Addresss by Harriett Swift to the Bega Valley Shire Council, 17th January 2012 on the Eden chipmill wood pellet plant
- The Land and Environment Court overturned the previous approval for the pellet plant on 16th December. 4 working days later, Mr Fowler had bounced back with a “new” recommendation to approve it, only this time with 50+ more pages of words.
- Conditions of the original and the revised approval were that the proponent, South East Fibre Exports should provide reports on noise levels and emissions within 3 months of commencement. According to the affidavit of Mr Mitchell, the plant commenced operations on 25th September 2011. It was officially opened, in the presence of the Local MP, Mike Kelly and the Mayor, Mr Allen on 14th October when it had already been operating for 3 weeks
- Operations of the plant were halted by a decision of the Land and Environment Court on 16th December. This gave the company almost 3 months of operations and it is reasonable to ask it to supply the noise and emissions reports on the basis of information that it has already gathered. Presumably when it commenced operating the plant on 25th September it was not expecting to be the subject of an adverse decision and presumably must have been gathering data for the required reports on noise and emissions.
- In these circumstances, it is more than reasonable to ask for them now, before consent is granted rather than a further 3 months down the track.
- There were 93 submissions from the public in favour of the pellet plant. The vast majority were almost identical. One was almost certainly from one of the chipmill managers and another was from somebody within the industry but for some reason or other names of people making submissions have been removed.
- This was not the case for the 140 submissions against the plan. They were far more varied, thoughtful and well considered.
- After the first approval, which took roughly 5 minutes, there was enormous public dismay, both within the Bega Valley Shire and throughout Australia. This is a historic decision. Hundreds of people sent emails to those councillors who opposed the pellet plant. Not one of them got a reply apart from one Tathra resident who got an earful of abuse from one Councillor because he has a wood heater in his house.
- Councillors will probably again approve this development application – this time with the required “mental state” as requirted by the court ruling – although how we are to determine that is a mystery to me. But I think they have an obligation to at least tell us why they are voting as they do. Last time, on one of the most fundamental and historic votes affecting the environment of this shire and beyond, we heard nothing from any of you. You owe us that at least.