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Byron Shire
July 6, 2022

Large bioenergy facility gets nod

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Elevation of Byron Shire Council’s proposed Bioenergy facility.

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.

Conditions

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.


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14 COMMENTS

  1. This is Byron Shire, aren’t we meant to be a leader in world class ideas on protecting and evolving planet saving ideas?
    Or at least there has been for so many years talk and research in the area on the subject. So why is council bent on an emissions belching, basically gas fired power plant smack dab in the middle of a unique and world first sewerage treatment works which is designed as a step in the right direction towards sustainability .
    And what about all the migratory birds using it as one of the only suitable rest and feed areas now left for local and of course migratory species on the long haul from Siberia to Antarctica and back each year.
    Tourism is what drives our area but with monstrosities like this plant Byron Bay and the Shire is becoming more on the nose in my opinion. Can we see the common sense argument against this which has been presented in writing to the government panel and look at the better ways to survive on this ever more fragile planet into the future. Please!
    I would rather not see the protest campaign that I feel will soon begin if this plan continues.

  2. Making electricity out of food scraps, is so cool, such a great solution instead of using coal. This is a positive for climate change mitigation. This is one of a kind in Australia. I hope we see more.

    • Anonymous – check with your General Manager, as Council is now admitting that the process does not reduce CO2 emissions as compared to just composting ( I presume you are from Councils propaganda and disinformation department)

    • Of course it doesn’t reduce CO2 emissions, you are just burning the methane into CO2 instead of letting the UV light from the sun break it down. There point is you will also get a tiny amount of electricity at great cost with their plan.

      • This just reeks of propaganda. Lol
        Coal seam gas ‘is ‘methane!!!!!!
        The bio energy facility proposed by the Byron Shire Council, produces “ methane gas” which is then used to produce a very small amount of electricity AND CO2.
        HENCE this process WILL NOT be reducing the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.
        Wake up Byron.

  3. Oh and a Byron Council proposed 17% increase in residents waste charges, wouldnt have anything to do with the $M16 – $M20 cost of this proposed gas fired electricity Plant, would it.

  4. To tell the truth, I think that it is a really controversial situation because it is impossible to look at this one-sidedly. I can understand the position of the residents because it is quite justified and they pursue noble goals. No matter what, it is important to give care of the environment a priority and protect it to a great extent. Quite frankly, it is truly admirable that the residents are very concerned about the environment and about the impact of the project on its condition because, from my point of view, exactly thanks to such partial people we will be able to make a great positive contribution to our world. Of course, the construction of this facility has a great deal of advantages, but it is necessary for Byron Council to take all risks into account because, unfortunately, a lot of birds are on the brink of extinction and we need to save them. Also, I think that independent ecological studies is the best way to make sure that this construction is safe for nature and to get rid of all apprehensions.

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