Byron Council yesterday voted to support the mayor’s stated ambition to become Australia’s first ‘zero emissions community’ after a relatively low-key debate.
Mayor Simon Richardson told council the aim would ‘cost ratepayers nothing’ as the shire would benefit from ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of expertise’ from the group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), which would hold community forums and advise on local energy saving and generating methods.
Dieter Horstman, organiser of this weekend’s Byron Solar Revolution Symposium, commended the mayor for his vision during public access.
Mr Horstman said his honey factory was already an example of a zero emissions industry, as it was ‘powered by solar energy backed up by 100 per cent pollution-free salt batteries’. The new battery technology will be on display at the symposium, to take place at the Byron ECO Park tomorrow (Saturday March 21).
The wording of the motion was changed slightly to remove the word ‘first’ after Greens councillor Duncan Dey said it was a worthwhile aim regardless of whether Byron ended up being the ‘first or fifteenth zero emissions community’.
Mayor Richardson told the meeting that BZE experts would look at all areas that contributed to the consumption, saving and generation of energy, including domestic, council business, transport and agriculture.
‘In a rural area such as this, transport is going to be the most difficult nut to crack,’ he admitted.
Nationals councillor Alan Hunter, who is a farmer, said the impact would fall most heavily on farmers, who ‘may be forced to reduce their herds by half and the land they farm by half’ under the plan. ‘What would become of the rest of the land – and what about their incomes?’ he asked council.
But Cr Dey said the value added by the ‘zero emissions’ brand would more than compensate.
‘We already have a great brand, which is Byron, which is recognised and attracts a premium,’ he said. ‘If you add “zero emissions” to that I think you’ll find the premium the product will attract will more than balance out any loss of production,’ Cr Dey said.
Nationals councillor Chris Cubis moved an amendment to have council staff investigate the proposal. But it was lost after the mayor made an impassioned right of reply speech saying the idea of ‘spending council money to investigate an offer of a free service from some of the country’s smartest energy experts is ludicrous.’
‘BZE will conduct workshops for residents in areas including designs for zero energy homes,’ he said adding that it would be up to the community to decide ‘how far and how fast any changes will be implemented.’
‘Nothing will happen without community consultation,’ he told the meeting.
Cr Richardson said a similar aim for the shire to become pesticide free ‘seemed like pie in the sky to some at the beginning but in fact we’ve come a long way towards that goal in a year and a half’.
The motion was carried with councillors Cubis and Woods voting against. Councillors Spooner and Ibrahim were absent from the chamber.