Concerns over the collapse of the fossil-fuel industry and its impacts at a local-government level divided Tweed shire councillors last night along the lines of believers and sceptics.
A bid by Greens Cr Katie Milne for councillors to assess possible impacts on the shire’s operations and the community of the ‘forthcoming potential impact of peak oil and fossil fuels’ was rejected 3-4, with only mayor Gary Bagnall and Cr Michael Armstrong supporting her.
Cr Milne said councillors had been ‘impressed’ at a recent workshop where they were given expert advice on the peak-oil issue and its impacts, and Tweed council should consider policy responses at a workshop next month.
But conservative (National Party) Crs Warren Polglase and Phil Youngblutt ridiculed the notice of motion, saying it was a waste of time as nobody knew if, or when, peak oil would occur. Crs Barry Longland and Carolyn Byrne also voted against it but did not contribute to the debate.
Cr Polglase objected to the ‘really ridiculous statement’ by Cr Milne that there would be a ‘forthcoming impact’ as ‘nobody can say’, that it was ‘a question with no answer’ people would question why councillors were even debating it.
In response, Cr Milne changed the wording of her motion to include ‘potential’ impacts.
Cr Armstrong said her motion had merit as he’d ‘like to know what it could all mean for the Tweed in the future’ and councillors and ratepayers would all be better informed on the issue as a result.
Cr Youngblutt, on the other hand, said he found the whole debate ‘extraordinay strange’, likening it to a TV show in which contestants ‘hold up a flag when nobody knows’.
‘It’s like that, because no-one knows at this stage knows what possible outcome there could be, it’s a long time in the future.
’To even debate this is absolute nonsense when you have no facts to guide you,’ he said.
Cr Milne said peak oil and its impacts was a ‘quite significant’ issue and council should show community leadership on it.
‘We all know it won’t happen tomorrow, but oil and fossil fuels won’t go on forever and ever, and at some stage such fuels would become more expensive.’
She said there could be ‘incredible disruption to the whole society if it happens’.
‘There are many councils around Australia which have policies and strategies dealing with peak oil, such as Sunshine Coast… so it’s not unheard of and not some dramatic thing that we’d be a laughing stock, it’s quite a normal thing for councils to do this and was ‘all about preparedness’.
Cr Youngblutt asked Cr Milne if there had been a time frame given at the recent workshop for fossil fuels running out, because they all varied and depended on usage and ‘when you look at it, it’s still quite a long time’.
Cr Milne reminded Cr Youngblutt he had attended the same recent workshop on the issue, but Cr Youngblutt said he ‘didn’t believe much of it at all, it was just nonsense’.