David Dixon, Byron Bay
I am concerned Council’s bioenergy project has received no external financial scrutiny and that my requests for a full cost/benefit analysis have been denied.
According to the development application (DA), the total cost of the plant is $16.5 million, excluding interest on borrowings.
According to Council’s 2021/22 Budget, new loans of $12 million will be required to finance the facility.
I requested that Council publicly release a cost/benefit analysis of the project back in March 2021, and again after the DA went on exhibition in July. These requests have been rejected because the information was deemed ‘commercial-in-confidence’.
I am truly shocked that such an expensive project has advanced so far without a public cost/benefit analysis. The project is worth nearly ten per cent of Council’s entire budget and should be backed by robust economic arguments, not shrouded in fiscal secrecy. I think the financials could have been outlined broadly without divulging any sensitive information.
I am concerned that economic costs will exceed any economic benefits. Will the monetary gains from the project really offset the considerable lifetime costs of loan repayments, interest, wages for extra staff, and ongoing maintenance and upgrades? If not, money would have to be diverted from other Council services to make up the shortfall.
It is also relevant what $16.5 million, plus interest and recurring expenses, equates to, as a per tonne price for carbon abatement. And whether there are more cost-effective ways to reduce GHG emissions?
I call on Council to withdraw the DA until such fundamental facts are disclosed. Openness is crucial given the huge price tag. The community should have all information necessary to determine if the facility is a wise use of public money and the best way to address climate change.