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Byron Shire
May 22, 2022

Tweed Council excludes ‘burning of wood or waste’ as a renewable energy supply

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The NSW government rejected the recommendation by the parliamentary inquiry into ‘Sustainability of energy supply and resources in New South Wales’ to stop burning native forests for electricity. However, earlier this year (17 March) Tweed Shire Council passed an amendment to exclude the purchase of renewable energy sourced from the burning of wood or waste as part of their procurement of Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGCs).

‘The Legislative Assembly Committee on Environment and Planning report in 2021 concluded that forest biomass is not a renewable sustainable source of energy. It recommended changing the state environmental law to prevent burning of native forests to generate energy,’ explained Greens Councillor Nola Firth. 

‘Burning wood creates more carbon emissions than coal, gas or oil. It also contributes to alarming deforestation and loss of habitat and carbon storage. The Drax power station in The UK burns one freight train of wood pellets per 2.5 hours – all imported from US forest “waste” such as branches, smaller trees etc. 

This is not only happening in Europe, In NSW near Singleton, an application has been made for clear felling of several hundred hectares with the aim of exporting wood pellets to Japan. 

‘The reasoning used to justify burning wood for energy is that wood regrows so is a renewable source. This reasoning is deeply flawed because we know trees take time to grow and also that trees are disappearing from the earth at a disastrous rate- in Australia one Melbourne Cricket Ground is cleared every 86 seconds, This at a time when over a million species are at risk of extinction and loss of habitat is the main cause.’ 

Mayor Chris Cherry supported the amendment pointing out that ‘we do have options  for wind and solar that is the better option at this time. I am happy to see this going forward to meet our target for 2022 and 2030’. 

Redbank power plant proposed to be rebooted with a million tonnes of forest biomass.

Forests important for our future

At the time that the NSW government rejected the recommendation to stop burning native forests for electricity North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson Dailan Pugh highlighted that Forests improve our health, generate rainfall, cool the land, regulate streamflows, sequester and store carbon, reduce flood risk by storing water and slowing flows, reduce landslips by reinforcing soils, and support most of our biodiversity.

Nineteen Australian ecosystems have been identified as already in collapse. In the marine environment climate change is causing the decline of the Great Barrier Reef which once again is ravished by another mass coral bleaching event. Most of the giant kelp forests off southern Australia have already gone, and many species are moving south as the waters warm.

The NSW Governments disregard for both climate heating and koalas by dismissing the committee’s recommendations on the grounds that they think it’s fine to burn native forests as long as some sawlogs are also removed. This opens up north-east NSWs forests, one of the world’s centres of both species diversity and endemism, for woodchipping on the scale of the Eden forests, where over 90 per cent of the trees are logged for woodchips,’ Mr Pugh said.

This is particularly distressing as several companies are currently vying to use our native forests to replace coal for generating electricity, said North Coast Environment Council spokesperson Susie Russell.

Zero waste targets

Cr Firth also highlighted the fact that ‘There’s no such thing as “waste wood”. Wood is precious and small pieces can now be made into “engineered wood” products. 

‘On the Tweed we have a strong targets of zero waste and recycling and zero emissions. There’s no place for wood burning as an energy source in our shire. Burning of other kinds of waste also has serious issues around toxic gases released into the air. 

‘Choice of wind or solar are appropriate for our shire and we can and should choose these from our renewable energy provider.’

The only councillor to vote against the amendment was conservative councillor Warren Polglase.


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21 COMMENTS

  1. WOW ! Thank You. The Tweed Shire Council proves it is far superior and better suited to govern than the NSW State Government ( recently headed up by Gladys , the Koala Killer, who is yet to be bought to justice for fraud and misappropriation ).
    The appalling lack of intelligence and integrity apparent in both State and Federal ‘government’ has seen this country degrade from “the lucky country’, of unparalleled potential, gutted and wasted at the behest of foreign interests, aided and abetted by the Worlds most hideous conga-line of self-interested, traitorous scoundrels posing as politicians , until, at this time, we have become nothing more than a ‘third-world’ , low wage resource mine for the clever, better run nations with foresight and the interests of their citizens at heart.
    The very idea that, in the country with the highest carbon pollution per head of population, and the greatest rate of species extinction could entertain burning the meagre remnants of habitat we still have, to add to even more deadly levels of Global Warming, is in my opinion a crime against Nature , which is in it’s self worse than a crime against Humanity.
    What does it take for people to see what is happening ? G”)

  2. It is shameful that scientific fact is being called “deeply flawed”, and that politics of science-denial now trumps science and evidence amongst the false prophet Greens.

