2011 Release Area Special Notices

2011 Release Area Special Notices

Release Area Notices


Petroleum legislation requires that offshore operations be carried out in a manner that does not unduly interfere with the rights and interests of others. There is also a need to comply with other requirements and standards set by Australian law. Successful applicants for offshore titles need to have due regard for matters such as:

  • environment and heritage protection;
  • Native Title rights and interests;
  • navigation and maritime safety;
  • fishing activities;
  • defence activities;
  • submarine telecommunication cables; and
  • insurance.

In addition to the general advice and requirements that apply to all release areas, there are also notices giving recommendations and requirements for specific areas.

The attention of potential applicants is drawn to issues set out below, which have been identified in consultations with parties that have existing rights and interests in the areas offered for petroleum exploration in this Acreage Release. The identified requirements for specific areas may result in additional conditions being included in an exploration title document.

These Notices are designed to serve as an ongoing reference for successful applicants, as they progress towards meeting their exploration permit work program obligations. The Australian Government does not guarantee that the information contained in this document is accurate or complete. Therefore explorers should not rely solely on information contained in this document when making a commercial decision. Successful applicants are responsible for checking the accuracy of information contained prior to commencing any petroleum exploration operation.

This publication has been prepared by the Exploration Section, Offshore Resources Branch in the Australian Government Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (RET), in consultation with other Australian Government agencies and relevant State and Northern Territory, Energy and Resource Departments.

Notices for All Areas

Border Protection Command

Border Protection Command (BPC) is responsible for coordinating offshore maritime security and contributes to the vital protection of Australia’s important offshore facilities by conducting surface and aerial security patrols.

BPCshould be provided with details of any proposed activities to be conducted within release areas no less than 14days prior to undertaking the task. BPC should also be kept appraised of any ongoing activities within these areas.

The point of contact for BPC is

The Department of Defence

The Australian Department of Defence operates recognised training areas and special purpose military areas for training and exercises to ensure Australia’s defense capabilities.

Some of the areas in the 2011 release coincide with Military Restricted Airspaces (MRAs). When activated by a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), the restricted airspace can operate down to low altitudes including, at times, to sea level.
Non-Defence flying operations are required to be conducted in accordance with NOTAM restrictions.

Offshore areas may also coincide with Military Exercise Areas (MEAs) or Defence Practice Areas (DPAs). Potential applicants are advised that the Minister for Defence has the authority, under the Defence Force Regulations 1952, to declare and Gazette any area of sea or air space as a DPA, for carrying out Defence operations or practice as specified in a NOTAM or a Notice to Mariners (NOTMAR). When a DPA is activated, unauthorised access to the area will be prohibited, access to affected permit areas may also be restricted. Potential applicants should also be aware that all sea and air craft can be ordered to evacuate the practice areas at short notice.

As there is potential for unexploded ordnance (UXO) on the seafloor in either MEAs or DPAs, applicants should be aware of the risks involved in conducting exploration activities. The potential presence of UXO on the sea floor carries with it an associated risk of detonation, which will be borne by the applicants. Defence takes no responsibility for reporting the location and type of ordnance dropped in the areas, for identification of or removal of any UXO, or for any damage sustained to equipment in the unlikely event of UXO detonation. As such, the Australian Government provides no guarantee or indemnity to successful applicants or others with regard to the safety or whereabouts of UXO in such areas.

In addition, as training exercises can take place at any time and often involve the use of live fire, permit holders must consult with the Department of Defence to minimise the applicant's own risk. Details of 2011 release areas that coincide with MEAs or DPAs are provided below in the -Notices for Specific Areas.

Locations of restricted and prohibited areas, including maps, are listed in Annual Australian NOTAM and Australian Annual NOTMAR publications, which are available from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) (Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) website (Designated Airspace Handbook) and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Hydrographic Office website (available under 'Annual Notices') respectively (see addresses below).

Successful applicants will need to liaise with the Department of Defence during the planning phase and to notify of any exploration activity. Defence requires notification, prior to commencement, of any exploration works, including positions and dimensions (lateral and vertical) of associated infrastructure and permanent infrastructure development, to be undertaken in areas which lie within Defence Restricted Airspace. Details of routes of any associated helicopter support operations are also requested. The appropriate contact details have been provided below.

For all release areas, successful applicants will be required to notify the Australian Hydrographic Office, a minimum of three weeks, prior to any exploration works to be undertaken, to assess for impact on the maritime industry. The Australian Hydrographic Office requires details of any exploration activity including suspended well heads, including whether the well will be left suspended or plugged and abandoned, or proposed infrastructure developments. This will enable relevant navigational charts to be updated and the issue of appropriate navigational warnings. The appropriate contact details have been provided below.

