Maps reveal Montara oil spill bigger than thought

A LAWYERS group has called for an independent study into the 2009 Montara oil spill, after it received maps believed to show the spill was bigger than previously thought.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance on Friday released the maps, obtained through Freedom of Information laws from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

They have argued the maps reveal the oil spill, previously reported as being more than 90km off the Indonesian coastline, was within 37km of Rote Island.

However, a spokesman for AMSA said the map released to the ALA did not demonstrate that the spill was closer to Indonesian shores than previously publicly reported.

ALA spokesman Greg Phelps said the information held by the government appeared to "contradict" the information it had previously released.

About 64 tonnes of oil a day leaked into the ocean near Ashmore Reef for more than two months.

It prompted reports of effects on Indonesians in East Nusa Tenggara, and a formal request from Indonesia to Australia to complete an independent investigation.

Mr Phelps said there was "no telling what other information has been missed" because the government "neglected to carry out a thorough investigation".

"However, now that the Indonesian government has requested assistance from Australia to help investigate the extent and impact of the oil spill on local communities, there are no more excuses for an independent investigation not to take place," he said.

"The Australian Government must negotiate with the governments of our neighbours, Indonesia and Timor-Leste, to negotiate the commencement of independent research."

The AMSA spokesman also said the oil spill had been the subject of a Commission of Inquiry, and environmental and scientific monitoring by several universities, the CSIRO and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

He also said the Indonesian Government did not directly ask AMSA for help, although he did not mention whether AMSA had been consulted by other Australian departments about the request.

The AMSA did not respond to questions about the incident, whether an investigation would be completed, or the conflicting information. 

- APN NEWSDESK


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