"Let's not trash the oceans trying to save the planet."
That's the message of anxious opponents of offshore wind farm plans for the Illawarra, which they see as "an environmental disaster waiting to happen".
At the heart of their concerns is the potential threat to "precious" whales, as well as the impact on migratory birds, the seabed, coastal tourism and quality of life.
In the wake of government info sessions that some residents didn't hear about until after the event, multiple anti-wind farm Facebook groups have sprung up, the largest of which has garnered 2400 members.
The month-long consultation period included six in-person drop-in sessions, where community members could ask questions of departmental staff. Cunningham MP Alison Byrnes recently added two extra sessions organised by her office to take place before the cut-off for submissions on October 16.
But Mr Drinkwater says the process has been poorly communicated and badly timed.
"It goes over school holidays, it goes over the referendum, the long weekend and the footy finals," he said.
"I mean, if you were sitting down to think, when can we do something that people have the least attention, let's do it then."
He was surprised and heartened by the turnout to his meeting, with 125 people packing out the room for around 90 minutes.
"The feeling at the meeting was just a very decent bunch of people, there was no one trying to hog the limelight or trying to say silly things," he said.
"There was an old seaman there, a guy who worked on building oil rigs, then there were bankers, tradies and just a whole range of reasonable people who brought up their families here and are concerned about what's going on with the climate and environment.
"And they just want to do the right thing, but they're concerned: Is this the right thing?"
Mr Drinkwater is adamant it's not.
"I think it's a terrible idea. I just can't believe they're actually considering it.
"And they want to put these things smack dab in the middle of probably the biggest whale migration path in the world, which is the east coast of Australia."
Local federal and state MPs have said the impacts on people and animals were all being considered and any licence to develop offshore wind turbines in the Illawarra would require further community consultation down the track.
But Mr Drinkwater believes it's imperative opponents send a clear message early on.
"I've been involved with big developments before where I've tried to bring them into some sort of reasonable state and you've got to get in and say what you want at the very early stages," he said.
Former Wollongong councillor Kerrieanne Christian, who attended the Coledale meeting, was visiting Europe recently when devastating and unprecedented wildfires broke out.
"You don't need to convince me that something needs to be done about climate change and we're running out of time," she said.
"However, we've got to be careful how we do it, and so therefore when we set up wind farms, we should make sure they're not going to prejudice the whales because it's taken a long time for them to come back after all the hunting that took place a century ago.
"And also we should be not endangering birds like the ones on Five Islands.
"Obviously everyone knows there's a concern about views, but it goes way beyond that.
"Certainly the whales are regarded as precious and we have international obligations for protecting the albatross and petrel.
"It's not to say we can't have coastal wind. It's just that we need to be very careful about where we put it."
Mrs Christian was also concerned about the use of technology potentially excluding older residents from the consultation process.
"I am worried by the fact that some of the elderly may not be able to use QR codes and internet," she said.
She was pleased to hear that Ms Byrnes had organised extra meetings but hoped they would not be "one-sided".
"Will they be listening to what people are worried about or not?"
An uneasy alliance has formed between ocean advocates and climate change deniers, with both camps uniting over a shared fear of losing what they love.
In response to a man calling climate change "bu!!$hit, just like COVID", a fellow member pointed out the divisive words were counterproductive.
"I understand that your comments about climate change and COVID can and will be used to characterise any community opposition to wind farms as conspiratorial and unscientific," they wrote.
"You have every right to post, just like the rest of us, but posts like that will make it harder to mount a campaign that the government will listen to."
Mr Drinkwater said wind farm opponents would only achieve their goals if they acted as "many in body, one in mind".
"Let's work together as a team and tell the politicians, this is what we're thinking," he said.
"I suppose with any group, you're going to get a broad range of opinions.
"And of course, if you want to be a denier of climate change you can latch onto those kinds of things.
"But I think overall most people are reasonable."
With an apparent lack of proper wind infrastructure modelling, Facebook group members have been busy creating their own visuals, showing 280-metre turbines alongside the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and even Port Kembla's toppled copper stack.
One of these DIY graphics has a turbine blowing black smoke and the words "not in our front yard", a statement another member took issue with.
"This graphic will not help your cause," they wrote on Facebook.
"In order to get it stopped there needs to be genuine environment, sustainability, social, economic reasons why it shouldn't be approved.
"Saying 'not in our front yard' just makes it look like spoiled people who are happy for it to go somewhere else.
"It actually proves their point (it has to go in someone's 'yard') and will help their cause to get it approved."
Meantime, a fed-up member of a local community Facebook page took the group to task for "unsubstantiated, misleading and wrong claims", insisting that everyone who shares information about the wind farms from now on "must show their source, or be discounted. And that goes for all viewpoints."
The Albanese government is seeking to use the technology to meet its net-zero by 2050 emissions target, while keeping the lights on and easing coal-fired power out of the system.
It has set aside a number of regions around the nation's coastline for the development of large-scale wind power.
The first wind zone to be declared was off Victoria's Gippsland region, with the Hunter declared in July and four other areas - Illawarra (NSW), Portland (Victoria), northern Tasmania and Perth-Bunbury (WA) - expected to follow.
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