OFFSHORE WIND INDUSTRY

Adjournment

Danny O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (17:22): (216) My adjournment matter this evening is to the Minister for Energy and Resources, and the action I seek is for a plan to be put in place to ensure that Gippsland benefits from the proposed offshore wind industry in the Bass Strait. As the minister will be aware, there are a number of proposals – indeed the federal government has a process that has closed now for expressions of interest for acreage for offshore wind. In fact, all of it is offshore from my electorate of Gippsland South, running from Wilsons Prom to the Lakes Entrance area or the Seaspray–Loch Sport area. But I am very concerned at the government’s policy to utilise Hastings as the main port for construction, which will require significant investment by the state in a very short amount of time, and I do not believe there is anything in the state budget for this development. Of course I am most interested to see Barry Beach marine terminal being used as a port, both for construction and for operation and maintenance where possible, and that would ensure that Gippsland actually benefits.

The concern that I have and that people are starting to realise in Gippsland is that while this massive offshore wind farm development may start to occur literally off our coast, we may not see any benefits from it. The government actually needs to ensure that Gippsland gets something out of this. If we are going to go through a transition – certainly the coal-fired plants in the Latrobe Valley are closing down; the offshore oil and gas industries are winding down – we need to be getting something from it. This is a port-based project, and we need to actually ensure that we are going to get some benefit from it, so some attention particularly to Barry Beach as our main port that could be useful for the offshore wind industry would be good.

Equally, I would request that the minister and her department lead on two other issues. One is consultation. We have already had a number of the proposed companies coming to the area holding consultation sessions, and that is great, but at the point where the federal government actually allocates acreage to four, five, six, seven companies – I do not know how many companies it may be – the government, councils and the federal government should try and coordinate consultation so that we are not being consulted by six different companies but there is a coordinated approach. They should work with the companies to do that.

The second part where I would like to see coordination is in terms of community benefits. We would expect that each company would likely have some sort of community benefits program. Rather than the old ‘$80,000 a year and we’ll sponsor new jumpers for the footy team,’ ideally we would have a coordinated approach with a local trust that could manage this money and make sure we get real benefits. Whether it is the construction of a new childcare centre, funding for a school or whatever it might be, these are the things we need the government to do to make sure that Gippsland actually benefits from the offshore wind industry.

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