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March 2, 2021

Fears local generators could burn native forest

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Condong’s failed electricity cogeneration plant as well as the Broadwater plant have just been sold by the NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative to a Swiss firm. The 230mw plants, established five years ago, relied on sugar cane trash and other vegetation to fuel its generators. Photo Maureen Marsh/Flickr
Condong’s failed electricity cogeneration plant as well as the Broadwater plant have just been sold by the NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative to a Swiss firm. The 230MW plants, established five years ago, relied on sugarcane trash and other vegetation to fuel its generators. Photo Maureen Marsh/Flickr

Chris Dobney

The recent sale of the cogeneration plants attached to the  Condong and Broadwater sugar mills, together with changes to state government regulations, has sparked concerns native forest could be sourced for the co-generation plants.

So concerned are the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) about the prospect that they have written to the mills’ new owners, pleading with them not to resort to the practice.

Currently timber waste from sawmills, plantation timber and timber waste, together with camphor laurel and the sugarcane residue ‘bagasse’, can be used to generate electricity at the mills.

But with the collapse of the woodchip market after Boral’s loss of its FSC status earlier this year, and with state government changes to 2009 legislation protecting forests from being burnt for power, NEFA fears the plan could again be on the drawing board.

Earlier this week, Total Environment Centre (TEC) director Jeff Angel wrote in Echonetdaily that TEC was contacting all retailers requesting they cancel any existing or planned power purchase agreements with bioenergy plants in NSW that would enable the burning of native vegetation (excluding plantation) materials for electricity generation.

Now NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh has written to the new owners of the two co-gen plants, Swiss company Capital Dynamics, to seek assurances they won’t use forest product.

‘The NSW government is now proposing to amend the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2009 to remove the previous Labor government’s prohibition on burning native forests for electricity,’ Dailan Pugh wrote to the company yesterday.

‘It appears that this retrograde proposal was formulated specifically to allow native forests from this region to be burnt in the Condong and Broadwater furnaces,’ he added.

‘On July 12, the north coast Nationals members, Don Page (Ballina), Thomas George (Lismore), Geoff Provest (Tweed) and Chris Gulaptis (Clarence), welcomed this proposal for your cogeneration plants at Broadwater and Condong, stating that they had lobbied for it.’

‘When the Condong and Broadwater co-generation plants were commissioned in 2008 no environmental impact statements were prepared on the grounds that they were going to be under 30 megawatts and primarily use sugarcane waste with some sawmill waste and camphor laurels. To date the plants have only operated during the cane season though we note your intent is to run them all year.

‘If the Condong and Broadwater cogeneration plants operated full time they would consume some 800,000 tonnes of biomass each year.

‘To put this into perspective, 20,000 tonnes of trees were removed from public forests north from Coffs Harbour for woodchips in 2010, and volumes have since declined. It would require a massive increase in logging intensity and clearing to even partially satisfy the desires of these power plants for high volumes of cheap wood.

‘Protecting native forests is part of the solution to global warming,’ Mr Pugh wrote.

‘There is nothing green, renewable or sustainable about destroying our primary carbon storehouses.’

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  1. maybe the new owners could help rid the Tweed of many camphors, radiata and slash pine ‘forests’ that are not being managed well at the moment, also cocos palms and other weeds

  2. Will the people of Australia sit back and take this insult and injury?
    Not only are the government prepared to let these [people] vandalise the few remaining islands of genetic survival, in order to generate unwanted,unneeded electricity, but to also compounding the stupidity by issuing green credits to these [people] for the act of burning what few examples of carbon sequestration we possess.
    AAAAAAAAHHH ! Have I gone mad .. or is this just hell ?

  3. Wanton vandalism and greed seems to attract fools . Why would anyone want burn native forest
    and animals otherwise. Its legal. What does that say about the governing bodies, its so tragic the lack of reverence for our irreplaceable country. How can we not be disheartened when faced with the threat of some form of destruction every day. Green credits, what the ?


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