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Byron Shire
December 7, 2023

Will Sydney’s trash be Richmond Valley’s ‘treasure’

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Richmond Valley Council say they have welcomed an announcement by the Deputy Premier John Barilaro and the Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean that the Richmond Valley has been identified by the NSW Government as a potential location to establish a new thermal waste-to-energy facility.

Great opportunities for a significant investment

Richmond Valley Council’s General Manager Vaughan Macdonald said the Government’s Energy From Waste Infrastructure Plan complemented the North Coast Region Waste Investment Report, with both providing great opportunities for a significant investment in the Richmond Valley to contribute to delivering world-class alternative energy projects.

Led by Richmond Valley Council and conducted by Arcadis, the North Coast Region Waste Investment Review is a collaboration between the Department of Regional NSW and the 13 councils along the North Coast from the Tweed to the Mid-Coast Council area.

Mr Macdonald said the outcomes of the Waste Investment Report was helping all councils make informed decisions on developing infrastructure to divert residual waste from landfill while still prioritising recycling and resource recovery rates.

‘While each local council and community had individual pressures around waste management, there was a general commitment to reducing waste to landfill and improving reuse and recovery.

‘We need good policy to support our drive, which is why we welcome today’s release of the Energy From Waste Infrastructure Plan.

‘This plan is the catalyst Council needed to push ahead with our investigations of new opportunities and technologies for waste management and improve environmental outcomes.’

Jobs and growth

Mr Macdonald said a waste-to-energy facility would fit perfectly in the Richmond Valley Regional Job Precinct.

The Valley’s Job Precinct is one of four sites which are part of the NSW Government’s bush-led recovery from drought, floods, bushfires and COVID-19.

He said the aim of the precinct was to drive growth, create jobs and simplify development pathways in target industries such as manufacturing, food processing, and value add to agriculture.

‘Since the precinct was announced in February, the NSW Government and Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis have been working with Council, key government agencies and local industry to identify opportunities to create jobs. This includes the development of a detailed action plan outlining recommendations to improve planning pathways to simplify and provide certainty for future development by doing the required environmental and other studies upfront.

‘Our next step will be to issue an expression of interest to the private sector within two months for alternate waste treatment solutions for the region.”

Energy From Waste Infrastructure Plan

In the announcement made on Friday by the Deputy Premier John Barilaro and the Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean, they said that the NSW Government has released the Energy From Waste Infrastructure Plan, providing certainty for communities and investors and creating opportunities for NSW to lead the way in the delivery of world-class alternative energy projects.

Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW and Minister responsible for Resources John Barilaro said the Plan outlines how the NSW Government will support innovative ways of managing waste, drive investment into the bush and provide certainty for communities.

‘The NSW Government is delivering waste to energy facilities to help power a manufacturing renaissance and bring jobs to regional NSW,’ said Mr Barilaro. ‘These modern facilities will be located strategically to service the whole state, aimed at driving waste out of landfill and into the circular economy, using state-of-the-art technology to maximise regional economic and employment benefits.’

The Plan makes clear where new thermal waste to energy facilities can and cannot proceed, identifying the West Lithgow Precinct, Parkes Special Activation Precinct, Richmond Valley Regional Jobs Precinct and Southern Goulburn-Mulwaree Precinct as priority locations to host these operations.

Regional NSW set for toxic incinerators to burn Sydney’s waste 

But there is a flip side to the thermal waste-to-energy coin.

Spokesperson for Waste and Pollution, and Greens MP Cate Faehrmann says that news that no toxic Waste to Energy incinerators will be built in Sydney is welcome, but that should not mean the regions, including the Richmond Valley Council, are lumped with what Ms Faehrmann says is the burden of burning waste, after the release of the NSW Government’s Energy from Waste Policy Statement.

The policy will limit the construction of Waste to Energy facilities to the: West Lithgow Precinct; Parkes Special Activation Precinct; Richmond Valley Regional Jobs Precinct, or; Southern Goulburn Mulwaree Precinct

One of the largest producers of dioxins

Ms Faehrmann says waste incinerators have been identified by the World Health Organisation as one of the largest producers of dioxins, which can cause “reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and even cancer”.

‘This will bring some relief to community groups in Sydney who have been campaigning against the construction of these toxic incinerators in their communities for years. Unfortunately, though, the Government is now expecting a handful of regional communities to bear the brunt of the growing waste problem in NSW.

‘If the Government has recognised that burning waste is unacceptable in Sydney backyards, why has it decided it’s perfectly fine in regional ones?

‘Waste to energy incinerators are dangerous wherever they are built. They are one of the largest producers of dioxins, while producing toxic ash which still needs to be disposed of somewhere.