Successful applicants will need to liaise with Air Force Headquarters (AFHQ) during the planning phase and to notify of any exploration activity. Successful applicants will need to provide positions and dimensions (lateral and vertical) of all associated fixed and mobile infrastructure including drilling rigs. Additionally, Headquarters Air Command (HQAC) requires advice from 48 hours, of any change in position of exploration activities to avoid conflict with ADF exercise activity.

The following Defence contacts will be able to advise of planned Defence activities in specific areas:


General Defence

Assistant Secretary
Property Services Branch
Department of Defence
Canberra ACT 2609
Telephone: +61 2 6266 8650
Facsimile: +61 2 6266 8429

Australian Hydrographic Office

Mr Mark Bolger
Manager Nautical Assessment and Maintenance
Hydrographic Office
Locked Bag 8801
Wollongong NSW 2500
Telephone: +61 2 4221 8590
Facsimile: +61 2 4221 8599


Environment Protection

The Australian Government requires petroleum companies to conduct their activities in a manner that meets a high standard of environmental protection. Of particular importance to the offshore petroleum exploration industry are the requirements of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGSA). Under these two Acts, there are four main environmental approvals that may be required for petroleum industry activities:

  • an Environment Plan under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009(Environment Regulations);
  • this is required for every operational (fieldwork) activity;
  • approval under Chapter 4 of the EPBC Act to undertake an activity that may potentially impact on a matter of National Environmental Significance (NES);
  • the most important matters of NES to offshore areas are Commonwealth marine areas, World Heritage areas, National Heritage areas, wetlands of international importance, threatened species and migratory species;
  • approval under Chapter 5, Division 3, of the EPBC Act to undertake activities that may interfere with cetaceans (e.g. whales);
  • this is only required at locations and times that cetaceans are likely to be present; and
  • approval under Chapter 5, Division 4, of the EPBC Act to carry out activities in a Commonwealth Marine Reserve.

Penalties may apply to any activities in breach of the EPBC Act. Further information on these approvals is provided below.

Information on the EPBC Act is available online at

The site also has information on previous referrals and decisions under the EPBC Act that may be of assistance in deciding whether to refer an intended action. Amendments have been made to the EPBC Act since 1999. Details on these amendments can be found at:

National Environmental Significance (NES) and the EPBC Act

Under the EPBC Act, companies proposing to undertake petroleum exploration or development activities, or ‘actions’, must consider whether those actions will have or are likely to have a significant impact on a matter of NES. The EPBC Act places the onus on the proponent to ensure an activity either does not significantly impact a matter of NES, or is approved by the Australian Government Environment Minister before proceeding.

The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has developed an interactive database to provide further information on matters of national environmental significance (for example Ramsar wetlands, endangered and vulnerable species, World and National Heritage areas). The database is available at:

Potential bidders are encouraged to consult this database with respect to a permit area of interest before finalising their work program bids. Potential bidders should consider the range of impacts and risks to matters of NES throughout the exploration, production and decommissioning phases of a petroleum development.

Many of the release areas are in close proximity to sensitive environments, including important habitat for threatened and migratory species, wetlands of international importance, and areas of important ecological and heritage value in the Commonwealth marine environment. Activities proposed in these release areas will be subject to a high level of environmental scrutiny, and further assessment and approval under the EPBC Act may be required.

Potential bidders are reminded that the awarding of petroleum acreage under the OPGGS Act is not a guarantee of approval of individual petroleum operations under the EPBC Act. If a proponent is unsure whether approval is required, the proposed activity can be referred to the Commonwealth Environment Minister for a decision on whether the action requires further assessment and approval under the EPBC Act.

Proponents are encouraged to consult the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities early in their planning processes.

In planning activities, it is strongly recommended that sufficient time be allowed for the EPBC Act referral process (20 business days timeframe) as well as any requests for further information, which suspends the referral timeframe. Production activities, in particular, are more likely to require further assessment and approval under the EPBC Act.

Information on the assessment process and statutory timeframes can be viewed at:

Further information, including published guidelines on significance, can be obtained from or from the Community Information Unit on 1800 803 772 (free call within Australia only) or e-mail: .

Heritage Values

Listed heritage values are protected and managed under a range of Commonwealth powers.

The National Heritage List has been established to include places of outstanding heritage significance to Australia. The National Heritage List comprises places with natural, historic and/or Indigenous values. A place entered in the National Heritage List is known as a National Heritage place. Each place in the List has been assessed by an independent body, the Australian Heritage Council, to determine whether the place has national heritage values. The Environment Minister makes the final decision on whether a place will be listed.

