Concerned community members to hit the waves in protest of offshore wind plans

Newcastle Port Stephens Game Fish Club President Troy Radford with Federal Member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie MP, who raised the offshore wind issue in Parliament last week. 

IN a community where offshore wind has long referred to preferable surf conditions and not a renewable energy source, the potential arrival of offshore wind farms off the Hunter coastline continues to cause tension.

Objectors to renewable energy projects off Port Stephens’ coast will ‘Paddle Out Against Offshore Wind Farms’ on Sunday 29 October from Birubi Beach.

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The paddle out will begin from 11:00, with attendees asked to arrive an hour early for registration.

No offshore wind projects have been approved for the declared Hunter offshore wind zone, with the period for developers to submit feasibility licence applications for proposed projects still open until 14 November 2023.

With that date quickly approaching, offshore wind opponents are keen to make their objections to the development of an offshore wind industry in the Hunter heard in Canberra.

On Sunday paddlers in Port Stephens will join concerned community members from the Illawarra in hitting the water to protest offshore wind projects in their local area.

Federal Energy and Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen, who declared the Hunter offshore wind zone in July, has opened consultation on a proposed offshore wind area extending from Wombarra in the north to Kiama in the south.

With numerous communities across Australia feeling under threat from the Federal move towards offshore wind, regional protest groups have joined forces via social media.

Working alongside community groups in the Illawarra has been Boat Harbour’s Rhys Westbury, who has played a key role in organising Sunday’s paddle out.

“I’ve organised a paddle out in collaboration with a fellow resurgence group against offshore wind in the Illawarra.

“We’ve decided on a paddle out as we’ve seen the groundswell of growing numbers of people turning out at our community meetings, rallies and, as of now, peaceful protests.

“We’d like a visual symbol of the collective unity of people securing our relationship to our environment.”

Westbury hopes more than 200 locals will take to the water at Birubi to send a clear message to the Federal Government that offshore wind development is not welcome off the Hunter coast.

“We’ve since been in league with both Birubi Surf Life Saving Club and Bay Area Boardriders Club, who have agreed to help us achieve this pledge to hop on boards and use our actions to speak against the Government’s choice to impact our home territory,” he said.

How did we get here?

Following a 65-day consultation period, which included community information sessions in Wamberal, Doyalson, Swansea, Newcastle, Bar Beach, Nelson Bay and Hawks Nest in early March, the 1,854 square kilometre Hunter offshore wind zone was declared by the Federal Government in mid-July.

On August 8, the period for the submission of feasibility licence applications for offshore wind projects in the Hunter area was opened.

Industry insiders believe close to fifteen offshore wind developers will submit applications to explore the feasibility of building an offshore wind farm in the zone.

Given the size of the declared area, and the energy generation goals the Federal Government has set for the zone, it is likely two or three feasibility licences will be awarded.

Once awarded, proponents will undertake five to seven years of studies to ascertain the feasibility of their project, both from a financial perspective and in terms of the potential impacts to the environment, marine life, existing industries and more.

Construction of an offshore wind project cannot begin until the feasibility stage is complete, and environmental and other approvals are in place.

Industry and union bodies maintain support

With offshore wind projects still a long way from reality in the region, three local industry bodies – Hunter Workers, Hunter Jobs Alliance and Business Hunter – have reaffirmed their staunch support for the development of an offshore wind industry.

“Hunter Workers firmly supports the proposed Hunter Offshore Wind project and welcomes the extensive benefits and opportunities wind power industry would create for the Hunter region economy,” said Leigh Shears, Secretary, Hunter Workers.

“We know that overwhelmingly, the 64,000 plus workers we represent from 24 Unions across the Hunter region support the proposed project, which is reflected in the results of extensive community consultation undertaken this year.

“The proposed development can create more than 4,000 quality, secure jobs to Hunter workers, power 4.2 million homes, and contribute to a sizeable reduction in Australia’s carbon emissions.”

The business bodies have also sought to address a “misinformation campaign against wind power spearheaded by disingenuous actors”, releasing a joint statement ahead of the recent offshore wind rally held at Nelson Bay.

“Unfortunately, disingenuous actors are working hard to spread extensive misinformation to further their own agendas, understandably causing concern among some community members.

“We condemn the dishonesty of these actors and implore the community to seek information from a range of credible, trusted sources,” Shears said.

Meanwhile Justin Page, the coordinator of the Hunter Jobs Alliance (HJA), has called on offshore wind proponents to take a proactive approach to avoid impacts to the environment and threatened species.

“Where planning frameworks lack or are lagging, proponents must fill the gap to assure the public and the Hunter and Central Coast community that marine, estuarine, and avian species populations will continue to thrive alongside an offshore wind industry,” Mr Page said.

“HJA supports growth and investment in renewable energy in the Hunter, including offshore wind.

“With the right Government Policy and Framework settings we have the opportunity to maximise local content, mitigate environmental impacts and provide community benefits to the Hunter region.”

Business Hunter CEO Bob Hawes reminded the community that there is a “long way to go before any work starts on any part of an offshore renewable project, let alone commissioning and operating a plant”.

Mr Hawes said a balance must be struck between the need to move forward on the process for these projects and meaningful consultation at the appropriate time.

“Large-scale renewables are critical for our energy evolution and offshore wind is an important part of the mix.

“We understand more detail on the specifics of proposed projects will emerge after November and into 2024, offering a clearer picture to inform community conversations and feedback.

“In the meantime, offshore wind proponent businesses are currently investing time, effort and money in responding in good faith to an invitation extended by the Australian Government and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to halt this process.”

Lyne MP takes up issue in Parliament

After attending Nelson Bay’s recent offshore wind protest as a speaker, Federal Member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie has addressed Parliament on the issue.

“I would have thought after last Saturday (the rally), that the Albanese Government would realise it needs to start listening and responding to the concerns of the Australian people,” Dr Gillespie told Parliament.

“I can assure all of the people who have expressed their concerns about this project that I am absolutely opposed to this development which will have a significant negative impact on our region and the people of Australia.

Dr Gillespie expressed concern that offshore wind developments would be “a serious risk to the navigation of local and international shipping and boating”.

He also cited impacts to “whale and dolphin (cetacean) acoustics, migration and pod behaviour”, marine bird life, and the commercial fishing, tourism and freighting industries.


2 thoughts on “Concerned community members to hit the waves in protest of offshore wind plans

  1. Cancel all future green energy. To expensive already & it’s on,y going to go up. Good on everyone that protested in person as I’m unable to.

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