National regulator releases seismic survey environment plan assessment for the Great Australian Bight

Media release - Published 12 January, 2016

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) has today concluded its staged release of documents relating to Bight Petroleum’s proposed seismic survey to be undertaken in the Great Australian Bight, off the coast of South Australia.

NOPSEMA commenced releasing documents relating to the survey in December 2014, making them publicly available through its website, following a request by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation.

NOPSEMA CEO, Stuart Smith, said NOPSEMA undertook a thorough assessment of the Lightning 3D Seismic Survey Environment Plan submitted by Bight Petroleum Pty Ltd in accordance with the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 and its assessment policies.

“Finalising the release of documents is in line with being a good regulator. NOPSEMA has applied robust assessment processes, including rigorous compliance monitoring of the proposal by Bight Petroleum. The staged release of documents has ensured NOPSEMA balanced the legal requirements around release of information while supporting transparency and accountability as the regulator,” Mr Smith said.

Throughout the release process NOPSEMA engaged with IFAW, the Office of the Information Commissioner, and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to release the documents in accordance with applicable FOI legislation while ensuring the local community in the area the survey is to take place had access to the information.

“NOPSEMA has built a reputation for regulatory effectiveness, independence, professionalism and consistency.  It supports sharing of accurate regulatory data and information, in accordance with the law, to strengthen transparency and support improved industry performance,” Mr Smith said.

The decision to release the environment plan assessment was based on the circumstances of this particular case. Future requests for information will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“As this FOI request related to the first environment plan to be assessed under the new streamlined processes associated with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), NOPSEMA decided to release all documents in order to demonstrate the rigorous processes applied to these assessments,” Mr Smith said.

In September 2015 an independent review of NOPSEMA’s compliance with the environmental management authorisation process (which is implemented in accordance with the EPBC Act), determined that NOPSEMA is meeting all of its commitments, and has appropriate measures in place to ensure ongoing compliance.


Media contact: Nicholas Page, 0428 876 260 or 

Explanatory notes


The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) is an independent Commonwealth statutory agency regulating the health and safety, structural integrity and environmental management of all offshore petroleum facilities in Commonwealth waters, and in coastal waters where state powers have been conferred.

Streamlined processes under the EPBC Act

In 2014, the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment endorsed NOPSEMA’s environment management authorisation process under the strategic assessment provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The endorsement provided for EPBC Act approval of petroleum activities authorised under NOPSEMA’s environmental regulation process.

NOPSEMA’s administration of the environmental management authorisation process was found to be compliant with requirements under the EPBC Act following an independent review in 2015.

To ensure ongoing compliance another review will be conducted in 2020.

Operational Review

An Operational Review of NOPSEMA (separate to the review by Environmental Resources Management Australia) was conducted in 2015, the first since its establishment on 1 January 2012, and relates to the three-year period beginning on that date.

The Review considered NOPSEMA’s effectiveness of bringing about improvements in occupational health and safety, environmental management and well integrity. The review panel found that "… NOPSEMA is demonstrating the characteristics of an effective regulator”.

The next statutory operational review will be conducted in 2020.

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