Windmills ‘taller than Tomaree’, say opponents of Hunter offshore renewables projects

1. A humpback whale off Port Stephens swims within the designated wind farm zone. Photo by Marian Sampson.

NATIONAL security, damage to tourism, Port Of Newcastle impacts, and threats to endangered birds, turtles and whales are being cited as reasons offshore wind farms should not be built along the Hunter coast.

Potential noise and light pollution, plus impact to the sea bed as the structures are anchored, are also being criticised by the growing lobby against the renewable energy project.

Critics say the rush to embrace renewable energy could have pitfalls and the assessment process should not be rushed.

Environmentalist Frank Future who sits on the Marine Parks Association and was active in stopping the harvesting of humpback whales and creating an industry dedicated to watching the creatures, reckons the Federal Government’s offshore wind farm zone proposal is badly sited.

“This wind farm is a great idea but, in the wrong place,” he said.

“These windmills are 300 metres high – to put that into perspective that is higher than Tomaree,” he said.

Former Paterson MP Bob Baldwin, also Newcastle and Port Stephens Game Fishing Club director, said all values must be considered.

“Firstly we need to sit down with our local members and make sure that they understand the issues and impact that these wind farms will have, if they proceed, on our community and the environment,” Mr Baldwin said.

“In other regions wind farms have been linked to whales beaching,” he said.

A former Liberal Party defence spokesman, Mr Baldwin said the wind farm could impact Williamtown Air Base.

“Wind farms are proven to affect radar and could impact low-flying exercises,” he said.

“I think there are a lot of very high-level security risks associated with wind farms off the coast here in Port Stephens, in Sydney and Wollongong.

“If you are a foreign power wanting to pick up intelligence the wind farm would be a great location for a submarine and it would be effectively undetectable,” he said.

Mr Baldwin said he worried the wind farms could spell the end of the billfish and other fishing competitions the region is known for.

He said the offshore structures would attract fish from other areas and, combined with the proposed fishing-exclusion zones, would likely end game fishing in the region.

Baldwin, like others concerned about the proposed wind farms, is calling for more consultation.

“The sheer magnitude of 300 structures is worrying in itself, the way these structures are anchored is really no different to an oil rig,” he said.

Federal MP for Paterson Meryl Swanson told News Of The Area, “We will be working closely with all stakeholders to ensure that any final proposal doesn’t have adverse effects on marine life.

“The proposed areas are a starting point for community discussion,” she said.

“The proposed area follows initial analysis of marine topology, vessel traffic, and sensitive environmental and defence areas.

“Final decisions have not been made and the minister has assured me this process is about making sure the community gets its say,” she said.


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