69 objections trigger conditions of consent
Byron Council’s plan to build a facility that converts waste into electricity at the Byron Bay Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) has been given the green light by the Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP).
But the panel has imposed a series of conditions on the development in response to objections from locals who are concerned that it will impact the neighbouring wetland and the native birds that live there.
The five-member panel handed down a unanimous decision to approve the project on May 18, following a two-hour public meeting in which a handful of locals were allowed to express their concerns.
Former Mayor, Simon Richardson, who is now a member of the NRPP, stepped aside from the decision-making process after declaring that he had prior involvement in the project during his time on Council.
Chair of the NRPP, Paul Mitchell, said, in handing down the panel’s decision: ‘We’ve carefully considered all of the issues that have been raised during submissions, but we believe that the proposal, as amended, and with the conditions imposed, addresses those issues effectively and that there are no outstanding or residual issues that warrant refusal’.
‘The proposed development is suitable for the site because the site is separated from sensitive nearby uses, and has all necessary infrastructure.’
‘We believe the proposal will be socially and environmentally beneficial because it will transform, basically, waste material into useful products and generate usable electricity [from] off grid sources.’
Byron Council says the $16.5 million facility will receive and process up to 28,000 tonnes of organic waste and biosolids a year, generating between three and four million kilowatt hours of renewable energy.
This is approximately half of the Council’s total annual grid electricity consumption, allowing it to reduce its carbon emissions by up to 20 per cent.
The facility will also produce a biosolid product which is an effective fertiliser for certain commercial farming operations.
Concerns by residents
However, a significant group of residents have expressed concerns about the environmental impact of the project.
Sixty-nine submissions objecting to the project were received by the NRPP, compared to just one supporting the proposal.
A common theme among the submissions was the argument that the project posed a threat to the integrity of the neighbouring wetlands, which are valuable habitat for threatened and other protected birds.
This threat stemmed both from the heightened disturbance levels during construction, and the ongoing movement of heavy vehicles into and out of the site during its operation.
In response to these and other concerns, the panel imposed a number of conditions. These included a requirement that the Council pay for independent ecological studies to be undertaken at the site prior to construction and following three years of operation.
‘We’re concerned to ensure that the quality of the wetland is maintained and we want a baseline study by an ornithologist of bird species to have good data as to current populations of that species,’ Mr Mitchell said.
‘And we want that to be undertaken again in three year’s time to account for operation experience and again explore indicator bird species and to make any recommendations that would arise from material changes in those populations that are necessary to redress any changes.’
The panel also ordered that truck movements to and from the facility be limited to eight per day, to be calculated monthly.
‘The proposal, with all of the conditions, will have no unacceptable impacts on the natural or built environments,’ Mr Mitchell said.
‘We particularly note that the proposal will be fully enclosed and that this will significantly minimise both noise and airborne emissions.
For more info, visit www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/planning-panel/bioenergy-facility.