Council’s plan to build a 5-megawatt solar farm in Dingo Lane Myocum is proceeding to the next stage, despite staff warning that the project poses a ‘high degree of risk’.
The project is a key part of Council’s attempt to achieve net zero emissions for the Shire by 2025.
However, a staff report into its viability states that Council will likely need to borrow the full $12m to fund the project, increasing its overall debt level by 20 per cent.
This would make it harder to fund a raft of other projects across the Shire, including re-opening the Shire’s disused rail line, works to protect Byron’s fragile coastline.
During an extended debate at last week’s full Council meeting, Labor councillor Spooner moved a motion to delay the project until the next term of Council.
‘I’m forming the view that this decision should not be made by this Council, with only a few months to go,’ Cr Spooner said.
‘If we proceed with this project it’s going to put us in the red. The impacts on future budgets is pretty substantial. That’s the risk if we push ahead with this.’
But outgoing Mayor Simon Richardson moved that the project go ahead, a position that reflected the recommendation of Council staff, despite the fact that they noted the risks involved.
‘The DA isn’t the last step, building it is – what we’re doing here doesn’t preclude anything,’ Cr Richardson said.
‘We’ve always known that we were going to be borrowing a fair bit for this.
‘What we didn’t know was how much we were going to save, and we now know that it stacks up.
‘This is the sort of thing that takes a bit of boldness, a bit of innovation.’
In the end a majority of councillors agreed with Cr Richardson.
They voted to continue with the current development application to ‘progress the project to shovel ready status’.