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“!!