The Surf Coast Shire – based in surf town Torquay – recently passed a motion to formally oppose the 2021 Offshore Petroleum Acreage release, which includes an area just five kilometres from the Apostles.
The Council voted 7-2 to oppose handing the Apostles coast over to the oil and gas industry and has since communicated its position to oil and gas operators in the region, Victorian and federal governments, and local Indigenous groups.
Surf Coast Shire joins nearby Colac Otway Shire in opposing the Otway Basin exploration, and the vote follows a campaign by Surfers For Climate , which rallied locals to contact their councillors and let them know how they felt about gas rigs adjoining the Apostles.
The “Twelve Apostles acreage” was part of a total of 80,000-square-kilometres of new offshore acreages around the Australian coast that has been handed over to the oil and gas industry back in June. Companies can now bid for exploration permits on the new acreages. The Twelve Apostles acreage, however, has created huge controversy, due to its proximity to the world-famous tourist attraction, visited by over two million people annually.
“Something to be respected and revered – not extracted and industrialised.”
“Way too close for comfort,” said Surfers For Climate founder, Patagonia Global Sports Activist and local surfer, Belinda Baggs. “Ask any surfer, once you’re west of Cape Otway the ocean is wild, unpredictable and powerful. Something to be respected and revered – not extracted and industrialised.”
The support of local councils was a key element of the Fight for the Bight, which ultimately prevented the Great Australian Bight from being developed as a deep-water oil field. In that case, 17 local councils along Australia’s southern coast formally opposed the development of oil and gas in the Bight, including both the Surf Coast and Colac Otway Shires.
Engagement with local councils saw many people along the coast take their first steps in the campaign, which ultimately saw tens of thousands of people take part in paddle out protests right around Australia.
“Having council support is a huge step forward in displaying legitimate community opposition. And another reminder that when united in action, us surfers really do make a difference,” added Baggs. “We still have a long way to go in kicking new oil and gas out of the Otway Basin but we will continue this battle to protect the ocean, waters and climate.”
Sign the Surfers For Climate petition against all new fossil fuel development in Australian waters here.
Banner image: Belinda Baggs. Photo: Zoe Strapp.