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Despite public objections, Hunter organisations back offshore wind project

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Despite there being plenty of opposition to the Hunter Offshore Wind project, three major organisations are continuing to back the controversial proposal.

Following a rally in Port Stephens on Saturday 7 October, which attracted New England MP Barnaby Joyce, Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer and residents airing their concerns to construct several industrial farms within sight of their coastline, Hunter Workers, Hunter Jobs Alliance (HJA) and Business Hunter are standing by their convictions.

The trio, representing local employees, environmental groups, businesses and the community members, believe a misinformation campaign is attempting to derail the multi-million-dollar scheme.

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen officially declared the area in July, covering 1,854km2 and extending from Port Stephens in the north to Norah Head in the south.

It will also be 20km and 35km respectively from the coast in the Pacific Ocean.

The declaration followed consultation with residents, state and local governments, First Nations people, and existing sectors including shipping, defence, fishing and other marine users.

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

“We know overwhelmingly, the 64,000-plus workers we represent from 24 unions across the Hunter back the proposal, which is reflected in the results of extensive community consultation undertaken this year.

“With the right planning, technology and investment, offshore wind can power our future and enrich our local communities without harming the planet or our environment.

“The 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.

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

“We condemn that dishonesty and implore residents to seek information from a range of credible, trusted sources.”

The HJA also rejects the unsubstantiated claims regarding wind turbine impacts on the environment.

“We’ve been advocating to see offshore wind proponents take a proactive approach to environmental and threatened species impact avoidance technologies from the outset,” coordinator Justin Page said.

“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.

“Offshore wind will create permanent secure, quality union jobs, local apprenticeships, training and transition opportunities for energy workers; maximise Australian manufacturing, including wind turbine components, floating structures cables and vessels; maximise local supply chains; provide benefits for First Nations people; and use regulated Australian vessels and Australian crews.

“It will generate significant investment, too, so we need to seize the opportunity to increase local content. 

“With the right government policy and framework settings, we have the opportunity to mitigate environmental impacts and provide community benefits to the region.”

Business Hunter CEO Bob Hawes echoed those sentiments.

“We’ve long supported and advocated for growth and development of the new energy economy in the Hunter, recognising that offshore wind represents a significant component of the renewable energy future,” he said.

“There is a long way to go before any work starts on any part of the project, let alone commissioning and operating a plant.

“The chance for detailed consultation has not been lost and we must get a balance 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.

“There’s no question we are currently a long way off the pace, with traditional assets retiring well before renewables arrive to replace them.

“The market volatility this creates wreaks havoc on pricing and investment decisions, placing terrible pressure on businesses and households.

“Our community and our country are navigating the opportunities and challenges of offshore wind for the first time.

“So, we need to address these concerns carefully.

“We understand more detail on the specifics of proposed projects will emerge after November and into 2024.

“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.

“So, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to halt this process.

“We’d hope and encourage both sides of government to work together to ensure we reach the point where business and the community have greater clarity on what is ahead on which meaningful and constructive feedback can be based.”

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