South Coast burning after charcoal announcement

Nature Conservation Council of NSW
Media release
Wednesday 1 May 2002
South Coast burning after charcoal announcement
The NSW Government had blatantly misled the public over its claim that a charcoal plant, to be situated near schools and houses on the State’s South Coast, would not cost the region’s forests one extra tree.

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) today condemned the ‘conditional’ approval of the plant, near Mogo, south of Bateman’s Bay, saying the Government had already expanded the range of commercially acceptable species on the basis of their suitability for charcoal production.

The Mogo plant will burn around 200,000 tonnes of forestry ‘residue’ every year to make charcoal suitable for producing silicon at a facility in the State electorate of Bathurst, held marginally by the Labor Party. The Mogo and wider South Coast community had run a vocal and passionate campaign against the factory, claiming it would compromise the growing tourism industry, present health risks to surrounding residents, and lead to a massive increase in industrial traffic through the area.

A NSW government report titled “State Forests South Coast Region residue wood supply forecasts” from 11th April 2001, obtained under Freedom of Information states:

“The range of commercially acceptable species for merchantable residues was expanded to include bloodwoods and ironbark species together with the traditional light/white species suitable for pulp. The list was increased to include species with red timber, as these are preferred for the production of charcoal. These coloured timbers are unsuitable for pulp”

NCC executive officer, Kathy Ridge: “For the NSW Government to claim the approval was conditional upon no forest tree be cut down for the sole purpose of charcoal production is a blatant misrepresentation of the facts.

“It is clear the NSW Government wants the community to believe that no additional pressure will be placed on the South Coast forests. However the decision today will increase the range of species counted as residue specifically to supply the charcoal factory.”

“The extraction of stumps from the forest floor and branch material will undeniably increase the impact of the forest activities on the South Coast, but there has been no environmental impact study looking at exactly how much damage this is likely to cause.

“For the NSW Government to sell the future of those forests for a song to a private company is appalling. The community wanted the forests protected, the Indigenous community called for the project to be rejected.

“How will the Government deliver on their promise that no new trees will be cut down to burn in the charcoal furnace? Will they stop production on the basis of proof that trees are being taken directly to the charcoal factory?

“NCC is sure that in no time at all the community will be able to prove that the conditional approval from the NSW Government is no more than weasel words to win the seat of Bathurst in the next election,” Ms Ridge said.

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