The Great Lakes might be a long way from the Great Australian Bight, but that didn't stop hundreds of people across the region from demonstrating against a proposal by Norwegian company Equinor to drill for oil down there.
Designated as a national day of action by the Great Australian Bight Alliance, Saturday, November 23 saw surfers, ocean-lovers and concerned citizens paddle out at over 50 beaches across Australia and show their opposition to the controversial plan.
We want this day to promote further discussion and awareness in the community that Equinor is doing this.Mark Banks
Approximately 80 people took part in a demonstration at Forster Main Beach while close to 200 did the same at North Boomerang Beach.
Organiser of the Forster paddle-out, Mark Banks, said the amount of people who showed up and were passionate about the issue exceeded his expectations.
"It was a really soul-stirring, joyous occasion," he said.
"Everyone was enthusiastic and felt that sense of unity."
He said it was great to see not just surfers show up, but a wide cross-section of the community, both young and old.
Pacific Palms' journalist, Kirk Owers, who has written about the issue and helped organise the event at Boomerang Beach, believed the demonstrations drew further attention to the resistance to the project.
"It was all about sending a message to Canberra that we don't want this project to go ahead and I think we did that," he said.
"I think the Australian public have been strong in saying that they oppose it."
With Equinor planning to drill 2.2km below the surface of the highest energy ocean in the world, much of the opposition to the project comes from the fact that many people believe the environmental risks associated with it will be too great.
Equinor's own modelling shows that an oil spill in the Bight has the potential to devastate coastlines from Port Macquarie to Perth.
Beyond that, opponents such as Mr Banks believe the green-lighting of such a project will once again see the fossil fuel industry prioritised over more sustainable energy solutions.
"There's total disregard by the government for promoting renewable energy sources," he told the Great Lakes Advocate in the lead up to the demonstrations.
"So another oil well in the Bight is not going to help."
Equinor plan to start drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight by the end of 2020, but need the approval of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) to begin.
NOPSEMA are due to make a decision on the issue soon.
Mr Owers said while he wasn't sure what the decision would be, he believed the opposition to the project would only grow stronger if it was approved.
"I'm hoping it won't go ahead," he said.
To find out more about the issue, click here.
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