In a packed chamber split between opponents and supporters, Wollongong councillors voted to back the proposed Illawarra offshore wind zone.
However, they also agreed to ask the government to consider moving it further from the coast if feasible, and consider the impact of wind turbines on residents, marine life, shipping and recreational fishing.
At a meeting attended by dozens of community members, making the public gallery standing room only, councillors voted 11-1 to support the wind zone, as it "aligns with the city's efforts to respond to the climate emergency and support local employment".
Before the meeting, a group of protesters met outside the council chambers, after social media organisers asked members to wear blue and sport a sticker from their Facebook page to "send the message we do not support the proposal in its current form".
They were joined by environmentalists, including members of community groups like Knitting Nanas and Electrify 2515 and others who support the wind zone.
Two people, Neryl East and Michael McKeogh, spoke against the council's recommendation, echoing concerns aired at a public forum held in Thirroul on October 7.
Ms East said she believed the council's backing of the proposal was "supporting a project that purports to address one climate disaster by creating another, the potential depression of the Illawarra's marine environment".
She said she supported "appropriate and responsible renewable energy sources" but was "shocked and devastated" to learn of the proposal and was worried Wollongong residents were being used as "crash test dummies".
Ms East was concerned about the effects on tourism and business, and said she had been speaking to hang-gliders who were concerned they would need to walk away from operating at Bald Hill.
But Fairy Meadow resident Phillip Balding and Thirroul resident Courtney Venaglia urged the council to support the recommendation.
Ms Venaglia said the wind farms were an immense opportunity for the Illawarra, which could not ignore the issue of climate change and needed to move away from coal.
"We have an opportunity to upskill our workforces to be able to deliver on this and to create more innovative work within our area and expand that skill into the rest of Australia," she said.
"I think as responsible citizens, we cannot ignore the pressing issue of climate change. We have another bushfire season upon us."
She also said she thought the offshore wind zone proposal could have been better communicated to people, who had only been made aware of the zone recently which had allowed misinformation to flourish online.
She also noted many supporters - who may want to speak up in favour of the plan - were currently busy working on the Voice Yes campaign.
Beginning the debate for councillors, the Greens Mithra Cox said climate change was a mammoth task to solve and needed fast action, involving many forms of renewable energy if future generations were to have a livable planet.
"It's going to require a major economic and industrial transformation within our lifetimes and ideally within the next decade," she said.
"But the alternative does not bear thinking about. The sea level rise predictions for Wollongong, if we remain on the current emissions trajectory that we're currently on is three metres by 2100. My kids will still be alive."
She also took aim at the behaviour of people at the Thirroul forum saying she would not engage with people who "heckle an Aboriginal elder... shouts over the top of anyone with a different opinion, or sends fake information mocked up in Microsoft paint and claim it as evidence".
"If you don't care about the impacts of climate change on my generation and the generations to come, then don't expect me to engage on a deep level," she said.
Labor councillor Ann Martin said she appreciated that there was anxiety about a significant change, and said she also held concerns about marine biology and impacts on the community which she wanted to be addressed.
However, she said she was also keen to address climate change and secure jobs for her children and future generations, and said residents should "embrace the things that worry them" and contribute to the process as the wind zone moves through the government approvals process.
Liberal councillor John Dorahy said he was supportive of the motion, noting that wind turbines off the coast of England did not pose problems for residents.
Only Liberal councillor Elisha Aitken spoke against the motion, saying the council should reject the proposal in its current form until a visual simulation was available.
Otherwise, councillors agreed the city's submission to the government should advocate for the community and ask for the visual impact on the Illawarra coastline to be considered.
They said consideration should be given to extending the minimum distance from the coastline, and said the council wanted extra information on waste management of old blades and equipment, land based requirements including manufacturing exclusion zones and compatibility with surrounding uses.
They also want to know the impact on shipping channels, recreational fishing, fauna, marine life and migratory birds.
The council will also ask that the Federal Government engages with the State, councils and relevant stakeholders to ensure future offshore wind farms provide local benefits like new business and the upskilling of the local workforce.
The council will also ask that there is consultation with First Nations people, request a community benefits scheme.
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