Navigating the Winds of Change: A Commitment to Community Engagement in Offshore Renewable Energy

19 January 2024

In recent months, I have had the privilege of engaging with numerous individuals and interested groups to gather perspectives on the crucial matter of the Hunter offshore renewable energy zone. These discussions reveal a myriad of concerns and opinions from various stakeholders. As a representative committed to serving my community, I want to emphasize the importance of acknowledging and addressing these concerns.

The issues raised during these conversations have not fallen on deaf ears; instead, they have become an integral part of an ongoing conversation with the Minister for Climate Change and Energy, the Hon Chris Bowen MP. I have made it my priority to have an open line of communication to relay the thoughts and opinions of the community to the Minister and his team. 

Last year I conducted a mobile office, a community forum which the Minster attended, plus numerous meetings with representatives from the Newcastle Port Stephens Game Fish Club, No Coastal Windfarms Port Stephens, many discussions with constituents when I am out and about in the community, as well as being hosted on a game fishing boat to see our coastline from offshore.

One significant step towards fostering transparency and collaboration was advocacy for a delegation of local representatives to meet with Minister Bowen in Canberra. This meeting, which took place late last year, provided face to face engagement, allowing our community to express its views directly to the decision-maker.

The delegation to Canberra was a was a crucial opportunity to bridge the gap between the community and the policy-making process.  Minister Bowen offered this delegation an opportunity to share their concerns, insights, and recommendations. The delegation was tasked with providing a set of conditions that they could present to the Minister for his consideration when determining the feasibility licences, essentially using this input to create parameters for proponents to work within. I eagerly await their recommendations.

I want to assure the community that I have not been silent or indifferent to their concerns. On the contrary, I have been actively working with the community and with the Minister to find a solution. 

I am committed to navigating the complexities of offshore renewable energy with the community's best interests at heart. I understand the scepticism and criticism and am dedicated to finding a solution that ensures the best possible outcomes. I love our coast as much as anyone and have spent most of my new year “up the Bay” as we affectionately say.

It is imperative that we continue listening to each other, learning from different perspectives, and collectively shaping the future of our region. The road to sustainable energy may be challenging, but with open dialogue and a shared commitment to our community and coast we can harness the winds of change for a brighter and more sustainable future.

Political Manoeuvring or Genuine Progress? Unpacking the Liberal Agenda in Offshore Renewable Energy

In recent times, the debate surrounding the offshore renewable energy zone in the Port Stephens has become a focal point for political manoeuvring. It’s clear the Opposition are strategically using the offshore renewable energy debate to position themselves politically.  Peter Dutton knows an opportunity when he sees one.

The offshore renewable energy zone has become a Trojan horse for the promotion of nuclear power in the Port Stephens region. This dual agenda raises concerns about transparency and the true priorities of the Opposition. Is the focus genuinely on fostering sustainable and clean energy, or is it a political gambit to introduce nuclear power through the back door and onto the Tomaree Headland?

In navigating the complexities of energy policy, it is crucial to separate genuine commitment to renewable energy from political opportunism. The community deserves a transparent and honest conversation about the future of energy in the Port Stephens region, free from hidden agendas.  

I can assure you, as the custodians of Australia's energy policy, Ministers Tanya Plibersek (Minister for the Environment and Water) and Chris Bowen (Minister for Climate Change and Energy) have demonstrated an unwavering dedication to advancing renewable energy laws that align with the need for environmental stewardship.

They have embraced the idea that the shift towards renewables is a necessity and an economic opportunity. Their vision extends beyond reducing carbon footprints; it encompasses job creation, technological innovation, and positioning Australia as a global leader in the renewable energy sector.

As someone who has deep roots in our coal mining community, I recognise and deeply value the role that coal mining plays in our regions and nations economy. Our local coal industry is a source of prosperity, providing jobs and sustaining families. It is crucial to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our miners who have contributed significantly to our community's prosperity. Many of whom live, holiday and fish in Port Stephens.

As we stand at the cusp of a rapidly changing global energy landscape, it is incumbent upon us to consider the long-term sustainability of our energy sources. The world is moving towards a future that demands cleaner and more sustainable alternatives.

I firmly believe that a responsible and forward-looking approach involves acknowledging the need for change while understanding the immediate impact on our community. The Hunter will continue to provide its superior coal to the world for many years to come and while coal mining continues to be a significant part of our present, we must simultaneously plan for a future.

We need policies that ensure our workers are not left behind in the evolving energy landscape by investing in education, skills training, and creating opportunities including in the renewable energy sector.

In essence, as we navigate the path forward, we must ensure that our government remains committed to transparency, inclusivity, and the well-being of all Australians. The transition should be a collective effort, where no citizen is left in the dark figuratively and literally, and the benefits of a sustainable future are shared by everyone.

This is not about abandoning our roots but about embracing a balanced and sustainable approach.

I am committed to working collaboratively with our community, industry stakeholders, and the government to find solutions that safeguard both our economic interests and the environmental health of our region.