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12 FEBRUARY 2021

In what is shaping up as another win in the fight to stop drilling in the Great Australian Bight, the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA) has declined a ‘variation in work program’ application for Bight Petroleum which will have significant implications in any future attempts to renew their lease. Independent Senator Patrick has welcomed this news.

NOPTA has refused to vary the work program on two of Beach Petroleum’s exploration permits, EPP41 and 42, located nearby Port Lincoln and Kangaroo Island. This means that the company will have to complete a whole range of work activities prior to July 2021 - seismic surveys and the drilling of an exploration well - or default on their lease agreements. Completion of the necessary work would, on the face of it, be impossible.

The refusal follows Senator Patrick’s criticism of NOPTA in March last year about their continuous cycle of successive approvals for work variations and lease extensions for Great Australian Bight tenements which created great uncertainty for SA’s fishing and tourism industries, halting investment and growth in these key sectors. During discussions with NOPTA at Senate Estimates Senator Patrick sought assurances that South Australia’s fishing and tourism industry would be consulted in relation to all lease variations and approvals.

After his exchange in the Senate, Senator Patrick continued to exert pressure on NOPTA, initiating a series of Freedom of Information requests seeking explanations for the suspensions and extensions on EPP41 and 42 and over the last 10 years.

"After a decade of rubber stamping lease renewals, it appears that the national petroleum regulator has finally woken up and commenced a halt to the outrageous limbo Bight Petroleum has created for our fishing and tourism industries."

“This is a small but important win in the battle to preserve the pristine oceans off our coast.”

Senator Patrick will be exploring in further detail the impacts of NOPTA’s decision at Senate Estimates next month.