Is KI Council misinforming the KI Community regarding seismic surveys?

The article in the KI Islander calling the community to a rally on Sunday 22 December 2013, contains a number of significant inaccuracies and misrepresentations of the facts and science. For example:

1. “The final decision is to be made by our federal government on Christmas eve,” This statement is incorrect. A decision will not be made on Christmas Eve because 24 December is the final date for submissions by the public on an environmental assessment that has been on the public record since 21 November 2013. A decision will not be made until Bight Petroleum has reviewed all the submissions, addressed the concerns and submitted final documentation to the Department of Environment where it will be assessed and submitted with a recommendation to the Environment Minister for a decision. Thus, it will be several months before he makes a decision.

2. Peter Clements, deputy mayor is clearly misrepresenting the Adelaide University geomechanical modelling analysis when he is reported as stating  “They clearly they have no comprehension of the risks we are facing“. The analysis discusses exploration and hence commercial risk for explorers and NOT environment risk! The 130,000+ line kilometres of seismic traverse acquired and 10 wells drilled in the SA sector of the Great Australian Bight surely demonstrate that the risk of an oil spill is extremely small. Furthermore, the risk of an oil spill from a seismic survey over 100km west of KI pales into insignificance compared to the risk of an oil spill from the shipping that traverse the seas to the north of the island.

3. Thus, Peter’s comment, “as a councillor and an extremely concerned resident, I am disturbed by this report and disappointed by both sides of the government in the Senate in dismissing reports such as this” demonstrates that he has misunderstood the contents and conclusions of the Adelaide University report. In fact, one can only assume that the two sides of government have, presumably, understood the contents of the report and decided it is not relevant to an assessment of environmental risk and especially not any potential environmental risk posed by the seismic survey.

4. Finally, Peter’s last statement is both correct and incorrect: “This is not about being anti-mining, as our economy would be useless without these resources, but our island is positioned where the prevailing currents would devastate our coastline including our fishing and tourism industries. It would be a long time recovering,“. The first part (“This is not about being anti-mining, as our economy would be useless without these resources”) is, of course, correct as KI’s economy would definitely be useless without petroleum products. However, Peter overlooks the fact that the oceanic and meteorological conditions that, for example cause the upwelling to the west of KI during the late spring, summer and autumn months, means that the “prevailing currents” are actually in the opposite direction. Just ask the tuna ranchers who tow their tuna laden pontoons back towards Port Lincoln off the shelf in the Leeuwin current and not on the shelf because the east-to-west currents would make towing difficult. Peter would be correct if seismic or drilling operations occurred during the winter and early spring in the area but this is not the case. Thus, the risk of the KI coastline and fishing/tourism industries being devastated from an oil spill from a drilling incident is extremely low and, as mentioned previously, significantly less that the risks posed from shipping along the Northern coastline of KI. Finally the risk to the KI “coastline including our fishing and tourism industries” from a seismic survey, is zero.

In conclusion, one of the authors of the Adelaide University paper, Professor Richard Hillis, commented “If the environmental groups are trying to link this to ‘environmental risks associated with seismic surveys’ they are so far off beam, it’s sad.

The words of renowned SA geologist, Peter Boult, an expert in the Bight Basin and geomechanical modelling of fault reactivation, also aptly sums up the KI Islander article: “Hmmm – you’d be hard pressed to find a better example of spin“!!


  1. Peter Clements says:

    Very simply – Bight Petroleum failed to consult with the Kangaroo Island Community. As a former community engagement specialist in the mining industry, just ticking-the box does not work any more. If a resource exists in the Bight the quantum of money being allocated to study the resource should include a reasonable share to educate communities and build relationships – clearly this has failed so far.

