Proposed off-shore wind farm in State’s South East will decimate region’s $100 million a year lobster industry and threaten hundreds of jobs: SA-BEST

21 August 2023

A proposed giant off-shore wind farm to be built off the coast of Port MacDonnell in South Australia’s South East has the potential to wipe out the region’s $100 million dollar lobster industry and threaten hundreds of job, SA-BEST warned today. 

SA-BEST MLC Connie Bonaros today also warned if the project – being proposed by BlueFloat Energy – proceeded there would be no economic gain for SA with the renewable energy generated by the project destined to be fed into the Victorian electricity transmission grid resulting in little or no energy benefit to South Australia. 

Connie also voiced concern the Federal Government’s plans for a new offshore wind zone in the Southern Ocean - that would stretch over a 5100 square kilometres area from Warrnambool in Victoria to northwest of Port MacDonnell - would “open the flood gates” to more wind farms in the South East – again with absolutely no benefit to South Australia.

The South Australian Rock Lobster Advisory Council (SARLAC) and RecFish SA - the peak representative industry body for SA – also have grave concerns about the issue. 

Connie will introduce a motion in State Parliament when it resumes next week to ensure the entire Parliament addresses the issue. Among other things, the motion: 

  • calls on the Premier, Peter Malinauskas, to register the government’s strong objection to the Federal Government over the wind farm zone encroaching past the Victorian border; 
  • notes BlueFloat Energy has already lodged plans for a 77-turbine wind farm off the coast of Port MacDonnell, South Australia’s most southerly town;
  • recognises the potential for more wind farms should the proposed new zone be proclaimed, with no benefit to South Australia, and;
  • expresses concern at the sheer size and footprint of each wind turbine with each tower above sea level being as high at Adelaide Oval is long (190 metres) and the diameter of each blade being 60m wider as the length of Adelaide Oval.

 “As a matter of urgency, the State Government must lodge its protest with the Federal Government in the strongest possible terms,” Connie said. 

“Make no mistake, the Federal Government IS going to declare a new wind zone in the Southern Ocean – the question is where and how big will it be? The new zone must stop at the Victoria-SA border,” she said. 

“The proposal could not be occurring at a worse time for the SA rock lobster industry, with current catches generating about a half of the usual annual $250 million yield.

“After three years of instability caused by COVID and the significant trade disruption with China, the rock lobster industry in Port MacDonnell is now facing another crisis. 

“The State Government needs to be congratulated for the strong support it has given the industry to date to help it navigate the uncertainties surrounding COVID and the much-publicised trade disruptions – but that support must continue. 

“And it comes at a time when the Premier is preparing to travel to China for important trade talks – and where our rock lobster industry will be central to those discussions. 

“Why should SA even consider wind turbines off some of our state’s most prestigious coastline that will destroy SA’s most important and sustainable seafood resource – the southern rock lobster – destroy habitat critical to recreational and tourism opportunities, jeopardise a range of migrating mammals and seabirds, while providing absolutely no benefits to SA.

“The industry is arguing that if the state is going to initiate/support an offshore wind industry off the coast of South Australia, it should be done in our own time, on our own terms, with thorough industry consultation - and most importantly, so that South Australians benefit. 

“I believe all South Australians would agree with that. 

“And just to put things in perspective, each wind turbine proposed for this new wind farm will be up to 250 metres in size above sea level – that’s 90 metres longer than the length of Adelaide Oval – and there will be 77 of them! 

“Do South Australians want such ghastly infrastructure rising out of some of our most precious and pristine waters – no!” 

BlueFloat Energy – and its partner Energy Estate – has laid claim to about 300 square kilometres of ocean, largely off the coast of Port MacDonnell, for its 1.155 GW project, which it announced in June last year. 

Connie said there is mounting opposition to the proposal, with both local councils in the area – the City of Mount Gambier and the Grant District Council – passing motions opposing it. 

Local residents are also outraged with two meetings in Mount Gambier and Port MacDonnell attracting more than 550 people - with well over half  of Port MacDonnell’s town population  turning out for a meeting there. 

