Speaking on ABCSE radio recently, General Manager of South East Fibre Exports, Peter Mitchell ruled out setting up a biomass power plant at its chip mill in Eden. According to Peter the industry no longer produces enough waste woodchips to power the originally proposed $25m generator.
Lamenting the ‘very fragile policy framework that we’re working in’, Peter questioned ‘Is this a safe place to do business given that policies can change so quickly based on elections and election outcomes?’
He went on to say there is plenty of waste, just not at the mill and its to expensive to pick it up after logging. If we forget about the global trend away from native forest logging, all it really needs is a company, that receives more subsidies than Peters, to make it happen.
Not surprisingly, local conservationists are less than supportive, with one suggesting ‘The industry views the RET as its lifeline to a whole new round of subsidies and survival’.
While this may be the case the question of subsidies has always been an issue for the woodchip logging industry. As indicated in the map of the Eden RFA area above, a forty kilometer radius from the chipmill was designated as the area where full royalties are paid for woodchip logs.
Beyond this area the royalty is reduced on a sliding scale depending on distance from the mill. Hence woodchip logs are cheaper when sourced from forests north of Tathra and all of the Southern region, one of the reasons FCNSW are an economic basket case. However, the management of National Parks is also subsidized, along with the work of the Local Land Services and Bega Valley Council.
Perhaps if climate change was higher on the NSW Government’s agenda, it would be looking at ways to allow for sensible opportunities when it comes to small-scale biomass innovation. Rather than the current each to their own approach.