    Wood is a renewable resource – precisely because it can be regrown.

    The issue is not that wood is not a renewable resource – it is – but whether it is used sustainably.

    Which is not possible with coal, oil or gas – they are non-renewable. The CO2 emissions from burning them are irreversible.

    I have pointed all this out numerous times, but this lying propaganda just resurfaces again. I have pointed out that primary school kids can understand this, as can be seen on ABC on Ecomaths, but zealots like Dailan Pugh just push ahead with their dishonest propaganda campaign to trump scientific fact with political zealotry.

    The question is: why is the Echo continuing to participate in this dishonest campaign no matter how many times I explain this?

    Our children deserve better than to have their understanding of scientific fact, obtained through proper education, constantly undermined by political zealotry with as much interest in the truth as Angus Taylor.

    It is immoral and unconscionable for the Echo to keep facilitating the undermining of the next generation’s understanding of reality in this way. Please stop

    • Appears to me a lot of projection in all your arguments, even the dullest of brains can see the length of time it takes a forest to grow, it wasn’t intended for the use of one generation, especially not to waste by burning for electricity when it’s unnecessary, that’s immoral and unethical
      .
      Even smart people, who are only motivated by greed, are made stupid and can’t see the multiple benefits of trees in forest that should be protected.

      Unless it escaped your mind the country is being severely effected by climate change, weather conditions so severe they can no longer be ignored. The solution isn’t to squeeze every last drop of life out of forests before something else destroys them. The solution is to KEEP AS MUCH OF THE MATURE FORESTS INTACT, AS POSSIBLE.

      The stupidity of self defeating actions to cut, wood chip, and burn trees for electricity, is sinister, only somebody wanting to make money would consider it as an option.

      Stop stealing from future generations. STOP the contempt for nature, STOP logging natural forests, use instantly renewable sources to generate electricity (not renewable after two decades) get loggers some other jobs that won’t have negative repercussions for animals, plants, and humans AND our weather systems.

  3. This article doesn’t make the distinction between ‘sustainable’ and ‘renewable’ and therefore undermines our communitie’s attempts at environmental education, of both children and adults. It is denying scientific fact to say wood is not a renewable fuel source.

    Here in the Northern Rivers we live in a very weed-tree infested region – it’s clearly wrong to say there is no source of wood waste around here. Weed trees here are a problem waiting to be solved. Using entire trees (not just waste bits) from the forests around Eden for woodchip or pellets, is an entirely different problem to be solved.

    When will all the proponents of ‘eco-tourism’ add aviation fuel and petrol to the list of climate change inducing fossil fuels to be rationed ? These are the fuels that are not renewable. That is the proven science, and an inconvenient truth.

    • There is no way that biomass power advocates will agree under written rules to being limited to weed species of tree. Even if these weed species such as camphor laurels were were all chopped down in a short space of time, it would cause environmental havoc in some areas such as parts of Byron Shire.

  4. It is obvious that neither Shane , nor Leanne have any understanding of the situation.
    Forestry in NSW is not sustainable, which is obvious if you bother to inspect the sites that have been “selectively Logged “( read, raped and plundered ) into oblivion, or just bother to look at the figures of over- allocation of resources that no longer exist, to private mills.
    The magnificent forests of the fifties and sixties no longer exist , they have been squandered by the ignorant and corrupt.
    You just can’t regrow an Old Growth Forest, in fact you can’t even regrow the mature forest needed for commercial exploitation for about 500- 1000 years ( the really big forest giants were 1500 years old ) so sure Shane if you are prepared to wait the superficial requirement for timber is ‘renewable ‘, but just as true if forests are maintained for several million years , they will lay down coal and oil layers, so by your simple reasoning coal an gas are ‘renewable ‘ too.
    Leanne you are totally correct in pointing out the climate change effects of aviation fuel , petrol and diesel and I agree with you, they must be strictly rationed and huge areas of forests must be grown to absorb atmospheric pollution they’ve caused, they must never be harmed , harvested nor burnt , lest they release all that stored carbon into our greenhouse effected biosphere.
    It is no longer acceptable to attempt justification of the forestry industry’s evil and destructive wast of resources and wholesale environmental destruction.
    Thems the scientific facts Shane ,” teach your children well”, G”)

    • Thank you Ken,
      Accurate and well stated.
      Also great work Tweed Council, thank goodness good sense has prevailed.
      Anyone who has stood on the site of logged native forests 20 years later would know the devastation, and that native forests cannot just grow back.
      The complex ecosystems do not naturally regenerate in a lifetime.

