Ice cream turned to resemble oily sludge is the latest local effort to show resistance to the renewal of PEP11. Pepita’s ice cream in North Curl Curl has paired up with Surfrider Foundation Australia to use charcoal in some of their offerings to draw attention to the cause.
The what now?
PEP11 stands for Petroleum Exploration Permit 11, and is a 4,576 square kilometer offshore gas lease that stretches from Newcastle down to Manly.
The PEP license was originally granted in 1999 and was due to expire on 21 February 2021, but oil and gas prospecting company Advent Energy hasn’t given up finding gas in the basin and has asked for an extension of their lease. This means the licence is still under consideration, and if granted could eventually allow drilling to occur along the NSW coastline.
The area, sometimes referred to as the Sydney Basin, is one of the world’s largest whale migration routes.
“If fossil fuel companies are allowed to drill our ocean, an oil spill or gas leak could destroy our coastline, our lifestyle and livelihoods. Our beaches, communities, and local economies are all at risk”- Surfrider Foundation Australia.
There is concern that drilling through the offshore porous sandstone shelf would cause irreversible environmental impact, including chemical sludge, water pollution, oils spills, as well as a disruption to marine habitats, and fishing. The rigs, while far from the shoreline, would likely still be seen along the horizon.
Surprised by how many people did not know about the PEP11 bill, Pepita’s wanted to bring awareness to the Northern Beaches about the situation.
Pepita’s co-owner, Elliott Roussel, explains that they want to raise awareness by catching people’s attention and shocking them using a black ice cream with unexpected and contrasting flavours.
“We chose the colour to symbolize our oceans potentially turning black if the drilling gets approved. It also grabs people’s attention, and they are shocked when we say the flavour is actually Lemon and Lime, or Coconut and Vanilla.”
Co-owner and brother to Elliott, Theo Roussel, says the idea is working well, with some people coming to the store just to buy the black ice cream.
“They come to the shop and say ‘I want a tub of black ice cream!’ but don’t know anything about the bill. So it’s been working quite well to inform people who weren’t aware of it before buying the ice cream.”
The pair says they do not want to be seen as activists, but rather that they are raising awareness and providing information for those that may be interested, or, more importantly, for people who may not be aware this bill is currently being decided on.
“It can still be just an ice cream, people can eat it, enjoy the flavour and not sign the petition.”
“We are still giving away the money, so it is a good thing either way.”
100% of sales from the black ice cream are going to Surfrider Foundation Australia to support their fight against the PEP11 bill.
Pepita’s founder Melanie Chaix can be found scooping from the companies Kombi van most days along the beachfront, and Elliott points out that this makes the cause even more important to them.
“Melanie is selling ice cream on the beach- what if the beach gets contaminated or people cannot go there anymore? By supporting the stop PEP11 cause, we are trying to protect the place where we work and live.”
Independent for Warringah, Zali Steggall, has proposed her own Bill to cancel the permit for offshore gas and oil drilling. The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Stopping PEP11) Bill 2021 is available online, before being tabled in October, and has the support of high-profile surfers Layne Beachley, Tom Carroll, Belinda Baggs, and Ace Buchan.
“PEP11 is the Morrison Government’s ‘gas-led recovery’ in action. It opens the door to oil and gas rigs just offshore from our iconic beaches,” Steggall said.
If enough MPs vote in favour of Steggall’s bill, it could pass into law, which would ban all exploration of the area permanently.
The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already publicly expressed he does not support the permit, nor do any MPs on the Northern Beaches.
Mackellar Liberal MP Jason Falinski said there was no need for a bill as it is already “dead in the water”.
However, Resources Minister Keith Pitt is the authority for the permit and he has not ruled out extending the permit.
Pepita’s make their ice creams weekly, and from scratch, using local ingredients- including fresh herbs, fruits and veggies. The special edition black is no exception to their natural flavour philosophy, with the colour coming from activated charcoal.
The first ‘Black’ flavour of Lemon and Lime was launched on 14 August , and this week’s flavour is Coconut and Vanilla- with the remaining five to be revealed in the coming weeks.
If you would like to enjoy a Pepita’s ice cream or sorbet, or support them in their efforts to stop the PEP11 Bill, you can find them within the ‘Spilt Coffee’ shop at 70-72 Pitt Rd, North Curl Curl. The Pepita’s van can also be found along the Curl Curl boardwalk most days- weather permitting.
If you would like to learn more about it from a more neutral perspective, visit this website.