On Sunday 4 February we joined hundreds of locals to support a clean energy future for workers, the community and the environment in the Hunter Valley. The atmosphere was charged with inspiration as speakers spanning health, industry and the environmental sectors, echoed the call for economic and environmental opportunities.
Charlotte McCabe, Councillor for Newcastle Council, said she was “here for common sense, climate change [and] jobs in the Hunter. I’m here in solidarity with the unions.”
“It’s actually very frustrating that we even have to spend our time and energy saying, ‘of course, we want renewable energy projects. There is so much to get done. We’ve got a lot of other crises that are going on. But we have to respond to them.”
Scott Alcorn, a retiree and lifelong union member of the Teachers Federation, shared his motivations for coming along on the day, saying “[I’m here] to hear the perspectives of the union movement in relation to the offshore wind farm and to hopefully get some ammunition to fight back to those who are opposing the wind farm”.
Mis and dis-information has been rife in the region since the declaration of the Hunter Offshore Wind Zone in July 2023, with the now infamous billboard showing a dead whale in Port Stephens becoming a visual symbol of the lengths anti-renewables groups will go to in order to spark fear.
Jasmine Stuart, a Renewable Energy Engineer and member of Rising Tide came along because she is worried about the urgency of climate change. She shares that, “we actually don’t have any more time to spare; climate change is happening right now. We’ve seen record temperatures just being smashed – every day, almost. It’s just off the charts. And so we’ve run out of time to move slowly on renewable energy. We need big solutions. And offshore wind is one of those solutions”.
A key theme of the day was focusing on how the offshore wind in the Hunter can be delivered in environmentally responsible ways, ensuring that impacts to nature and biodiversity were minimal. Nathan Clements, Community Organiser with the Hunter Jobs Alliance said that their work as an alliance of environmental and union organisations has been on advocacy to government to call for best practice environmental assessments and implementation plans. He said, “we want to see independent assessments done to address community concerns and [a] beefing up of the environmental acts, so that people know for certainty that there are going to be proper assessments done and if they are not up to scratch, then we figure it [how to ensure protections or mitigation] out”.
The crowd were hopeful for a clean energy future for the Hunter, with offshore wind playing an integral part. Ross Kerridge, a community member and proud Novacastrian, said he hopes “that Newcastle has built the [offshore wind] industry and all the support services behind it – the research and development work – that it becomes nationally or internationally recognised as a centre for energy. And I hope that it maintains the traditional identity of Newcastle that’s been built up over the last 220 years of which I’m so proud.”
Nathan Clements has similar hopes and views, he said he’d like to see “a huge emphasis on local jobs, local manufacturing, local procurement, benefits to the community – across the board. Let’s do it here, let’s not let the opportunity go to waste”.