The company states that the facility will employ 25 direct jobs and 28 jobs supply and transport operations. In addition there will be about 20 jobs during the construction phase. It is claimed that this industry will boost the local economy by $9 million/year.
Although the company says that jobs will be filled locally, we understand that some of the jobs require skills which would require experienced people from elsewhere.
Questions have been raised about this proposal’s impact on the local tourism industry and the highly successful ‘Nature Coast’ image. Also, apiarists, oyster farmers, local timber businesses, artisans and many more claim that they will be adversely affected.
The South Coast tourist region has been identified as the fifth most popular trip destination within Australia and the third most visited in Australia for families. It is estimated overnight visitors spent in the vicinity of $700 million employing some 6,200 people. The national average estimate for employment in tourism is 6%, the South Coast region employs 14.1%. In the long term there is a strong likelihood of job losses and the image of an unpolluted South Coast could be impaired.
The Minister for Small Business and Minister for Tourism, the Hon Sandra Nori MP is promoting the South Coast of NSW as a nature tourist destination, both interstate and internationally.
According to New South Wales Nature Tourism Discussion Paper February 2001, Prepared for Tourism New South Wales by Missing Link Tourism Consultants, the South Coast attracts 65% of nature tourists in NSW*. Section 2.1 of the above paper (The natural environment), states:
“In an Industry Outlook Survey by Tourism New South Wales in 2000, the natural environment was rated by tourism businesses as the single most important external contributing factor to tourism sales. New South Wales contains a wide range of outstanding natural environments for nature tourists to visit and experience. These natural environments include: reefs, beaches and headlands; estuaries; wetlands and rivers; rainforests; forests; mountains; caves; snowfields; open woodlands; grasslands; and deserts. These environments collectively support a great diversity of wildlife, some of which are threatened or endangered, which adds even greater value and visitor interest.
* Nature tourism participation rate among domestic visitors in New South Wales (1998-99), against nature tourist estimated visitation to protected areas managed by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (1999- 2000).
The Eurobodalla Coast Tourism Board is concerned that proposed charcoal factory could have a detrimental impact on the long-term branding of the “Nature Coast” and could do significant damage to future tourism progress. It is also concerned about the impact of increased heavy traffic on the self-drive market and on roads considered unsuitable for vehicles of that nature. Eurobodalla tourism manager Dene Moore says the board believes the damage that could be done to the tourism industry now and in the future is simply too big a risk to take. (ABC News 12 December 2001).
“We have invested a lot of money in the development of the brand “Nature Coast” which has been so well accepted in the market place, with the customers enjoying the undeveloped and environmentally pure nature of what we have to offer,” he said.
“It’s just too big a risk. In fact, we’ve probably invested…something in the order of $4 million in the brand over recent years in developing…[it].”
Local businesses in the tourism industry, such as Old Mogo Town, Oaks Ranch and Country Club, most businesses in Mogo, Broulee Mossy Point, and businesses elsewhere in the region have all publicly voiced their opposition to the charcoal factory.
The Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce stated: “There is a strong, widespread belief in this community that the charcoal facility would conflict harshly and have a significant negative impact upon established and prospective tourism recreational and retirement sector activities.” (SMH 19 February 2002).
Tourism success in this area is largely due to the Nature Coast image and the large percentage of self-drive family visits. Premier Bob Carr, at Eurobodalla Botanical Gardens opening recently, acknowledged the importance of forests and he was quoted as saying that the coast was the jewel in the crown of the State.
What will the effects be on businesses in the beautiful town of Mogo, which rely on tourists. Pollution and noise from log and charcoal trucks, and the fact that there is a heavy industry in the vicinity would diminish the attraction of Mogo as a tourist town.
A spokeswoman for a large tourist complex said that the proposal threatens all the good work that has been done by the community to make the Nature Coast a model of environmentally responsible development. “If the natural attractiveness of the area is not protected, then the job losses in the Nature Tourism industry will be many times more than any jobs created by a charcoal plant” she said. There are already indications that tourist and residential developments could suffer if the charcoal plant is approved.
The effect of spoiling the Nature Coast could lead to loss of interest in local holiday homes, including on-site caravans. The local economy has been strengthening over the years, and any downturn would jeopardise jobs.
We suspect that the combined effects of the logging, charcoal plant and the trucks may have a significant negative impact on jobs in local industries, including local timber industries such as firewood and fencing suppliers.
The assessment in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the impact on land values is inadequate and misleading.
The impact of the charcoal plant on land values is of major importance to thousands of landowners, Real Estate Agents, and developers.
No information was provided to show how land values might be affected – not only in the immediate vicinity of the plant – but in the surrounding towns in the region?
No comment was provided on the effects of noise, heat, air and water pollution on land values in the region.
No information was provided from Real Estate Agents and developers about the possible impact.
Landholders, including the large number of non-resident ratepayers, were not consulted about what they thought might happen to land values, and how the charcoal plant might influence their real-estate holdings?
There is insufficient justification for the vague concluding statement in the EIS – “The facility is not expected to significantly impact on .. land values..”.
Furthermore, the Information booklet published by the company stated that “The wood processing and metallurgical carbon facility will have no effect on [land values]”. This quite positive, but unsubstantiated statement conflicts with the concluding statement in the EIS.