The Federal Government has ruled waters off the famous Ningaloo World Heritage area will not be opened to oil and gas exploration. It comes after months of campaigning, led by environmental protection group Protect Ningaloo, which saw 30,000 Australians back a letter calling on the government to restrict the area to resources companies. The Federal Government yesterday revealed the 2020 Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release, comprising 42 areas in Commonwealth waters off Western Australia, Victoria, Northern Territory and the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands. Earlier acreage releases indicated industry was interested in Commonwealth waters off the World Heritage areas of Shark Bay and Ningaloo and the Exmouth Gulf. Protect Ningaloo director Paul Gamblin said it was a huge reprieve for the incredible area and its tourism industry. “The community should feel really good that its efforts have helped government reach the only sensible outcome which is not to open up areas off the Ningaloo World Heritage region to new oil and gas exploration,” he said. All areas in the 2020 Acreage Release are based on industry nominations and were subject to a comprehensive public consultation process. The areas are now available for companies to bid for the opportunity to invest in oil and gas exploration. Mr Gamblin said the Ningaloo area was not yet safe though as a threat from industry still remained with the proposed Subsea 7 project. “However, the real test of government commitment to Ningaloo-Exmouth Gulf will be whether it responds to the call from tens of thousands of people to stop industrialisation at Exmouth Gulf from Subsea 7’s proposed massive oil and gas pipeline fabrication facility and towing operation,” he said.