to the Eurobodalla Shire Council’s Environment, Planning and Administrative Services Committee Meeting
at the Council Chambers, 2 October 2001
Imagine the branches, the stumps, the extra work required, the different loading materials and also the different trucks. In fact it’s very hard to imagine that happening in Australia. And the most amazing fact about the claims of this plant in Mogo is that they will be willing to pay the extra for the waste, despite the fact that they pay $6 a tonne for sawlogs in WA. And I know who is going to pay the difference if it ever happens. Who is going to pay the difference is exactly who is paying the difference for the woodchip operations which were supposed to take the waste from the forest floor for the last 32 years in this region … and that’s the taxpayer. Because it is much cheaper just to log old trees and that’s exactly what they will do. Because it is exactly what they have always done.
A low value product like charcoal is not going to pay a premium price for the source. Guaranteed they will not pay it. And the commitment to State Forests in NSW will be to provide them with high quality product at a low price.
The result for this region? At the moment we see between 140,000 and 170,000 tonnes of forest going to sawn timber and woodchips in the southern region. The charcoal plant will take 200,000 tonnes extra. We’re looking at a doubling of the current industry. We’re looking at timber that wasn’t assessed at all in the Regional forests Agreement (RFA) process. In fact no stipulation for a doubling of the industry was made during that process yet there will be no Environmental Impact Study (EIS) done for the timber supply for this facility. The EIS will only cover issues surrounding the plant, not its supply.
[The WA] Government got voted out in February this year in the biggest electoral turn around in WA’s history. All based on the commitment by the alternative party that they would stop this sort of industry. The company, and this is a bit of private land they bought, in the 18 months prior to the election when they realised that the mood of the electorate was turning so savagely against them, stockpiled 3 years supply of jarrah logs and bought private land to sit it there. One thing you will notice is how red the wood is. They want ironbarks, bloodwoods – the stuff that isn’t really cut down very much at the moment. The stuff that supports vast communities of species, particularly birds because they happen to be the woodland trees with the most flowers.
What I think will come out of this and what from bitter experience, from 30 years of community campaigning against this sort of industry has shown everywhere in Australia without fail, is that this will mean massive increases of trees falling. No doubt about it. Then we have the losses for the Eurobodalla Shire, the Nature Coast.
And I congratulate the council on supporting the concept of the Nature Coast because there is no doubt that that is the future of this region. The Nature Coast which has only 99,000 hectares of State forest being logged at the moment, 99,000 is fairly significant, but over 100,000 hectares of forest in interim reserves. What happens when they start to run out of supply? Interim reserves can be reversed without due government process. They just require a minister’s signature, at best.
What happens to the water catchments? Water is already a scarce resource for this region. It is an issue on the minds of every resident every summer. Not only will this plant take a significant amount of water out of the total catchment of this region but the logging will wipe out water catchments all over the region and the downstream effects for oyster farmers, dairy farmers and residents are untold. A recent study showed that quality water catchments are worth $1.6 billion a year to this region. Another study showed that logging, intensive logging, of water catchments particularly the Thompson water catchment above Melbourne loses 50% of water quality after the logging operation. Can this region afford that?
Finally tourism. But not just tourism because this is a special place… it’s not just tourism. It’s the fact that people in Canberra and Sydney own houses here, they pay rates here and they come here because it is the Nature Coast. All of those residents and all of those visitors come here for specific reasons. Driving in to Moruya this morning, on the crest above Moruya, watching that vast panorama of beautiful forest as you drive into town. This is what they have in WA instead. (Points to Simcoa Plant). Tourism is the present and the future of the region. People don’t come to see clear-fell operations, people don’t come to see integrated harvesting. They come to see beautiful forests, birds, kangaroos, to drink clean water, go to the beach, feel safe. And that’s what the future of the region is.
The RFA has been a failure for this region . It’s been a failure all over the country. It failed again last week in Federal Parliament where the Labour Party refused to allow RFA legislation to go through. So RFA agreements still have not got Federal legislation backing them up. It’s still an open field. The argument that has been put to everyone is that Council has no planning power here. I agree. Of course State government would take planning power off a Council after having two Councils oppose the establishment of a charcoal plant. They’d be crazy to allow a Council to have any jurisdiction over this plant.
If Dubbo and Gunnedah come out against it what chances are there of Eurobodalla Shire? But the thing that Eurobodalla Shire Council can provide is support to all the people here. I can’t see the day that a State Government would come out, not only against the 500 people who turned up to Mogo just last Wednesday, the 100 people who turned up today at council (and I don’t know how often it happens but I don’t think very often) and they certainly won’t stand up against a Council that stands firm with the community … and that’s what we need is for Council to stand firm with the community. And It’s a great opportunity for Eurobodalla Shire Council to make it clear to the Government that Council should have a say on planning in their own region. Especially when you have put together a vision of what you want for this area and it completely counteracts that. I’m proud of the people who have turned up for the last couple of weeks. I think it’s an amazing response. 150 people turned up for a public meeting in Gunnedah and the plant was stopped. 500 turned up to Mogo. We couldn’t fit them in the hall. The plant hasn’t been stopped yet but I’m sure if you come behind us it will.