Coal blockade stops Newcastle harbour

HUNDREDS of people took to the Port of Newcastle in kayaks and canoes yesterday as protest group Rising Tide held its seventh annual blockade of the harbour.

Organiser Nicola Bowskill said Newcastle was the world's largest coal port and destined to get bigger if the coal industry gained approval to build the city's fourth coal-loader, on Kooragang Island.

Ms Bowskill said the horseshoe beach gathering attracted more than 300 people, many of whom took to the water in a fleet of about 70 kayaks.

She said yesterday's protest doubled as a launch for a new "100% Renewable" campaign designed to show that renewable energy can be reliable and powerful enough to provide baseload electricity.

Ms Bowskill said the harbour blockade was designed to stop coal shipping for a day but organisers accepted that the coal industry would reschedule ships to get around it.

Official coal industry figures indicate that coal ships left the port at the rate of about 3.2 vessels a day last year.

Shipping movements were stopped from mid-morning to 5pm yesterday.

Ms Bowskill said the protest ran peacefully. She said Rising Tide had warned authorities well in advance of their intention.

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