Places in the National Heritage list are protected under the EPBC Act as matters of NES. Prior approval must be obtained before any action takes place which has, will have, or is likely to have, a significant impact on the national heritage values of a listed place. To have a significant impact on the values of a National Heritage place it is not necessary for an action to be taken within the National Heritage place.

The National Heritage List is compiled and maintained by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and is available at:

The Commonwealth Heritage List, established under the EPBC Act, comprises natural, Indigenous and historic heritage places entirely within a Commonwealth area or outside the Australian jurisdiction and owned or leased by the Commonwealth and which the Minister is satisfied have one or more Commonwealth Heritage values. The Minister makes the final decision on whether to include a place in the Commonwealth Heritage List.

In addition, Australian Government agencies are required to develop heritage strategies, a heritage register, and management plans for places on the Commonwealth Heritage List to protect the heritage values of the Commonwealth Heritage Places they own or lease.

As of November 2010 there are 89 places on the National Heritage List, 18 places on the World Heritage List and 336 places included in the Commonwealth Heritage List; this include some offshore areas.

The database should be investigated for relevant areas at: The values of Commonwealth Heritage List places are protected by the EPBC Act as part of the environment.

Under the Australian Heritage Council Act 2003, the Register of the National Estate (RNE) is Australia's national inventory of places of significant natural and/or cultural (historic and/or indigenous) heritage. The Environment Minister must have regard to information in the RNE where that information is relevant. Under the EPBC Act, a person must not take an action in a Commonwealth marine area where the action has, will have, or is likely to have a significant impact on the environment; places included in the RNE are defined as constituting part of the environment. Any petroleum exploration and development activities or ‘actions’ in a Commonwealth marine area that could significantly impact on the heritage values of RNE-listed places may require referral under the EPBC Act.

Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976

The Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 protects all shipwrecks and associated relics that are 75 or more years old, regardless of whether their physical location is known. More recent shipwrecks may be declared as historic under the Historic Shipwrecks Act by the Minister. The Historic Shipwrecks Actaims to ensure that historic shipwrecks are protected for their heritage values and maintained for recreational and educational purposes. It also regulates activities that may result in the damage, interference, removal or destruction of an historic shipwreck or associated relic.

The Historic Shipwrecks Actalso provides for protected zones to be declared in order to enhance the protection of historic shipwrecks and relics which are of special significance or sensitivity or at particular risk of interference. Permits are required to enter protected zones, which can cover an area up to 200 hectares (2²km). The jurisdiction of the Historic Shipwrecks Act is not limited to Commonwealth marine areas as defined by the EPBC Act, as it protects historic shipwrecks and associated relics found in Australian waters from the low water mark to the edge of the continental shelf, including the coastal waters of the AustralianStates and Territories. The requirements of the Historic Shipwrecks Act must be taken into consideration when applying for any State, Territory or Commonwealth planning approval for actions or developments in these waters.

Any actions involving contact with the seabed, or operations in close proximity to the seabed, have the potential to damage, destroy or interfere with historic shipwrecks and it strongly recommended that proponents should seek professional advice and develop risk mitigation strategies to prevent committing an offence under the Historic Shipwrecks Act. When undertaking actions in the marine environment, proponents and their contractors must conform to all requirements of the Historic Shipwrecks Act and must:

  1. not damage, destroy or interfere with any historic shipwrecks or relics that may be encountered during the course of a proposed action without a permit;
  2. not enter or conduct activities within a shipwreck protected zone without first obtaining a permit under the Historic Shipwrecks Act; and
  3. provide a written notification of the discovery of any suspected shipwreck or shipwreck relics identified during the course of the proposed action

It should be noted that, although the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 does not currently provide for the protection of the natural environment associated with shipwrecks, these natural components form an integral part of historic shipwreck sites and are often critical to the long term preservation of shipwrecks and relics. Damage to these natural components can result in increased deterioration of shipwrecks and consequently affect the shipwrecks role as a marine habitat.

Further information about the Act can be found at:

Consideration of hydrocarbon spills and the EPBC Act

Following the Montara oil spill incident in August 2009, proponents of offshore petroleum drilling referrals (both exploration and production) have been required to demonstrate the potential impacts of a ‘worst case scenario’ loss of well control to matters of National Environmental Significance, and describe the measures in place to prevent and respond to such an incident. The capacity of a company to respond to a spill, together with the availability and response times of other resources – particularly in remote areas – should be carefully considered. In determining whether further assessment of such proposals is required, both the likelihood and consequences of such an incident will be carefully examined. These requirements may change following the conclusion of the Australian Government’s consideration of the findings and recommendations from the Montara Commission of Inquiry.

Cetaceans and the EPBC Act

Some of the 2011 release areas include areas that are in recognised whale migration corridors and important aggregation areas.