Illawarra residents will have to wait months for any decision on the declaration of a offshore wind zone and as the dust settles on two months of at times bruising consultation community groups are calling on the government to do better next time.
Emails sent to those who made a submission on the Illawarra offshore wind zone after the end of the consultation period state that no decision will be made before the end of the year.
The website of one of the leading proponents suggest that developers are expecting a decision on the zone in early 2024.
Under the Offshore Energy Infrastructure Act, the Energy Minister Chris Bowen has the power to declare the zone at the size in the draft zone, declare a smaller zone or not declare a zone at all.
The minister also has the power to declare the zone with conditions, such as in Newcastle, where turbines were limited in height to 260 metres, due to aviation security concerns with the nearby Newcastle Airport and RAAF Williamtown Airbase.
Questions were sent to Minister Bowen's office about when the Illawarra could expect a decision, however no reply was received.
Cunningham MP Alison Byrnes said there was no deadline for a decision.
"With consultation closed obviously, [Minister Bowen] will have to go through all of the submissions and I'm not sure how long that's going to take."
During the consultation period, groups both for and against the proposal coalesced, and neither were winding down their activities.
Grant Drinkwater, member of the Coalition Against Offshore Wind said the group was committed to continuing its activism on the issue.
"We will continue to try to raise awareness of the proposal in the Illawarra and continue to try to hold the local federal member to account," he said.
On Facebook groups opposing the wind farm proposal, users are sharing details of a rally in Sydney on November 30, opposing "reckless renewables", which is being organised by the Newcastle and Port Stephens Game Fishing Club, a vocal opponent of the Hunter offshore wind zone.
The Good for the Gong group which supports the wind farm proposal, with conditions, is also maintaining its activities, with spokesperson Sophia Walter saying the group was exploring wider community sentiment.
"We reckon there's a silent majority of people in the Illawarra who either support offshore wind in principle or haven't made their mind up yet," Ms Walter said. "We want to talk to community members in a way that's not so vitriolic as it's been until now."
If Minister Bowen declares a zone there will be the opportunity for further community consultation on any licence conditions as well as environmental approvals.
Ms Walter said that if the zone goes ahead, and further consultation sessions are held, there was an opportunity to do better.
"The onus is on government to do a really good job of consultation, my expectation is that they are in the community, helping us to understand what the benefits are of offshore wind, what contribution we can make to climate change, what jobs come out of this, what local infrastructure and high environmental standards will look like."