West Victoria.  Travelling up from the colder Southern and Antarctic waters, they use the southern coast, waters and songlines to navigate their journeys to and through Gunditjmara Sea Country to feed and birth. The waters being most affected by this pipeline works are sacred birthing sites, which are adjacent to the whale nursery at Logans beach, for Koontapool” said Gunditjmara woman Yaraan Couzens-Bundle, founding member of the Southern Ocean Protection Embassy Collective.

“We are now living in the time of mass extinction. When I look out at the magic of the Southern Ocean, I don’t want to see gas mines lighting up the horizon. I want to see rainbows from whale breaths. Resource extractions of this volume will push the already rare Southern Right Whale and other significant cetaceans and sea life species to extinction.”

“It is in the Government’s best interest to respectfully engage and negotiate solutions for country, not breaking their own government's climate targets to appease high level financial political support from oil and gas mining executives,” Ms Couzens-Bundle said.

Eastern Maar citizen and Senior Keerray Woorroong woman Dr Vicki Couzens, condemned the Victorian Government and corporate organisations involved in these activities.

“This decision shows a complete lack of foresight, care and respect for the 'living entity' of our Mother Ocean, our shared Sea Country. The ocean is our birth waters the whales are our Ancestors, all of us. This is our First Nations Law. Our Law holds a place of belonging for all living beings including the invaders 'stunted vision'.”  

“They do not know what they are doing and their ignorance is astounding, to take actions like this that continue to contribute to the destruction of Mother Earth.   What legacy do they consider for their grandchildren's grandchildren?”

“It is an abuse of all living entity rights, from the water, air, creatures and kin,  and the government and the corporates have no rights that are greater than those of the rest of us that privileges them to make use of so called 'resources' for their own short term gain.  Pirates of our Future, they must be stopped!”

Local community groups are planning a day of action to protect the Victorian coast from all forms of gas exploration and mining and calling for a permanent protection of marine ecosystems home to endangered species such as the Southern Right Whale.

“If this tragedy was happening on land it would be totally intolerable and rejected by the Australian people. We don’t need to find new gas. Australia has enough known gas in reserve to see us past 2050 and that includes export and domestic requirements," said Lisa Deppeler, Apollo Bay resident and member of the Otway Climate Emergency Action Network.

“We are risking so much for gas we don’t need.  At a time when we need to be transitioning away from fossil fuels it’s absurd and dangerous that The Great Ocean Road is the newest site to be opened for drilling.  We demand that the Andrews government affirm their commitment to action on climate and cancel this license immediately,” Ms Deppeler said.

“The Earth Resources Regulator must retract this dangerous gas production license immediately. Onshore to offshore gas drilling risks our farmland, marine life and will accelerate global warming that is already a risk to our coastal communities,” said Warrnambool resident Jemila Rushton.
“Methane contributes over 20 times more warming than CO2 over 100 years and even more in the shorter term.  Drilling operations like these are proven to leak dangerous amounts of methane.  The drilling site is adjacent to the Bay of Islands coastal park and home to a sensitive marine ecosystem,” Ms Rushton said.

For further comment:
Yaraan Bundle, Southern Ocean Protection Embassy Collective
Friends of the Earth has been calling on the Andrews Government to cancel plans for expansion of the gas industry along the south west coast, and will continue to support grassroots community groups opposed to gas drilling and seismic testing. 

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