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Port lease won’t allow for new wind turbine

NSW could be running almost entirely on renewable energy by the time the 98-year lease for Newcastle port expires, but not a zephyr of wind power will be coming from the port.

State government bureaucrats have specifically banned the future construction of wind turbines and wind farms from the leased port area.

‘‘This is pure ideological bloody mindedness,’’ Newcastle Greens Councillor Michael Osborne, who uncovered the detail while pouring over the 251-page lease document, said.

Future hotels, hospitals, sport and recreation facilities, residential development and shopping centres have also been prohibited from the lease area, also known as the total concession area.

The lease document was drawn up while Barry O’Farrell, a vocal opponent of wind turbines, was still premier.

Current premier Mike Baird and environment minister Rob Stokes have taken a more conciliatory approach, with Mr Stokes last week acknowledging that NSW had the potential to become Australia’s answer to California in relation to renewable energy generation.

Cr Osborne said the types of development allowed around the port should be guided by strategic planning and community consultation.

‘‘The state government could have listened to the community and inserted a requirement for the new leasee to get the existing port operations up to world’s best practice, like covering the stockpiles,’’ he said.

‘‘There are many in the community who would much prefer to see a proper wind farm on Kooragang Island than those huge uncovered stockpiles of coal.’’

A spokesman for NSW treasurer Andrew Constance hit back.

‘‘The Greens spend every hour campaigning to end the coal industry, but all of a sudden want wind turbines to spread coal dust across Newcastle,’’ he said.

‘‘The wind farm clause has been included in the lease given the location of coal stockpiles at the Port of Newcastle. It was not appropriate to allow wind farms adjacent to the stockpiles because of the potential to create coal dust issues.’’

Newcastle MP Tim Owen said he supported the lease conditions.

‘‘The bottom line is the port needs to remain a port,’’ he said.

‘‘The experience in Brisbane was if you give a little bit over for this and another bit for that, the port operations get pushed right to the mouth of the port.’’

Mr Owen said he was keen to the see the exiting Ausgrid turbine, which is excluded from the wind energy ban, given a new lease of life under a proposal put forward by the Clean Energy Association of Newcastle and Surrounds and AGL Energy.

If successful the turbine, which its current owner Ausgrid is seeking to offload, would be used generate energy for Hunter surf clubs at a discounted rate.