Norah Head National Surfing Reserve has welcomed the news that a wind farm proposed off the eastern coast of NSW will no longer include Norah Head.
The Federal Government announced on July 12 that the offshore wind zone – the second officially declared in Australia – will now stretch over 1,800km2 between Swansea and Port Stephens.
The Government said the final area was declared after two months of public consultation with a smaller footprint than the originally proposed zone – balancing the views of the local community, local industry and sea users.
The revised zone will also be located 20km offshore after previously being planned 10km out from the coastline.
The Government said the changes will enable continued safe management of shipping and other sea industries.
Offshore infrastructure will also be limited to a height of 260 metres to address aviation safety.
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen said the project could create over 3,000 construction jobs and another 1,560 ongoing jobs.
The announcement follows community gatherings of protest organised by the Love Norah Head group and pressure from Norah Head National Surfing Reserve to postpone the zoning of the proposed wind farm pending a swell impact study.
Reserve spokesperson David Stedman said the original wind farm proposal, which would have included Norah Head, had the potential to significantly affect two iconic surf reserves, Norah Head and Merewether, which have played a pivotal role in nurturing and producing numerous world-class surfers and bodyboarders.
In November 2022 Norah Head coastline between Hargraves Beach in the north and Pelican Point in the south was the first stretch of the Central Coast to attain National Surfing Reserve status.
Declaring a Reserve is government and community recognition of its environmental, heritage, sporting and cultural value and encourages stewardship and a community voice to ensure people and governments protect those assets.
Stedman said it was great to see that the local voices of the community had been heard.
“While this removes some impacts of concern on the Norah Head National Surfing Reserve, we would still like more studies to be done on the impact to swell to our reserve,” he said.
“Understanding the possible effects of the wind farm on these reserves is crucial in order to protect their invaluable contribution to the sport, local community, and economy.”
Stedman said while Norah Head National Surfing Reserve recognised the importance of renewable energy projects in combating climate change and transitioning to a sustainable future, it was crucial to strike a balance between those vital initiatives and the preservation of our natural treasures.
Central Coast Council had also called for more community consultation.
Submissions for the project closed on April 28 but Council said in its submission that it was premature to declare the zone until consultation was re-commenced and further updated information was available on how it would affect the community and environment.
Council called on the Government for consultation and information sessions to include communities and groups most affected, such as the North Head community and Norah Head National Surfing Reserve, which were not targeted in previous consultation.
The final declared zone can be found at https://www.dcceew.gov.au/energy/renewable/establishing-offshore-infrastructure
Minister for the Central Coast David Harris welcomed the decision.
“I am pleased the Federal Government has listened to, and acted on, concerns raised by the community, with the decision ensuring our shipping lanes will now be maintained and our migratory birds and whales protected,” he said.
“Congratulations and thanks go to Love Norah Head and our local Federal Member, Emma McBride, whose tireless efforts have secured this win for our community.
“Renewable energy zones are planned for the east coast and we will continue to monitor any proposals.”
Meanwhile, another wind farm between Newcastle and Gosford – Hunter Central Coast Offshore Wind Project by Energy Estate – is currently in the feasibility stage of development with preparation of referrals in the environmental and planning approval process.
Sue Murray and Terry Collins