‘These types of incinerators also go against the government’s stated goals for a circular economy because waste that would otherwise be composted, recycled or processed is burned.

25 to 30 years to be financially viable

‘These incinerators need to operate for 25 to 30 years to be financially viable which means that if the waste-to-energy industry gets a foothold in NSW it will resist policies to reduce waste.

Ms Faehrmann says we need to be moving towards a zero-waste economy and investing more heavily in truly sustainable waste innovation instead of creating incinerators that put our health at risk.

‘The Government should introduce a ban on waste to energy across NSW so that no community is exposed to toxic pollution. This is exactly what the bill I introduced in 2020 would have achieved which both the Government and Opposition voted against.’

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  1. “Waste-to-Energy” is a euphemism for “Waste Incinerator”.
    Why use vast amounts of diesel to truck Sydney’s waste to the other end of the state?
    Because the people who created the waste don’t want the toxic smoke near them . Well guess what, we don’t want it up here either.
    Let them deal with the consequences of their own waste.

  2. Again it testifies to the Sydney centricity of the NSW LNP Government. Not good enough for Sydney siders but ok to regional NSW constituents! There has been no study to the best of my knowledge of the potential health issues of burning waste material and the consequence of dioxins been pumped into the atmosphere!
    Where is the independent evidence that there will be nil negative health outcomes via this proposal. The other issue is it also proposed to ship waste to these regional LGA from Sydney /and or other LGA areas?

  3. Why waste all that fuel moving Sydney’s waste up here to pollute when it could more cheaply be dumped in Macquarie St outside the NSW Parliament, where it belongs? Might even be able to bury Gladys and Barilaro with it and put them out of our misery.

  4. Burning waste in a climate crisis, just worsens it-its a dumb idea. Waste to energy is a linear economy method of dealing with unwanted waste from a populace that is over-consuming. It is not any part of a circulate economy. What Govt should be doing is engaging in transition to a zero-waste economy.
    Extracting more fossil gas, to make more plastic, to throw-away, then burn = linear economy. No way should this be considered. Our health services are stretched enough, without adding more pollution to the local load, and eroding our communities health further.

  5. What’s really depressing about this development is that it will be pushed through under the Barilaro “Special Activation Precinct” State Environmental Planning Policy or SEPP which is ALREADY IN PLACE in Richmond Valley . One of the toxic features of this legislation, in addition to the plant, is that it has the power to override existing environmental legislation: “Section 6 Relationship with other environmental planning instruments:
    (1) In the event of an inconsistency between this Policy and another environmental planning instrument, whether made before or after the commencement of this Policy, this Policy prevails to the extent of the inconsistency. (2) A local environmental plan does not apply to land within an Activation Precinct”.

    So it is already a slam dunk for the State and no matter what we try to do to challenge this latest piece of environmental vandalism, Barilaro’s legislation will prevail. Richmond Valley Council has no independence. It is just a servant of the State government. No dressing up of the ‘burn-baby-burn’ project with the usual ‘jobs and growth’ rhetoric will dilute the pollution. You can’t put lipstick on a pig!

  6. A Modest Proposal for New Proposals
    “Caesar tells us that it was custom among the Gauls that everyone who made a new proposal had to stand with a rope around his neck – so that they could promptly get rid of him if it did not amount to anything. If this commendable custom were to be introduced in our day, god knows whether the country would have enough rope, since the whole population has become project planners, and yet perhaps in the first place rope would not even be needed – possibly there would be no one who would volunteer.
    Quoted from Kierkegaard, Søren, and Kierkegaard, Søren. The Essential Kierkegaard. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.

  7. Hilarious September stunt, nice try Echo, almost had to check the calendar? It’s not April fools day! Tell Pork Barrelaro to Foff with his toxic wasteland!
    Put it on Sydney’s Nth Shore with Premier Berejiklian, thats if she’s still premier next week? Really are amazed there are not crowds in Macquarie St with pitch forks and burning torches demanding her resignation? Whats the death toll from the Morrison/Berejiklian NSW Delta outbreak now?

  8. If Sydney wants to burn waste do it in Sydney. Better still don’t do it at all put the effort into waste recovery and reduction in the first place. Waste to energy just encourages consumption for consumptions sake and does absolutely NOTHING to mitigate CO2 emissions in fact increases this problem let alone the issue of whether a waste burner is capable of preventing dioxin pollution into the local environment. Mr Bruz Barilaro and RVC can take there greenhouse dioxin emmiting plan and put it in the paper recycling bin where it belongs.


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