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Marine regions

Learn about stakeholder input in the EIA process for the Great Australian Bight, impacting drilling plans and raising concerns for port development.
Container ship loading and unloading in deep sea port, Aerial view business commercial trading logistic import and export freight transportation, Container loading cargo freight ship maritime at night

The EIA process relies heavily on stakeholder input, as demonstrated by the following example of the Great Australian Bight. This vast marine region, located in Western Australia, has been targeted by mining companies such as BP, Chevron, and Equinor for oil exploration.

Great Australian Bight The Great Australian Bight

However, their efforts were met with significant opposition from conservationists, community members, and Indigenous groups. Exploration licenses for the GAB were granted in January 2011, and 3D seismic surveys began in March 2012. For many years, different companies had to navigate between federal and state laws and policy requirements, but ultimately, BP pulled out in 2012, followed by Chevron in 2017, and Equinor in 2019.

This case study is an interesting example of how stakeholder input into the EIA process can significantly influence the outcome, as it resulted in the suspension of drilling plans in the region. In 2016, the Great Australian Bight Alliance was established and became a powerful lobby group campaigning against drilling in the bight. One of the reasons for this was the Southern Right Whale, which used the region as its home and breeding ground. From the perspective of the GAB alliance, this was a successful EIA, but for the developers, it was a failure of the EIA process. If you are interested in a detailed history of the GAB Alliance’s perspective, please visit the timeline on the ‘Fight for the Bight’ website [1].

Townsville from Castle Hill A view of Townsville Port from Castle Hill

When it comes to projects that require an EIA, they often don’t start from scratch. Often submissions build on existing projects such as developing infrastructure and port or airport expansions. One such example is the Townsville Port Expansion Project, which has an extensive EIS already documenting the impacts of port development in the region. However, the port authority now wishes to expand its original plans, and additional documents have been submitted to progress this expansion. You can access the EIS for this case here. [2]

Port development remains a controversial form of ongoing development in any country. In Queensland, Australia, it is particularly fraught due to potential impacts on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area, as well as additional impacts from dredged material containment ponds and rail embankments. Ports, which have high economic value, typically go through rigorous EIA processes to ensure the proper management of impacts on human and ecological communities and values.

Share your thoughts

Choose one of the questions below to respond to in the comment section. You might like to respond to other learners’ comments as well.
  1. What is your opinion on the role of stakeholder input in the Great Australian Bight’s EIA process, do you believe the suspension of drilling plans was the right decision?
  2. How do you weigh the significance of the biodiversity impacts of a port against the economic benefits they provide?

References

1. so. Great Australian Bight Alliance [Internet]. Great Australian Bight Alliance. 2014. Available from: <a href="https://www.fightforthebight.org.au/the-fight-so-far%20https://www.fightforthebight.org.au/the-fight-so-far <https://www.fightforthebight.org.au/the-fight-so-far.

2. Townsville Port Expansion Environmental Impact Statement [Internet]. Port of Townsville. 2013. Available from: https://eisdocs.dsdip.qld.gov.au/Townsville%20Port%20Expansion/EIS/eis-19mar13.pdf

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