Six months have passed since the offshore Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 (PEP 11) expired and Federal Minister for Resources Keith Pitt is yet to make a formal decision on its extension.

Stop PEP11 Paddle Out earlier this year. Photo supplied: Ben Gamlin

The permit proposed by Advent Energy would allow gas and oil drilling off the coast of Newcastle, stretching all the way to Wollongong.

Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon said she had written to Minister Pitt twice requesting that he reject the extension of PEP 11 but was yet to receive a reply.

Claydon said the Minister’s indecision regarding the application of the permit extension had fuelled anxiety among the community.

“Clearly Minister Pitt is not taking the deep concerns of our community seriously. It’s simply not good enough that I’m yet to receive a response from the Minister on such a serious issue.”

She said her office had been flooded with tens of thousands of letters, emails and calls from the community rejecting the PEP 11 project.

“From Sydney to Newcastle, communities along the coastline have been outspoken on this issue, and they deserve answers,” Claydon said.

“Representatives across the political spectrum, including the Prime Minister, have been united in our calls to stop the exploration of oil and gas off our beautiful beaches.

“The Minister has been sitting on his decision for over six months now. It’s time Keith Pitt  listened to the voices of our coastal communities and act urgently to put an end to PEP 11 once and for all.”

Save Our Coast founder Natasha Deen told NovoNews in June 2021 that coastal communities had fiercely opposed the plan that put the ocean’s ecosystem at risk.

The proposed site for offshore gas and oil drilling. Photo source: Save Our Coast

“A delayed decision on cancelling PEP 11 not only places communities under severe stress, but it also sends a message to these oil and gas companies that they can continue business as usual,” Deen said.

“It’s time for PEP 11 to be cancelled, and for the coast to be saved for future generations.”

Many NSW State and Federal members have all stood united against the permit. Federal Member for Mackellar Jason Falinski and Federal Member for Wentworth Dave Sharma believe the licence was “destined for the trash can”.

“For the last five years, members of both the Liberal and Labor parties have, with their communities, campaigned hard against the renewal of this licence,” Falinski and Sharma said.

“It is a matter of when, not if, we are putting a stake through the heart of this unloved and unwanted licence that has hung like the sword of Damocles over the heads of our communities from Wollongong to Newcastle.

“It is difficult to find anyone who does support PEP 11. As the motion debated in Parliament in October 2020 showed, there was no one who wanted to speak up in favour of PEP 11.”

Since October 2020 a motion moved through the House of Representatives calling for PEP 11 to not be renewed received bipartisan support from Liberals Trent Zimmerman and Dave Sharma, plus Labor’s Emma McBride, Sharon Claydon and Pat Conroy.   

Deputy Premier John Barilaro, James Griffin and Rob Stokes have all spoken out against it and Prime Minister Scott Morrison also confirmed his opposition in March 2021.

Most recently Member for Warringah Zali Steggall has announced she will introduce a private members bill to Parliament, helping to bring an end to the permit.

Hayley McMahon