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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Matthew Kelly

Bowen and Port Stephens offshore wind opponents agree to keep talking

Port Stephens fishing and tourism industry representatives have agreed to further discussions with Energy Minister Chris Bowen about the impact of offshore wind generation on their community.

Paterson MP Meryl Swanson facilitated a meeting between five community representatives and Mr Bowen in Canberra on Monday.

It followed three community protests over the government's proposed Hunter Offshore Wind project in the last two months. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has also made two recent trips to Port Stephens to seize on community concerns.

Paterson MP Meryl Swanson with Port Stephens community representatives on Monday.

Mr Bowen declined another request from the community representatives to reopen the community consultation period for the project.

However, he agreed to take on board specific feedback about potential impacts on fishing and tourism.

"It was made abundantly clear that the initial consultation process was not good enough," No Coastal Wind Farms Port Stephens Group member Rhys Westbury said.

"We also spoke about the many drawbacks that we see happening with this particular project impacting the fishing zone.

"If the minister wants to assure the community that they are being listened to he must go back to the drawing board to some degree."

Chris Bowen launches the community consultation process for the Hunter Offshore Wind Project in Newcastle in February.

The federal government is presently assessing about 20 feasibility licence applications from offshore wind developers who have expressed interest in working in the declared 1800 square kilometre zone between Port Stephens to Catherine Hill Bay.

Applications will be assessed using merit criteria, which includes local content, job opportunities and legislative requirements.

The successful applicants are not expected to be announced before mid-2024.

Mr Westbury said the community representatives voiced concerns about private developers undertaking their own feasibility studies.

"It's not a great way to proceed with a project like this," he said.

Despite their ongoing concerns, Mr Westbury said the meeting had been useful.

The declared Hunter Offshore Wind Zone

"I think we were heard and Meryl (Swanson) did a great job as the facilitator of the discussion," he said.

"We left the meeting feeling that we are getting somewhere. We won't stop. Hopefully this is the start of more facilitation and discussion."

In a statement, Mr Bowen said the government was committed to genuine consultation and ensuring regional communities reaped the rewards of the clean energy transformation.

"That's why I met with a group of Port Stephens fishers and tourism operators for the second time, to discuss next steps for the Hunter offshore wind zone," he said.

"The government will only be licensing projects that can co-exist alongside the environment and existing industry, such as fisheries, and deliver meaningful, long lasting community benefits."

Following awarding of feasibility licences, communities will have further opportunities to engage with projects in the Hunter Offshore Wind Zone

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