The Federal Opposition is calling on the government to extend and expand its consultation around the proposed Hunter Offshore Wind Zone.
The project involves hundreds of wind turbines being placed 10 to 50 kilometres off the coast on 2810 square kilometres between Norah Head and Port Stephens. It would be one of six off-shore wind projects around the country planned to operate by 2028.
The Federal Government’s Energy, Climate Change and Environment Department received just over 1900 submissions from the community consultation earlier this year – 93.6 per cent of them being from individuals not organisations.
Shadow Minister for Energy Ted O’Brien held a community forum yesterday at Norah Head with community leaders and organisations.
He says the community are rightly very concerned.
“This is a very distressed community and I don’t blame them. They feel like they weren’t included in consultation about this and even now they feel that their voice isn’t being heard by the Albanese government and if you’re looking at having wind turbines more than 250-metres high just 10 kilometres off the coast, you want to have a say and certainly the people I met with in Norah Head don’t believe they’ve had that opportunity.
“If the Minister isn’t prepared to give them the courtesy of his ear, then I feel as though the least I can do is visit personally and see what they have to say.”
He said the community didn’t realise the consultation was underway until just before it closed with no local forum or information session to get the answers they needed.
“So they only had a handful of days to suddenly scramble, form an opinion and make a submission and they weren’t adequately advised about the proposal in the first place was what their key concern was. They feel like they weren’t granted the opportunity to provide their point of view.
“My message to the Minister is that it is regional communities that are on the front line of Australia’s energy transition and ti therefore has to be their voices that are heard in this process. A social licence and a community consent must be a pre-requisite when you are introducing major changes that are going to affect a way of life, a local economy and the environment of regional areas. It’s only fair they have their say and have their voices heard,” said Shadow Minister O’Brien.