The Wilderness Society has launched a court bid to try to block a plan to drill an oil exploration well in the Great Australian Bight.
The environmental group has filed action in the Federal Court in Adelaide challenging the oil and gas regulator's decision to approve Norwegian energy company Equinor's environmental plan to drill one exploration well about 400 kilometres off the South Australian coast.
SA Wilderness Society director Peter Owen says it will be argued that the approval from the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority is invalid because Equinor failed to properly consult with community and other groups.
"It is patently clear that Equinor has refused to undertake best practice consultation, and it is our view that it didn't even meet the basic regulatory requirements," Mr Owen said.
"NOPSEMA made an important legal error in accepting Equinor's substandard consultation."
The court action is supported by local councils along the SA coastline and indigenous groups.
Mirning elder Bunna Lawrie said Equinor had also failed to consult properly with the traditional owners of the Bight.
"We don't want Equinor to put our sea and our place of the whales at risk. We don't want pollution causing destruction and poisoning our sea and land," Mr Lawrie said.
"I do not want my home, my tradition destroyed and lost forever."
Equinor was first granted a petroleum title over areas in the Bight in 2011 and now has an accepted environment plan.
It must still have a well operations plan and a facility safety case approved before it can begin drilling its proposed Stromlo-1 well in water more than 2.2km deep.
If approved, Equinor plans to begin work in late 2020 with the operations expected to last for 60 days.
In a statement, the company said it was not appropriate for it to comment on a matter now before the court.
But it previously said it had held more than 400 meetings with more than 200 organisations across Southern Australia during the consultation process and would continue to engage with stakeholders.
NOPSEMA said it was also not in a position to comment directly on the legal proceedings.
However, it said it respected the right of individuals and organisations to seek a review of its decisions through the courts.
Holdfast Bay Council, which includes 11 kilometres of the Adelaide coastline, said it was particularly disappointed that its concerns over how an oil spill would impact on the coast had not been considered by NOPSEMA.
"It's of extreme importance to us that the gulf remains a pristine environmental area because our economy is dependent on tourism," Mayor Amanda Wilson said.
South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young also backed the court action.
"South Australians, and indeed the majority of Australians, don't want our Great Australian Bight turned into an oil field," she said.
"They don't want a foreign oil giant destroying our coastline and one of our most precious and treasured assets."
Australian Associated Press