    • John Hughes says:

      Peter, in my capacity as author, thanks for your comment, even though you have changed the subject to consultation which was not one of the issues discussed in the article above.
      I will leave it to Bight Petroleum to comment (if they wish) on the consultation process with KI Council and the KI Community. However, I would suggest that no company that wishes to conduct a project of this nature would adopt a “tick-the-box” strategy given the requirements of the Offshore Petroleum & Greenhouse Gas Storage Act and its associated Environmental Regulations.
      Furthermore, it is well known that NOPSEMA and, prior to 1st January 2012, the SA State regulator (PIRSA, now DMITRE), assess the consultation process very closely. In addition, I note that there is evidence of very detailed consultation/comment on issues of concern to the KI Community on KI Council’s own website which was reviewed at a Council meeting on 12 September 2012.
      In summary, it remains up to NOPSEMA to decide, but it would appear that you have been adequately consulted.

  2. Bight’s first consultation letter went out to a very significant number of stakeholders, including KI Council, in late October 2011. KI Council did not respond.

    Only after a second stakeholder letter went out to stakeholders in early May 2012, did KI Council provide a very detailed 24 page submission in mid-May. This detailed submission, prepared by Migratory Wildlife Network (Wild Migration), contained a very biased review of the literature and a very significant number of unsubstantiated claims, such as impacts to tourism and fishing (from a seismic survey over 100km from the very Western tip of KI?). Despite this, Bight Petroleum representatives visited KI on 14/15 June 2012 to conduct extensive and detailed consultations with all interested groups. It was very obvious from those discussions, and the previous (and subsequent) media releases made by KI Council, that KI Council’s objectives were to “Stop the survey” not “How can the survey be done with no impacts”.

    Subsequently, Bight responded in detail to KI Council’s concerns in early September and was considered by the KI Council at their meeting on 12 September 2012. KI Council did NOT respond to Bight Petroleum’s detailed response. However, from that point on, KI Council chose to carry out their “consultation” (ie campaign) in the media!

    Matthew Philipchuk – CEO Bight Petroleum

    • John Hughes says:

      Matthew, thank you for your comment outlining Bight Petroleum’s consultation timetable with the KI Council.
      Your feedback, along with our original article addressing the concerns regarding fault reactivation, oil spills, etc, demonstrates that some of KI’s Council’s elected representatives appear to be misconstruing the facts and as a result, misrepresenting them to the KI Community.
      The Norwood Resource encourages debate based on the science and facts.

      • Peter Clements says:

        John, With respect, I can understand your association with Bight Petroleum but you omit the facts in your so-called “timetable” of consultation with KI Council. Bight made one visit to KI Council and, on their own volition, Council determined that the safety bar for Bight’s seismic proposal needed to be lifted to the highest level and from that moment on we were treated with disdain from Bight. Council engaged the Migratory Wildlife Network (MWN) to assist Council with the submission, the input from Council was considerable and it is totally wrong and insulting to suggest that MWN acted alone in Council’s defence of the proposal. Council, including myself, do not have an issue with resource development, but we need to be convinced that the testing regime will not result in damage to the fishing industry, our environment and reputation as a pristine island and the jewel in the crown for SA’s tourism. With respect to the commercial risk in the basin and reports highlighting those risks, these are fully understood, but wherever there is commercial risk there is environmental risk especially in geologically fractured areas such as exists in the areas proposed for exploration. The Norwood Resource needs to assist balance the issues between stakeholders and industry a lot better if its purpose in sharing facts is to be of benefit – in the main, people do not oppose progress in these areas, including those on KI, but if you choose to take them for granted ultimately this will be a false economy and Bight will pay the price. Once we have received a determination from government I encourage Mr Philipchuck to sit down with us and discuss the issues in an open and non-hostile forum This will be my last posting on this matter, Merry Christmas to all
        Peter Clements

  3. Peter Wales says:

    If you are serious about good faith discussions, Councillor Clements, perhaps a good place to start would be to acknowledge you misrepresented the Adelaide University paper, whether deliberately for political gain or out of ignorance, and publicly to apologise for misleading the KI community.

