In protest against oil and gas exploration along the Newcastle coast, a 500 strong crowd paddled out at Nobbys Beach on May 1 and told PEP11 to “PEP OFF“.

Surfrider Foundation Australia and Save Our Coast organised the ‘Stop PEP11 Paddle Out’ in response to the Federal Government’s plans to establish a gas and oil industry stretching 4500 square kilometres from Port Stephens to Sydney.

After previously hosting two successful paddle outs at Northern Beaches and Central Coast, Surfrider Foundation Australia National Campaign Director Damien Cole was ecstatic with the Newcastle turn out.

National Campaign Director for Surfrider Foundation, Damien Cole Photo: Nicholas Klynsmith @hyperventilating_eyes

“It was incredible to be a part of such an electrifying paddle out, with hundreds of locals from all walks of life standing together in opposition to this ridiculous and potentially disastrous project off the coast of NSW,” Cole said.

“It has been a challenging issue to get into the community; many people are still unaware of it, so this is a significant awareness-raising exercise.

“We are asking people to spread this news, let their friends know that this issue is an imminent threat and is right on their doorstep.

“We are also hoping as this campaign gains momentum that it starts to put pressure on Minister Pitt and the entire Morrison Government, letting them know that our coastal community will not stand for this.”

In February this year, the Federal Parliament debated the renewal of the licence, passing the formal decision to permanently cancel PEP11 (petroleum exploration permit) to the Federal Minister for Resources Keith Pitt.

Along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, many federal, state, and local politicians have shown their opposition to PEP11.

Photo: Nicholas Klynsmith @hyperventilating_eyes

Cole said it was a step in the right direction to have many stand against the issue, but words meant nothing if actions did not follow.  

“Until we see this in black and white that PEP11 has been cancelled, we will keep these paddle outs going and keep raising awareness within our community,” Cole said.

“It was a step in the right direction when we saw the entire Labor Party oppose it through Anthony Albanese, and it was great when we started seeing all the MPs on the coastline oppose it.

“Unfortunately, as we have seen in politics time and time again, words can sometimes lead to nothing; we really want to see action on what has been said.”

Save Our Coast Student Representative Asha Niddrie said it was essential to spread awareness and make sure the community’s universal plea was heard.

“I speak for myself and the youth of today—we want leaders who are in charge of our future and our children’s future to make sure that industrialisation of our coast does not happen,” Niddrie said.

“We need our leaders to look after our environment and the places that we love, like our beaches and our beautiful coastline.”

Byron Bay is the next stop for the campaign, with Surfrider Foundation Australia, Save Our Coast and hundreds of passionate locals paddling out at Clarkes Beach on May 8.

“As winter comes, we will change our strategy a little bit, but we will continue to fight this fight,” Cole said.

“Our campaign strategy will change depending on what happens with the PEP11 decision in the next coming months.

“But man, are we ready to roll; we can keep doing these paddle outs week in and week out until PEP11 has been cancelled for good.”

Hayley McMahon

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