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December 4, 2021

Locals gathering to object to burning forests, plastic, foils, and tyres for energy at Condong sugar mill

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Condong. Photo Maureen Marsh/Flickr

A public protest is taking place this Friday meet near the Condong sugar mill, north of Murwillumbah, at the big fig tree on Tweed Valley Way on Friday, 22 October at 10am to object to the burning of trees and ‘forest waste’ and ‘biomass’ by Cape Byron Power to generate electricity at the Condong sugar mill.

‘The British-owned company proposes to expand its fuel blend to include construction waste such as CCA treated timber, plastic, foils, and even tyres. We do not want that smoke pumped into our atmosphere or washed into Tweed River!’ said a spokesperson for the Biomass Action Group (BAG).

Scott Sledge, President of the Northern Rivers Guardians (NRG) said, ‘We have come to a to a turning point in human history when we need to use new technologies other than burning things if we want a sustainable future.

‘A liveable planet is the first priority and everything else in secondary.’

Both local and Federal candidates have been invited to speak at the rally with only Mandy Noaln (Greens) and Nola Firth (Greens candidate for Tweed Shire) having confirmed their attendance at this point

Organisers say that ‘The Condong power plant burns wood which they describe as “waste”. This releases 50 per cent more carbon than coal, plus a raft of dangerous pollutants. Native forests remove carbon dioxide from the air more effectively than anything else on land; they do this best when they’re left to mature and grow old in peace.

‘Forest Biomass is our next big battle to avoid further climate crises being locked-in. Burning biomass already happens right across the north-east coast of NSW.’

The demonstration forms part of a global week of action demanding sensible decisions to stop climate change such as a ban on burning trees and other ‘waste’ says BAG representative, Shaunti Kieh.

‘We say CUT CARBON, NOT FORESTS. We need to be moving away from combustion and extractive-based energy sources. Biomass operators claim renewable energy subsidies for this, but burning forest ecosystems is not renewable. Forest biomass incentivises the clear-felling of entire forests, and fudges numbers to meet emissions targets.

‘The climate and biodiversity emergencies demand true solutions – keeping forests intact to draw down carbon and generate water supply, not trashing these vital life systems,’ she says.

‘There are so many other ways to supply our energy needs, proven technologies like sun, wind and wave energy?’

COVID regulation

COVID, public-health restrictions currently allow only 50 people to gather for an outdoor event. The organisers have a Covid-safe plan and have made arrangements so that more than 50 protestors can be accommodated in different areas. If public health authorities change the rules the organisers will update the plan.

♦ Cape Byron Power have been contacted for comment.

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  1. As a journalism student the headline attracted my attention however there appears to be very little truth behind it and many holes in this article. There is a proposal for the Condong power plant to use recovered timber – a timber source diverted from landfill. This has been in the public domain for some time. There is no mention of tyres, foil (which obviously wouldn’t burn anyway) or plastics – this seems to be made up to seek a headline.

    These organisers claim that ‘forest waste’ is being used at the plant……if that were true, surely the proposal to use recovered timber is a better environmental outcome. The business’s website says they use bagasse, waste from sawmills, infrastructure clearing and plantation timber – no mention of native timber so assuming they don’t use native timber its an even better environmental outcome.

    I hope the Cape Byron Power company was given adequate time to provide a response to this article – some simple fact checking reveals some big holes in the headline and the article.

    • In relation to recent native forestry clearfelling operations near Bellingen, material was observed being trucked to the Broadwater sugar mill to be burned for electricity. The problem with forest ‘residues’ is that a very high percentage of native forests can be defined in such a way. Power from the sugar mills does not qualify as GreenPower due to the native forest content angle.

      • Yes I remember that, it turned out to be certified plantation timber, the high quality logs went to sawmills with low quality waste going to Broadwater.

  2. I believe comrade Sledge or his family has been involved in the gathering and sale of firewood. Could there be a conflict of interest here?

  3. The condong power plant will burn anything that ensures there is power being generated. That I can assure you – its a structure like any investment. They need to keep the shareholders happy and if there is money flowing into the shareholders pockets – native timber, tyres (yes rubber burns David at quite a high calorific value) and plastics are now being incinerated around the world too) are all possibilities.
    Its important we ensure there is strong and logical assurance around the burning of ‘waste’ in such a plant.

    • The point being though that this plant doesn’t use native timber, neither does it have a proposal to use tyres or plastics. Whilst it might happen in other places around the world it isn’t here.


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