Hopeful of job opportunities, residents rally in support of offshore wind farms

Hopeful of job opportunities, residents rally in support of offshore wind farms
Hopeful of job opportunities, residents rally in support of offshore wind farms

declared in July last year, there have been multiple rallies against it. 

Leigh Shears, secretary of Hunter Workers, the union group in charge of the Newcastle event, said it was important to provide correct information on renewable energy “without inflaming people’s emotions”.

“We recognised during the course of last year there was confusion in the community being driven by what we believed were lies and misinformation for political opportunism,” Mr Shears said. 

“We felt it was our responsibility to provide workers in our communities with factual information, without alarmism.”

Leigh Shears gave a speech at the pro-Hunter offshore wind rally.(ABC Newcastle: Romy Stephens)

The federal government is currently assessing feasibility licence applications from companies interested in developing within the zone. 

Mr Shears said the project was in the very early stages but current projections suggested 4,500 jobs would be created. 

“There’s approximately 3,000 jobs in the construction phase, which will take a couple of years, but it’s also estimated [there will be] about 1,560 ongoing maintenance jobs over 30 years,” Mr Shears said. 

“That’s generational change, generational security, generational financial security for families and the region.”

A placard that reads 'my family supports Hunter offshore wind'

It was the first pro-Hunter offshore wind rally since the zone was declared last year.(ABC Newcastle: Romy Stephens)

Widespread rallies

Pro-renewable rallies were also held in Wollongong in New South Wales, the Queensland coastal city of Gladstone and Victoria’s Gippsland region. 

Figtree dad Xavier Mayes and his two children Rowan and Cora were among hundreds of families at a family fun day in Wollongong, in support of the proposed offshore wind zone for the Illawarra.

man with children

Xavier Mayes says an offshore wind zone would likely keep industry in the Illawarra.(ABC Illawarra: Penny Burfitt)

The zone, which will cover a 1,461-square-kilometre area from the Royal National Park to Kiama, has not been officially declared yet. 

It attracted thousands of submissions during community consultation as well as large protests.

Mr Mayes said it would likely keep industry in the Illawarra.

“My dad and mum used to work at the steelworks when I was a kid and I know that things are shifting in terms of the energy transition,” he said.

“The more opportunities we have here for offshore wind and solar will be really good for workers here.” 

Mr Mayes said he and other parents were also thinking of their children.

“I’m really worried about what the future is going to be like for them and that we need to shift really quickly to clean energy,” Mr Mayes said.

toddler painting

Local families made up the bulk of attendees in Wollongong. Ella, two, paints part of a banner.(ABC Illawarra: Penny Burfitt)

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Gavan McFadzean said the turnout was positive.

“I think it sends a message that there’s really strong community support for the local benefits, the economic and climate benefits, of making the switch to renewable energy,” he said.

Calls for job security

Former Illawarra coal miner Darryl Best said a local wind zone would secure jobs by providing locally sourced renewable energy and would keep local industry running.

man in hat read at a microphone

Darryl Best says local renewable energy will be essential to keeping industry open in the Illawarra.(ABC Illawarra: Penny Burfitt)

“In the past there were other mines opening, but that isn’t happening now, there isn’t an abundance of jobs for these workers to adapt their skills into,” he said.

“That is why it’s important that we transition into renewables as soon as possible.”

Joanna Tavita, 30, and Jasmine Loades, 21, are wharfies who load and unload wind turbine parts at the Port of Newcastle. 

Two young women standing side by side.

Joanna Tavita and Jasmine Loades hope the Hunter offshore wind project will provide job security.(ABC Newcastle: Romy Stephens)

Ms Loades said offshore wind would give her job security, with coal exports expected to decrease in coming years. 

“With the coal going, not right now but in the future, we need an energy source and the wind turbines will provide that for us,” she said. 

“There’s also the fact of job stability and we definitely need that as young people with our working lives ahead of us.”

Ms Tavita hoped the development of offshore wind would mean more work. 

“Where we work, it’s very unstable, it’s up and down all the time,” she said. 

“But if the flow of these turbines comes through it means more work for us, more economy flow and more work for all the sectors involved.” 

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Source: abc.net.au

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