  4. Dear Mr Peter Clements
    As a person who is committed to protecting the environment (and I would like to add that I completed a very innovatory course at university on the effect of pollution on the environment as long ago as 1969) it appears to me that your claims are less than genuine while the responses from Bight Petroleum and the Norwood Resource are factually based.
    Would you please explain how the key exploration (hence commercial) risk of NOT finding oil equates to the key environmental risk of an oil spill?

  5. John Hughes says:

    Peter C, thanks for your latest response as it provides me with the opportunity to further inform the KI Community and other interested parties about the science and facts of seismic surveys rather than unsubstantiated claims which lead to their misrepresentation. With respect, you appear to be confused about a number of issues:
    1. My association with Bight Petroleum is irrelevant in any discussion of the facts and science. I am a semi-retired independent consultant with in-depth knowledge and experience of the technical and environmental aspects of seismic surveys. As such, I spend about 50% of my time consulting to a number of petroleum industry participants and Bight’s account is a mere 20% of this time (ie 10% of my total time).
    2. You incorrectly attribute to me the comment by Bight’s CEO, Matthew Philipchuk, on the timetable of consultation. Nevertheless I will take this opportunity to ask you why KI Council ignored Bight Petroleum’s first consultation letter of late October 2011 for over 6 months? Furthermore, why did KI Council, following Bight’s second consultation letter in early May 2012, respond with “all guns blazing” (ie 24 page submission and a hostile media campaign)? No reasonable person could interpret this as genuine open consultation on the part of KI Council.
    3. Again, you incorrectly attribute the comment regarding MWN to me and you also incorrectly claim that Matthew Philipchuk’s comment “suggests that MWN acted alone in Council’s defence of the proposal”. No reasonable person could interpret Matthew Philipchuk’s comment as suggesting this. In fact, it is KI Council’s own media campaign that suggests MWN (Margi Prideaux) was key to preparing KI Council’s submission. I note that, in an article in the KI Islander dated 24 May 2012, which discussed the submission, “Kangaroo Island Mayor Jayne Bates said it had been ‘amazing’ to have the time and expertise of Margi Prideaux”
    4. You still appear to be totally confused about exploration risk, which, to explorers, is commercial risk. Following Jennie’s post, this is the risk to the explorer of NOT FINDING OIL. Given your stated concerns about oil spills, how can you claim that NOT FINDING OIL (and therefore no potential of any oil being spilled) is an environmental risk?
    5. As you will note from The Norwood Resource (TNR)’s website, our mission includes the following key objectives: “To assemble and disseminate factual, scientific and verifiable information about the environmental impacts of oil and gas exploration and production to the media and the community at large.” and “To actively challenge and counter misinformation about the impacts of oil and gas exploration and production on the environment.” This involves basing all our articles and comments on the facts and science. If you have any tangible examples of us not doing this, rather than making unsubstantiated claims, your feedback would be most welcome. However, I would comment that it is not TNR’s responsibility or objective to consult with stakeholders and industry – our objective is merely to place the facts and the science in the public arena. Furthermore, I would suggest that it is KI Council’s responsibility to provide balance and any reasonable person who has been aware of KI Council’s actions for the last 2 years will realise this is not the case.

    Finally, I do hope that your Xmas Eve posting was not your final posting on this matter as you and the KI Council surely have some questions to answer and explaining to do to its constituents and ratepayers.

  6. No wonder the KI Council deputy mayor is trying to extricate himself from this debate. On each of the 3 times he has made unsubstantiated claims (including in the KI Islander article) they have been refuted with the facts and science!

  7. An open mind says:

    I strongly recommend that The Norwood Resource and Bight Petroleum responders go back and read an earlier post to this site ‘How can the CSG sector improve its engagement with the public?’ by David Paterson (
    You don’t appear to be heeding advice promoted on this site, but instead seem intent to engage in thinly veiled bullying.