    • Thanks Ken. I was going to wade in on behalf of the pitiful remnants of the Big Scrub still standing and the other major North Coast forests still under attack by Forestry and now these ‘forests for fuel’ industrial slaughterhouses, but you and others have well covered it. More power to your pens.

      To me the obvious questions are “How long does it take to grow a 200 year old tree? A 500 year old? 800 to 1200 year olds, such as the brush boxes saved at Terania Creek in the late ’70s? Where can these lengths of time be obtained?

      And some believe these can be replaced by planting hundreds, even thousands of saplings. The level of ecological ignorance in these some is outright scary.

      • Ian who said any of that?

        If you can see no space between zero use of trees for wood fibre for any use, and logging the last old growth forests (of which there are very few), then by definition you are an extremist and of no value to humanity in discussing this issue

        • Shane, I wasn’t talking to or about you at all; despite you’ve posted 8 of the 19 comments to date, it’s not all about you.

          I make no commentary on your ‘value to humanity’, but I can say that destroying carbon-absorbing trees by burning them to create carbon dioxide is clearly doubly destructive. We need to be planting millions, billions of trees to draw down atmospheric CO2, and leave them alone to do so for at least the next century or so.

          The reason there is so little old growth left is precisely because Forestry has never ceased its relentless destruction, despite declaring that only plantations would supply timber in twenty years, FORTY years ago. We know who is lying, and we will call it out.

    • Ken I didn’t say to log old growth forests did I?

      Just because something is being done unsustainably does not mean it can’t be done sustainably, does it?

      It can. Fact.

      And, given the alternative is irreversible use of non-renewable fossil fuels, clearly it should.

      Humanity’s only hope of surviving is to learn to live within the limits of what natural resources the earth can produce for us, sustainably. Now don’t go and verbal me again there Ken; notice I said sustainably.

      Zealots seeking to demonise the use of natural resources and replace their use with non-renewable mineral resources, don’t help us to get to sustainability. You hinder us.

      Mineral resources are non-renewable, because sensible people see a difference between a 10-100 year timeframe for renewing natural resources, and waiting for millions of years to see mineral resources renewed. Even if you cannot

  5. Congratulations Nola
    Tweed Shire Council is to be congratulated for it’s integrity in the face of barefaced anti science pedlers who truly cannot see the forest for the trees.

  6. Any consumer who wants to avoid buying power from burned native forests has 4 options. 1) Buy 100% GreenPower, which prohibits native forests ‘residues’ as a feedstock under its rules 2) Diamond Energy 3) Enova Energy 4) Powershop (which isn’t an ideal choice because it is now owned by Shell.)

  7. Martin do you think we actually could cut down all the camphor in a short space of time?

    Really?

    We are not even keeping up with its expansion.

    That is a silly argument

  8. Ian who said any of that?

    If you can see no space between zero use of trees for wood fibre for any use, and logging the last old growth forests (of which there are very few), then by definition you are an extremist and of no value to humanity in discussing this issue

  9. The zealotry and dishonesty of many in the northern rivers community is on full display here.

    I speak about the anti-scientific misuse of the term “renewable”, and the need to use the terms “renewable” and “sustainable” at the correct time/situation, and several people line up to verbal me, even make stuff up completely.

    This behaviour from within the northern rivers community is a disgrace

  10. The simple fact is its polluting . Smoke . Last thing we need is more smoke . Renewable smoke ,,, hahahaha ,,, that’s a joke isn’t it. Cutting down oxygen producing trees to make renewable smoke. And hand on heart , saying its ok.. What’s the world coming to… Opposite speak .. If I say it’s a rainy day you argue and debate that’s it’s a sunny day. There’s definately sun out there somewhere . Who even thinks like that . What twisted logic infected you to think like that . Think about the kids and grandkids . It’s our responsibility to at least try and leave something good for them . Not wreck it. Fix it.

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