It’s been 6 months since a controversial gas exploration license for the Hunter’s coast entered limbo, with no clear time frame on when a decision will be made.
Advent Energy’s Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 (PEP 11) was due to run out on February 12 this year.
The energy company petitioned the Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt for an extension which would allow oil and gas exploration drilling off the coast of Port Stephens, Newcastle, the Central Coast and Sydney to continue for another 2 years.
The plan garnered almost universal opposition from the community, the Liberal NSW Government, the Labor party, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison who confirmed his stance against the project on a visit to the Hunter Region earlier this year.
But half a year later, the Resources Minister is yet to hand down a final ruling on the extension, despite saying at the time he would “prefer the decision was made soon”.
The delay has allowed Advent Energy to continue some of their operations under a rollover period, including calling for tenders for drilling equipment in May, although no drilling has taken place.
Shortland MP Pat Conroy has slammed Mr Pitt’s innaction as inexcusable, and believes the minister is deliberately stalling.
“He’s from a National Party that quite frankly is owned by the big resource companies, and he wants to give a license but he knows that would hurt them in our area politically”.
“So he’s trying to wait until after the next election and slip it through,” Mr Conroy said.
Mr Conroy says he’s never seen an issue with such widespread opposition.
“The risk of an oil spill destroying our beautiful pristine beaches is there and people are opposed to that,” he said.
The potential environmental harm is not the only concern, with a large part of the Hunter economy and thousands of local jobs relying on the coastline.
“We’ve got tens of thousands of jobs in our community that depend upon commercial and recreational fishing. We’ve got cafes, restaurants and hotels that depend on tourists coming to our region to enjoy our beaches,” Mr Conroy said.
According to the Shortland MP it’s all on the line for the possibility of a handful of non-local jobs.
“For possibly 50 fly in fly out jobs this government is risking thousands of other jobs in the community and risking the environment,” he said.
The Federal Resources Minister has been contacted for comment.