The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), along with other unions and environmental groups, is campaigning to for an offshore wind farm industry in the Illawarra, near Wollongong.
The plan, if approved, would cover 1461 square kilometres of ocean between 10 and 30 kilometres offshore from Wombarra to Kiama.
The MUA argues that it an opportunity “to build the renewable energy infrastructure we need to create thousands of good union jobs and meet our climate obligations at the same time”.
It said in its submission that offshore wind could provide the “renewable energy to keep Illawarra manufacturing going and allow the furnaces at BlueScope to keep making the steel we need”. Climate change and the heating of oceans is the greatest threat to ocean life, it said.
It said that with a “skilled workforce, great electricity grid connections and port infrastructure” and a location close to large electricity loads and with strong and consistent winds, the initiative needs to be supported.
The MUA rebutted a number of allegations made against the wind farm proposal. “The wind turbines will not affect the swell on nearby surf beaches”, it said. Studies overseas and in Gippsland show that the marine environment will not be negatively affected by wind farms and that “climate change is the main threat to marine life”.
It also said wind turbines “pose no significant threat to birds” and that there is “no evidence that whale migration patterns are affected by offshore wind turbines”.
However, a local opposition campaign, backed by right-wing politicians, organised a rally Flagstaff Hill near Wollongong on October 29, calling on the federal government to “keep the sea free”. Speakers included Gareth Ward, Liberal MP for Kiama, and representatives of One Nation and the Shooters and Fishers Party.
Academics from the University of Wollongong say they support the offshore wind zone subject to it meeting the highest environmental, social and cultural standards.
The ABC reported on October 7 the group said offshore wind was the most viable way of ensuring renewable energy grid security for the National Energy Market. In their submission, the group said: “To put this in perspective, just two wind farms of 100 turbines would produce more energy than Eraring, Australia’s largest coal-fired power station, located near Lake Macquarie in NSW.”
[Make a submission to the Illawarra wind farm consultation by November 15.]