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Byron Shire
September 19, 2021

Where is the sense in burning forests for power?

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A forest compartment in Tarkeeth State Forest that BAG say is being turned into woodchips for burning in the Cape Byron Power bio energy plant. Photo supplied.

The Biomass Action Group (BAG) and Bellingen community members joined together last Friday to challenge Cape Byron Power (CBP) and its claim of ‘never burning native forest residues’.

The group say that in NSW, licenses for burning biomass are jointly signed by Environment Minister Matt Kean and Deputy Premier John Barilaro.

They say CBP was created in part by a former business development manager from UK energy generator Drax Power. Two projects in Condong and Broadwater burn sugar cane waste, although this is not the only feedstock.

The Biomass Action Group say that trucks laden with molasses, hoppers filled with native forest salvage logs, burnt pine logs, and woodchips have created huge mountains of wood behind locked gates – this is all burnt in the furnaces of Broadwater mill to generate electricity.

Environmental scientist and spokesperson for BAG Shaunti Kiehl, said CBP claims to be ‘a leader in responsible and sustainable biomass power generation’. ‘How can any company that burns native forests be sustainable given climate change and the bushfires?

Protesters counted four trucks an hour

‘BAG and Bellingen Shire community members were positioned outside CBP’s chipping facility at Broadwater and counted four trucks an hour, including a large red truck from Tarkeeth forest. This truck had previously been verified leaving the Tarkeeth forest in the morning.

Caroline Joseph of the Bellingen Environment Centre said that Rifle Range Road was bustling with trucks full of all types of wood. ‘This activity seems totally unregulated, as does the definition of “waste”.’

The Bellingen community discovered the commencement of the bioenergy experiment at Tarkeeth through breaking news on 2 TripleB community Radio station. ‘Many people challenge claims that Tarkeeth is a plantation,’ said Ms Joseph.

‘Tarkeeth is a recovering native forest sixty years old sitting on steep slopes of fragile soils between the Bellinger and the Kalang Rivers, where the fresh water meets the salt water.

‘It is vital habitat, especially for koalas after the bushfires.

‘Part of the process of creating so-called “forest residues” includes taking whole tree roots from the ground. These are chipped on site and trucked hundreds of kilometres to be burned. Where’s the carbon logic of that?’

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  1. There never was any excuse for burning cane-trash to produce electricity ! The whole concept is obviously nonsense. They burn ‘whatever’ liberating CO2 and carbon monoxide and then claim carbon credits !!! ?
    This makes as much sense as the scheme, where Aboriginals are paid to burn hundreds of thousands of acres in order to claim carbon credits, how perverse can this government get ?
    Oh yeah , that’s right , burn the last remaining native habitats for Koalas, and any native life, to produce “green energy”
    “What a sick,sad World” G”)

  2. Hey Echo – great coverage of all the important stuff. THANK YOU! Will you be seeking any interviews with the people who run these forest-burning electricity plants? Or the business people who back them? I believe Quinbrook (who have an office on the Gold Coast) are the equity firm behind Cape Byron Power. My partner looked them up this morning when I saw the name mentioned on Facebook. They claim to specialise in ESG (environmental, social and governance criteria) investing and especially renewables … yet they back a koala-habitat burning electricity company, and also are behind plans for a new gas plant at Gatton, QLD, I believe.
    Will you be following the money and seeking more clarity from these people who are selling these investments as ethical choices? It would be very much appreciated if you did! 🙂

  3. Having worked for Forestry Corp I find this incredible.

    The Bellingen community requested Forestry to find a solution to minimise wastage being burnt from these plantations and the smoke impact on local residents. Forestry invested significant time and money to do this and a few outspoken keyboard warriors make this into something it isn’t. Harvesting happened more than 6 months ago to supply logs to local sawmills, the waste, which is a tiny fraction of the total timber, could be pushed up and burnt but the majority of the community has serious concerns about this hence finding better uses such as making energy from a waste timber product. Once the waste is removed the plantation will be re-planted. This is all documented on Forestry’s website.

    This also brings up the question the lunatic green groups have been raising for some time. They claim they want to see an end to native forest harvesting and switch to plantation forest harvesting……which is what happened here yet they still complain when a plantation is harvested so your argument is invalid.

    Good journalism should have seen both Forestry Corp and the power company contacted and then you may have been able to produce a factual article rather than promoting the crap these lunatics come up with,

    • The whole point is, It IS being burnt, you know carbon +oxygen = CO2 and a total devastation landscape ?
      Fire-stick farming and clearfelling, is just ignorance on a stick.but, speaking as one lunatic green keyboard warrior, what else can you expect from the lawless, knuckle-dragging misanthropes at Foresty Corp and the NSW Government , niether of whom even understands the concept of ‘sustainability’ and both have consistently lied about the extent of forest resources and their over-allocation of timber rights to mills.
      Now that over 40% of NSW forest cover has been destroyed by fires which were caused by forest clearing and fossil fuel consumption, both big ticket items of Forestry Corp, there is no habitat either in State Forests or private land that should be logged.
      Cheers G”)


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