Kangaroo Island bushfire survivors write and give evidence from tractor shed

REMOTE LINKS: Marine acoustic expert Geoff Prideaux giving video evidence to the Senate Inquiry on September 22 from his shed at Gosse. Photo: Margi Prideaux
REMOTE LINKS: Marine acoustic expert Geoff Prideaux giving video evidence to the Senate Inquiry on September 22 from his shed at Gosse. Photo: Margi Prideaux

Life in the remaining, fire-damaged tractor shed at the Prideaux's Berrymans Road farm at Gosse on the western end of Kangaroo Island has been busy this year.

Earlier in the year the Prideaux's celebrated three separate literary awards for books published by their not-for-profit business, Stormbird Press.

"Coming out of the fires, and being thrust back into the world of business, with good news, was a surprise," Margi said. "Doing that work from our shed felt bizarrely separated from the wider world."

As winter set in, the Prideauxs focused on rebuilding their vineyard infrastructure and their plans for a new home.

They are currently spending their days living in the tractor shed and sleeping in an emergency pod supplied by the Minderoo Foundation.

From that same shed, Margi has continued interviewing and writing her book about the fires, the community's experience, and exploring how the Island can reshape our future to reduce the scale of community-level impact from a future firestorm.

She is aiming for a tight release of early January 2021.

"It feels right to have the book released on the anniversary of the firestorm event. I just hope I can make it. It helps to be a publisher," she said with typical good humour.

"Wine and words" have been the Prideaux's rebuild life, so it was a surprise to have a call from the past, asking Geoff Prideaux to provide expert evidence to the Federal Senate inquiry into the Impact of seismic testing on fisheries and the marine environment.

"When the call came through, I was floored," Geoff said. "The fires had destroyed all my books, papers, notes, everything. I hadn't thought about any of that world for months and months."

Despite Geoff's momentary reality shift, the Senate inquiry called him to give evidence for good reason.

In 2016 and 2017, he led an intergovernmental process to develop Guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessment for Marine Noise- generating Activities for the United Nations Environment Programme Convention on Migratory Species.

"I coordinated species experts from across the world to provide the latest advice about the impact of noise pollution on a range of species, including fish," he said.

"From that basis we developed the guidelines for governments to follow. I wanted to deliver a tool that would mean their decisions would be based on defensible science.

"'The guidelines went out for exhaustive comments, twice, including to the offshore oil and gas industry. They were unanimously endorsed by 126 countries in late 2017."

Despite that process, once again from the fire-damaged shed, Geoff provided evidence about the actions of Australia's regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

He alleges that NOPSEMA has ignored the United Nations guidelines and Australia's commitment to reduce this form of harmful noise pollution since 2017.

"A lot of work and good will, from many people, goes into these documents," he said.

"It's disappointing when a government agency dismisses the commitments the government has made to its international peers.

"I am glad, especially in the context of this year, I got to speak truth to power."

This story From wines and words to...marine noise first appeared on The Islander.