World Heritage bid for Bight heats up

Local candidate for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie has joined community leaders in her electorate in calling for World Heritage listing of the Great Australian Bight to prevent oil drilling in this significant environment.

On Sunday, June 10, she stood beside council leaders and a representative from the Australian Institute to announce a joint campaign to bid for Commonwealth Heritage Listing for the Bight as the first step towards World Heritage listing.

The campaign coincides with the release of an Australian Institute poll showing nearly 74 per cent of residents in Mayo support World Heritage protection of the Bight.

The Institute is an independent research think tank which examines a range of economic and environmental issues in order to inform public policy debate.

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The poll revealed majority support for the listing across the political spectrum.

“This is not about the left or right of politics, this about protecting a pristine environment of high biodiversity, as well as our economy,” Ms Sharkie said.

“Imagine what would happen to the economies of our coastal communities if there was a major oil spill?

“The fishing industry, the tourism industry - every fish and chip shop, every bed and breakfast would be affected.”

Kangaroo Island mayor Peter Clements was at the campaign launch and said the Australia Institute poll results came as no surprise.

“I have been campaigning for the protection of the Bight for the past eight years,” Mr Clements said.

“The institute poll just confirms the attitude of people generally along the coastline of South Australia.

“Eight coastal councils, representing the majority of the communities in the pathway of any potential oil spill in the Bight, have resolved to reject any industrialisation of the Great Australian Bight.”

Institute executive director Ben Oquist said the poll was conducted to ascertain whether the wider community was aware of the economic and environmental threats posed by drilling in the Bight.

“What our results have shown is that people value protecting the Bight, so much so that they want World Heritage Protection for this marine environment,” Mr Oquist said.

“Our research shows that the claimed economic benefits of oil and gas drilling in the Bight are exaggerated while the risk to the environment and the local economy is substantial.

“There are over 9000 jobs in tourism, fishing and agriculture industries on the South Australian coast that are directly at risk if there was a major oil spill.”

The Australian Greens have also welcomed the release of polling that shows 73.9 per cent of the people of Mayo support the Greens’ push for World Heritage protection for the Great Australian Bight. 

“The vast majority of South Australians, like the people of Mayo, want World Heritage Protection for the Bight. The Premier and Prime Minister should start preparing the nomination process,” Greens Senator for South Australia Sarah Hanson-Young said. 

“I’ve been encouraged by the positive response to our campaign to fight for World Heritage protection for the Great Australian Bight since we launched it in April. More and more South Australians are joining the fight against drilling in the Great Australian Bight and we know the only way to avert the risk of an oil spill is to make sure the Bight has the protection it deserves. 

“Mayo’s coastal communities would be among the hardest hit if oil spilled in the Bight, and they know how important conserving and protecting our precious coastline, Kangaroo Island, and the waters off our shores is. It’s time to show the world how great the Bight is!” 

Greens candidate for Mayo Major ‘Moogy’ Sumner AM said he would fight for World Heritage protection for the Bight if elected to the lower house. 

“We must protect our water ways, transition away from fossil fuels, and preserve the Bight for generations to come. We have the opportunity to do that now, with strong Greensrepresentatives fighting for World Heritage protection.”

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