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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Matthew Kelly

Stage set for Port Stephens offshore wind protest

Opponents of the Hunter Offshore Wind project are predicting a large turnout for a rally in Nelson Bay on Saturday.

It follows groundswell of community concern about the project's consultation process and its potential impacts on the Port Stephens marine environment and economy.

"We have got people from Sydney and out west coming, it's going to be pretty big," organiser Brent Hancock said.

"I have never been into protests, but this is more about community awareness and telling the government we don't want it."

No Coastal Wind Farms Collective - Port Stephens has raised specific concerns about the five gigawatt project's potential to wreak havoc with east coast current flows and potentially trigger a series of disastrous environmental consequences.

Offshore wind protesters are expecting a large turn out at Saturday's rally. Picture by Jonathan Carroll.

"There are so many issues of concern that have not been adequately addressed," Mr Hancock said.

"Offshore wind farms have never been done off the east coast of Australia. We have such a unique climate and environment. The ocean here is completely different to the North Sea in Europe where it's relatively flat, calm and shallow. That's not even considering the wildlife issues."

About 100 protestors greeted Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen when he arrived at a meeting at Nelson Bay last month to discuss community concerns about the project.

The community representatives urged Mr Bowen to consider a mix of solar and onshore wind farms in place of offshore turbines.

He was also asked to reopen community consultation for the Hunter Offshore Wind Project, but he refused.

Speaking in Newcastle the following day, Prime Minister Albanese argued modifications had already been made to the original offshore wind proposal as a result of feedback received during the two month community consultation process that ran from February 23 to April 28.

Brent Hancock after meeting with minister Chris Bowen on Tuesday. Picture by Jonathan Carroll

This included reducing the project's footprint from 2810 square kilometers to 1800 square kilometers and increasing its distance from the coast .

He said stakeholders would have another three opportunities to have their say about the project as part of the ongoing approval process.

Mr Albanese also pointed to the project's job creation potential, which includes an estimated 3000 jobs during the construction phase and another 1500 ongoing maintenance jobs.

Last week Opposition leader Peter Dutton called on the federal government to reopen community consultation following a meeting with tourist and business operators and commercial fishers at Shoal Bay.

"The consultation process just hasn't been up to scratch. I think this is another project where (Climate Change and Energy Minister) Chris Bowen has misread the community and he is acting against the best interests of this region," Mr Dutton said.

Politicians including National Party MPs Barnaby Joyce and David Gillespie and One Nation representatives Mark Watson and Tania Mihailuk and Mark Banasiak from the Shooters Fishers and Farmers party have indicated they will be attending Saturday's rally at Nelson Bay foreshore.

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