Hunter offshore wind one step closer to fruition



Hunter offshore wind one step closer to fruition

20 June 2024

The Maritime Union of Australia welcomes the strides towards an offshore wind powered future around the Australian coastline with the next steps announced for the Hunter offshore wind zone made by the Australian Federal Government this week in the Port of Newcastle.

For a region that has powered Australia and the world for generations through the extraction and export of rich coal resources, this new energy industry represents a huge opportunity for the Hunter and all of New South Wales, providing reliable renewables to power homes and heavy industry while creating highly skilled and well-paid jobs that will sustain and reward generations of Newcastle workers.

The development of a long term offshore wind industry based in the Hunter could support future onshore manufacturing, as it builds on the local industrial expertise and infrastructure that’s required to keep Newcastle’s heavy industries working.

With the issuing of feasibility licences for the potential Novocastrian Wind Pty Ltd project, the project is one step closer to fruition.

Should the project go ahead, it would inject development expenditure worth billions into the Hunter region and leverage existing heavy industry during construction, and could generate over 2 GW of electricity, equivalent to powering 1.2 million homes or two Tomago smelters.

Consultation with First Nations groups, communities, unions and marine users will continue throughout the feasibility licence process, while environmental studies and a detailed management plan is prepared.

As well as providing reliable renewable energy to Australian industry, offshore wind projects must be required to maximise their use of Australian supply chains and to skill up local workforces. The MUA stands alongside other unions including the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) in calling for the federal government to ensure local workers and businesses benefit from the establishment of this new industry.

There are also clear requirements for the offshore wind developer to consult with fishers and avoid, mitigate and offset any impacts on fishing.

The government has also announced that they expect recreational fishers will be able to travel and fish within offshore wind zone, which already occurs internationally in the United Kingdom and Denmark.

“The Hunter has been an industrial and economic powerhouse for generations, and my decision today is a big step towards providing that powerhouse with reliable renewables,” Minister Bowen said today.

“The project I’ve shortlisted offers the biggest rewards for the Hunter and Australia – supporting our workforce and energy security, protecting our environment and sharing our marine space with the people and industries who rely on it today,” Bowen added.

The developer has said it would employ around 3,000 workers during construction and create around 200-300 permanent local jobs. The MUA has made is clear that these need to be quality, secure jobs on union agreements.

The MUA’s Assistant National Secretary, Thomas Mayo, welcomed the announcement, saying, “Our members are keen to get to work on these massive long-term projects. We have the skills and the experience working offshore with massive installations in the offshore oil and gas industry to pivot to renewable energy projects like the Hunter offshore wind proposal.”

“The wind is blowing around 20km/hr today offshore near Newcastle, which is nearly double the average speed of inland winds that power land based wind farms, so it’s a tremendous resource that we need to tap into for our future energy security. This is how we can tackle the climate crisis and build a safe, secure and affordable energy system – not through expensive and dangerous nuclear power stations,” Mr Mayo added.

Mr Mayo highlighted the importance of enforceable procurement standards for offshore wind developers to lock in the economic and social benefits for Australian communities like the Hunter.

“We look forward to working with Minister Bowen and the Albanese Labor Government to ensure these projects provide lasting economic benefit for all Australians. We look forward to seeing these huge floating wind turbines assembled in the Port of Newcastle, with their massive floating foundations made from Australian steel.”

Secretary of the Newcastle Branch of the MUA, Glen Williams, has long supported the offshore wind proposals for the Hunter region. “Newcastle and the broader Hunter region faces immense challenges in the energy transition, so this project is a critical next step in securing future industries and jobs for our city and the towns nearby where our members and their families live,” Mr Williams said.

“Our branch and our members have a proud history of working alongside the manufacturing, mining and engineering sectors both on the waterfront and aboard ships that export energy and heavy industrial products to the rest of Australia and beyond, so we are excited to play a central role in developing and then maintaining these new renewable energy projects,” Mr Williams added.

“Offshore wind is going to provide wharfies and seafarers in Newcastle with well paid, secure employment for generations to come,” Mr Williams said.

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