Published 7 October 2022
The recent passage of the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021 (Cth) (OEIA) represents the first federal regulatory framework for renewable energy development, including offshore wind, in Australia. Offshore wind is an additional and important use of offshore ocean space creating potential spatial issues among and between ocean users and management of environmental impacts. Planning for offshore wind requires coordination to accommodate offshore wind and ensures that any spatial conflicts are mitigated and minimised. Regulation of marine environmental risks for offshore wind development in Australia is governed by the proponent’s environmental management plan, relevant OEIA provisions, and the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBCA) triggered by proposals within Commonwealth marine areas from 3 up to 200 nautical miles from the coastline. Yet, the EPBCA is increasingly under pressure to demonstrate environmental protection which includes and represents conservation outcomes. This article analyses the current gaps within the environmental assessment framework for offshore wind in Australia and argues for the adoption of a Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) framework to increase ecological protection and an ecosystem-based approach. It provides a comparative analysis to demonstrate best practice principles from the MSP experience of The Netherlands as a mature wind energy jurisdiction and presents assessment procedures to ensure the effective spatial planning of Australia’s offshore wind sector.