The Perrottet government will write new planning laws to allow it to torpedo a controversial offshore gas project reviled by Liberals in coastal seats after a federal court ruling paved the way for initial exploration to resume at the project Scott Morrison killed off in 2021.
Just five weeks out from the NSW election, the Coalition will draft the new legislation and take it to the election in a move designed to neutralise the PEP-11 offshore gas project as an election issue, after the federal court quashed the former prime minister’s decision to cancel the permit for a zone that sits off Sydney’s beaches.
PEP-11 emerged as a key political issue in the 2022 federal election when Mr Morrison intervened to end exploration at the site, in what was regarded as a political play to safeguard coastal Liberal seats under threat from teal independents.
With opposition to the project increasing in coastal Liberal seats – including Pittwater and Manly, which are being targeted by teal independents – the Perrottet government and NSW Treasurer Matt Kean are expected to announce new legislation using planning laws to stop exploration and production at the site by refusing access to the mainland.
Mr Kean did not answer questions on the potential legislative change on Tuesday. A spokesperson said: “The NSW Liberal and Nationals Government is opposed to PEP-11 and we will continue to oppose it because we don’t want drilling destroying our coastline.”
Teal independents in coastal seats including Manly and Pittwater have been vocal in their criticism of the NSW Government over the PEP11 project, and their desire to seize on the project as an election issue.
“It will definitely be an issue at the state election,” Pittwater independent candidate Jacqui Scruby told The Australian Financial Review in December. “There are a lot of people in the community who are across the reality that [the project] is not dead in the water.”
Ms Scruby has been critical of Pittwater Liberal candidate Rory Amon’s refusal to condemn offshore gas exploration during his time as a Northern Beaches councillor. On Tuesday afternoon, she joined Manly independent candidate Joeline Hackman, who is taking on environment minister James Griffin, to protest against the court ruling.