State Govt rejects offshore wind farm push for South East

Rock lobster fishers and conservationists have been joined by the State Government in opposing a giant wind farm plan for the South East coastline, with calls for a proposed new zone to be pushed back into Victorian waters.

Aug 29, 2023, updated Aug 29, 2023
Third generation Port MacDonnell rock lobster fisher Jeremy Levins is among those worried about new offshore windfarm zones. Photo: supplied

Third generation Port MacDonnell rock lobster fisher Jeremy Levins is among those worried about new offshore windfarm zones. Photo: supplied

In a submission to the Commonwealth, the State Government  expressed concerns about construction of offshore SA wind farms in a proposed zone from Warrnambool in Victoria to Port MacDonnell in South Australia, saying it could have negative impacts on southern fisheries and the marine environment.

The state’s $187.5 million rock lobster industry welcomed the news, along with those worried about abalone, marine scale fish and bluefin tuna fisheries plus the zone’s close proximity to the state’s marine park sanctuary zones.

“Having an offshore energy zone declared off South Australia’s Port MacDonnell in an area critical to our fishery will only add to the uncertainties and stress that the industry and Limestone Coast communities have experienced,” South Australian Rock Lobster Advisory Council executive officer Nathan Kimber said.

“We now hope that Minister Bowen will listen to the submissions made by the South Australian Government and our industry and amend the proposed Southern Ocean offshore energy zone to exclude any waters that overlap with our fishery boundaries.”

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen announced on June 28 that consultation was underway for proposed wind farm zone changes applying to 5100 square kilometres offshore until August 31.

Bowen said the rezoning could lead to the wind power industry creating numerous construction and ongoing jobs, and importantly, more green energy.

Wind farm

Proposed offshore wind farm zone out for consultation.

Southern Coast Ocean Care chair Chris Carrison recently travelled to Canberra to tell Bowen that one global wind company, Blue Float, was already circling to install 77 turbines “almost three times higher than our highest local mountain” between Port MacDonnell in South Australia and Portland in Victoria.

Blue Float announced its plan for a Southern Winds Offshore Wind Project last year, saying it would use bottom-fixed turbine technology for the project 10km to 30km offshore, with turbines mounted on a structure fixed into the seabed.

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Deputy Premier and Environment Minister Susan Close said today that the planned wind energy generated within the zone would be connected exclusively to the Victorian power grid, and the State Government submission recommended the size of the proposed area be reduced or moved so it was no longer in South Australian waters.

“The South Australian Government is committed to renewable energy projects that improve our state’s energy security, but we cannot support ones that have the potential to cause significant harm to local industries and the environment,” Close said.

“This is particularly the case when they have no net benefit to South Australians.

“The zones proximity to our marine parks and the Bonney upwelling is also of significant concern given the rich biodiversity in the region.”

She said the proposed ‘declared area’ directly overlaps an area recognised for its biological and oceanographic significance at a national and international level, with the area well known for the Bonney Coast upwelling.

Commercial fishers fear the impact of noise, vibration, loss of habitat and electromagnetic fields could impact future catches.

Further concerns are held for the proposal’s impact on biodiversity, ecosystems, and impact on a wide range of wildlife, including pygmy blue whale, southern right whale, white shark, along with birds like the Australasian gannet, wedge-tailed shearwater and several species of albatross.

Primary Industries Minister Clare Scriven said seafood sectors operating off the coast of Port MacDonnell contribute more than 1000 full time equivalent jobs to the state and is crucial to regional employment and the local economy.

“The sector needs certainty going forward that some of its most productive fishing grounds will not be impacted by a project that, while impacting on South Australia, will deliver energy to Victoria,” she said.

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