Protesters who took to Newcastle harbour on Sunday say neither major political party has credible policies to address climate change or help workers transition away from the coal industry.
The 11th People's Blockade of the world's largest coal port drew several hundred people to Horseshoe Beach on Sunday as part of a protest authorised and supervised by NSW Police.
This year's protest carried extra significance as Labor and the Coalition are locked in an election battle where their attitudes to climate action and mining jobs could sway the outcome in inner-city and regional seats.
Protester and Newcastle law student Zack Schofield said politicians were "failing the Hunter".
"Newcastle is a coal city, and it's been built off the backs of union workers, and we want to make sure they're taken care of in a planned transition, not slap-dash at the last minute," he said.
"We don't want to stop coal exports immediately. That won't be good for the Hunter. But we want a swiftly planned transition for coal workers into other industries, fair retirement packages or assistance in training.
"It's happened in other parts of the world. It's happening in Germany and South Australia. We know we can do it, if we spend the time and money."
Mr Schofield said both major parties took large donations from the fossil-fuel industry and many parliamentarians "end up in very cushy industry jobs".
"They've not put us first," he said.
Two ships, Trabzon and FJ Blu, were due to leave the port at 8.30am and 1pm, but neither entered the harbour as scheduled on Saturday. In their absence, the protesters milled around the beach and harbour entrance on kayaks.
Mr Schofield said stopping coal ships entering or leaving the port was "never the point" of the "symbolic" protest, though Greens Newcastle candidate Charlotte McCabe said the event appeared to have disrupted shipping movements for a day.
Environmental groups School Strike 4 Climate and Extinction Rebellion helped organise the protest, which also drew representatives from the Greens, Animal Justice Party, Socialist Alliance, Gas Free Hunter Alliance and Knitting Nannas.
School Strike 4 Climate spokesperson Emily Ashton called for a federally funded Hunter transition authority to help guide the region's shift away from coal.
"We're putting out the huge message that the coal industry is dying out and we need to transition," she said.
"We want to have a relationship with our workers. They're really important in the journey to climate action.
"We don't want to be constantly blocking, but we feel that taking drastic measures is the only way our government is going to listen. They haven't in the past."
The police dispatched Newcastle City district officers, the Operations Support Group, a PolAir helicopter, the Rescue and Bomb Disposal Unit, Marine Area Command, Mounted Police Unit and officers on bicycles and motorbikes to oversee the protest.
District commander Detective Superintendent Wayne Humphrey said the turnout had been lower than police and organisers were expecting and no arrests had been made.
A Port of Newcastle spokesperson said the private port operator "respects the right to undertake a lawful and peaceful protest".
"On a working harbour, safety is paramount, and we encourage all people participating in the protest to comply with directions from authorities, for their safety and those working on and around the port," the spokesperson said.
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