Coastal Sun January 17th 2002 – Mayoral Report

From the desk of Cr. Peter Cairney

My view re the charcoal factory has been challenged several times by the red ribbon brigade (people for the project). I always ask them why they want it. The answer is always the same. The plant will create jobs.

The brief, describing the factory, signed off by the Minister for Planning, Dr. Refshauge states that 10 jobs will be generated locally. Are these 10 jobs worth having if hundreds of others disappear?

To ensure future viability of this shire, the council needs to encourage and attract industry that is economically sustainable over many years and has the potential to provide job opportunities for our youth. Many young people would like to remain in the shire but are unable to because there are not many industries that offer ‘jobs with a future’.

Jobs in shire under threat

Real estate sales have already dropped because of the threat of this factory. Ask yourselves what else will disappear, if the threat becomes a reality?

In the short-term, use of our forests for charcoal will affect saw-mills in the region, putting many more than 10 people out of work. The very existence of the plant will impact heavily on our major income earner and employer – tourism. This will cause a domino effect. Jobs will go in shops, restaurants, supermarkets, service stations, boat rentals etc. etc.

Tourism depends on the unique environment of the Nature Coast – temperate climate, pollution free air and water, vast tracts of wilderness, abundant wildlife, superb beaches and inland waterways.

The charcoal plant will affect that pristine environment. How?

Noise pollution – according to an employee at Simcoa – a charcoal factory in Western Australia, with only 1 retort not 5 – the biggest problem they have encountered is the noise factor. The closest residence is 2k from the factory. The complaints about noise, especially at night, are constant. Water pollution – the factory sits in the middle of ‘wetlands’. Polluted run-off, not accounted for in the EIS will dump in the wetlands then feed into Candlagan Creek, a playground for children and into the surrounding area.

Air pollution – Small particles of matter will escape into the air, causing distress for people with respiratory problems. Road use – our feeder roads will be choked with trucks, carrying timber waste, charcoal and sawdust – 1 every 6 minutes will enter or leave the plant. Try travelling up the Clyde Mountain or the Princes Highway behind these trucks – a nightmare.

An Alternative

It is necessary for this shire to diversify in order to remain viable. We should not put all our eggs in one or two baskets.

I have been asking around, trying to come up with solutions. One that stood out was Information Technology (IT).

This council has already taken steps to improve local telecommunications. We can use this as a building block for the future.

IT is one of the fastest growth areas in the world. One hundred and eighty thousand jobs will open up in the next few years.

The University of Wollongong is trialling a pilot program – an intensive summer school ‘e-course’ for high school students. The course will allow the students to acquire an advanced knowledge of IT in a short space of time and will set them on the path to a career.

In the Newcastle/Hunter Valley region they are in the process of setting up a regional IT hub. This will serve as a local internet service provider (ISP).

A local ISP would operate with local call costs, local technical support and a local home page – add this to low rentals and you have prime selling tools to attract business and light industry to the region – projects with a future – projects that will not impact heavily on our environment.

Within the next few years, it will be possible to conduct all your business from home, using IT. People will be able to live anywhere they wish. The Eurobodalla Shire by diversifying this way would be able to offer affordable, dependable internet access plus a top environment. After all, we have been dubbed “the jewel in the crown of NSW”.

Ten jobs in the short-term or hundreds maybe thousands in the future – I know what I would choose.

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