    • John Hughes says:

      ‘Open mind’, thanks for your comment. As per my comment yesterday following your comment following the ‘How can the CSG sector improve its engagement with the public?’ article, I had read this article and supported its publication on this website, BEFORE writing mine in response to the KI Councillor’s comments in the KI Islander. Furthermore, I fully support the contents of this article as it aligns with my philosophy and practice of engaging with stakeholders when I managed onshore and offshore seismic surveys prior to retiring from corporate life.
      However, I fail to understand how placing the facts and science in the public arena, especially in response to unsubstantiated claims, can be classified as “thinly veiled bullying”. Surely getting the facts into a discussion is a very important factor in ensuring that all parties to the discussion are fully informed?
      In regard to The Norwood Resource (TNR)’s role and mission, these are listed on our site here, and for clarity, TNR’s main interests are placing the facts and science of the impacts of oil & gas exploration and production into the public forum, and countering misinformation.
      TNR is a very different organisation from Bight Petroleum or any company involved in oil & gas exploration and production. As per our mission, TNR simply disseminates factual, scientific and verifiable information” and “actively challenges and counters misinformation” and does not engage in consultation on any projects with the public.

  8. Astonishingly, as at 19th March 2016, OFSA are still complaining that this article is an example of TNR “bullying” the KI Council. Pot, kettle, and all that. It must have been absolutely traumatising for them to have someone use actual facts in an argument for them still to be complaining about it three years later. Facts? Evidence? Polite discussion? Logical thinking? You meany, John Hughes!

    • johnnwdhughes says:

      Peter, thank you for your astute observations. It is remarkable how using factual, scientific and verifiable information in a discussion can be construed by some as “bullying”. It is also very hypocritical that those who make the accusations of “bullying” actually use real bullying tactics (vilification, deletion of comments, bans from joining the discussion thread, etc) to try to silence those who simply wish to incorporate factual, scientific and verifiable information into the discussion.

    • Bruce Holland says:

      The tactic of their ‘holier than thou’ claims that they are protecting the environment is designed to shut down arguments and dissenters, not to actively engage in debate based on facts or evidence. It is a tactic basically saying they are the ‘ones’ and only the ‘ones’ that care about the environment – and as this is a ‘heavenly’ endeavour, any criticism (based on facts etc) is therefore ‘bad’, and the perpetrators to the condemned and ‘shot’ at every opportunity.
      A good friend used to observe that these so called ‘environmentalists (such as OFSA and their ilk including Wilderness Society (such a nice name) etc “are so heavenly minded, they are of no earthly good!’
      I think this applies perfectly to them, except I would also add that they are bringing base attitudes and opinions into the argument due to their vindictiveness, vilification, gagging and bullying tactics implicit in their ideology of brooking no counter view whatsoever – even if it is factually correct,
      Interesting to observe the slide toward an anti democratic freedom (which we all relish in and has nurtured and sustained us) to be replaced with the ‘holier than thou’ so called ‘environmentalists’ espousing lies, misinformation, and scare stories, especially targeting energy – oil & gas – (the very products which facilitated their (and their families) lives, and allows them the ‘freedom’ to live and prosper).
      A good straight forward hypocrite has more morals than the OFSA and Wilderness Societies of today!


  1. […] Examples of this can be seen in my critiques of the claims made by SA Senator Penny Wright and the Kangaroo Island (KI) Council concerning a proposed seismic survey over 100km to the West of […]

  2. […] survey.  Their claims were totally unsubstantiated as shown articles on this site entitled “Is KI Council misinforming the KI Community regarding seismic surveys?” and “Is the publication, “Seismic Seas:…..” by Wild Migration, a […]

  3. […] written about the manner in which KI Council mislead the KI community in an article entitled “Is KI Council misinforming the KI Community regarding seismic surveys?“.  Commenting on that article, the then deputy mayor (now mayor), Peter Clements, made a […]

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