“If the current zone proposal is approved, it will be tied up in red tape and legal fights for years to come – and that is not something the industry and community can absorb,” Connie said. 

“And the longer it looms, the longer the uncertainty, stress and anxiety is prolonged for everyone involved,” she said. 

“Conservation is also a critical issue in this matter – the impact of a rock lobster pot being dropped off the side of a boat versus between 700 to 1000 tonnes of concrete and steel being poured into the ocean floor for each turbine. 

“And we know if the new zone is approved, it will open up the entire area to more and more wind farms along some of the state’s most pristine coastlines and the catastrophic damage that will cause. 

“Hundreds of jobs are under threat, generational family businesses are at risk, townships threaten being wiped out.” 

The South Australian Rock Lobster Advisory Council (SARLAC) is deeply concerned about the issue and has written to Premier Malinauskas requesting he writes to the Federal Government to voice his government’s concerns. 

A delegation - including SARLAC’s Executive Officer, Nathan Kimber - travelled to Canberra recently to meet with Federal Climate Change and Energy Minister, Chris Bowen, to oppose the proposed zone. 

“SARLAC was buoyed by the Minister’s comments that he is not interested in substituting existing industries and jobs for new ones,” Nathan said. 

“We were encouraged by precedents set in declaring offshore renewable zones off the Gippsland and Hunter coasts that - as a result of industry and community consultation - the location and size of these zones were amended,” he said. 

“We felt like the Minister has left the door open for us to push back on the location and size of this zone, because of the importance of the area to our fishery and broader industries. 

“In pushing back, SARLAC is calling on the South Australian Government to fight for its most valuable fishery – to prioritise an industry that has operated commercially for 80 years in these waters sustaining tremendous economic and social outputs for our state, year on year. 

“We implore the Premier and Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development to make submissions to the Federal Government that the proposed Southern Ocean offshore wind zone concludes at the Victorian and South Australian border.” 

SARLAC has raised a number of other concerns including: 

  • understanding the impact of underwater noise and vibrations on settlement and general wellbeing of rock lobster; 
  • understanding the impact of Electromagnetic fields (EMF) on rock lobster; 
  • understanding the impact of habitat loss (some 700 tonnes of concrete and steel is going to be poured into the ocean floor for each turbine); 
  • understanding the impact of the turbines on the Bonney Upwelling – a natural phenomenon that is fuelled by the south easterlies winds of South Eastern Australia, and; 
  • seismic testing – this is the first activity that will occur within the zone and scientific evidence also exists to suggest the sound blasts do irreparable damage to rock lobster. 

RecFish SA Executive Officer, Asher Dezsery, said his group – which represents about 360,000 South Australian recreation fishers in a sector worth about $1 billion in annual state economic revenue - is strongly opposed to the project highlighted by 94 per cent of about 1500 responses it has received on the proposal, opposed to it. 

“RecFish SA stands strongly in unison with the commercial rock lobster industry, conservation groups and regional communities such as the South East towns affected,” Asher said. 

“The recreational fishing community expects sustainability, positive environmental outcomes and fisheries stock security are at the forefront of any decision made by departments concerned,” he said.  

“Port MacDonnell has an incredibly unique environmental and hydrological structure, making it one of the jewels in the crown for South Australian recreational fishing. The continental shelf is less than 30km from shore, creating an abundance of rare and temperamental fisheries such as the Southern Blue Fin Tuna migration, attracting fish from all over the world with weights often over 130kg each, creating opportunities for reliable recreational access when weather permits. Under no circumstances are these iconic fisheries or reef structures to be put at risk. 

“The very purpose for renewable energy is to reduce environmental impact to vulnerable species and ecosystems, and drilling and pouring concrete into the reefs and oceans government are professing to protect is completely counter productive and rejected by the communities and stakeholders involved. 

“RecFish SA has remained involved and committed to ensuring regional towns are not forgotten, and are completely supported through situations such as the wind energy proposal. The recreational fishing industry will continue to stand with all others and say ‘no’ to risking our pristine waters to projects such as these.”

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