A new Timber Optimisation Hub has been approved to be built near Eden and while it has been hailed as an “exciting” development for the region, its critics believe it contrasts with efforts to combat climate change
The development application was approved by Bega Valley Shire Council on Tuesday (14 September) with only three councillors voting against the proposal.
Councillor Robyn Bain described the move as “such a positive thing for our region” and she hoped the forestry industry would grow in the area.
“It really is about the future of our region,” she said.
“I think it’s totally exciting.”
Allied Natural Wood Exports (ANWE) had successfully applied for the DA to build a log sorter, sawmill, pallet plant and briquette plant as well as to repurpose the existing water treatment thickener tank to store storm water at Edrom Road, south of Eden.
During the meeting, The Greens’ Councillor Cathy Griff said more logging in the region was incompatible with council’s recognition of the climate change crisis.
She said the decision should be deferred, partly for assurances the project would not mean an increase to atmospheric carbon.
Cr Griff said clear advice written by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) one year ago and submitted as material by an objector to the DA, advised there should be a complete stop to harvesting from a burnt forest.
Much of the Bega Valley’s forests had been damaged in the Black Summer Bushfires of 2019- 2020.
Councillor Jo Dodds said she had watched her community go through the beginning of the “horrors” of global warming so could not support anything that increased or prolonged the risk of it.
After the meeting, Cr Griff said the overriding problem was council had been told the DA was not about any extra timber being taken from the forests, just a change of purpose, focusing on the pallets and briquettes.
But she said critics did not accept the “limited view” of referring to the supply change.
“Unless you question those limited views you’re not going to be able to get on the front foot like WA and Victoria have done by ceasing logging,” she said.
Public submissions raised concerns about the broader environmental impacts of the proposal, including that the environmental impacts of harvesting the region’s native forests to supply timber to the hub needed to be addressed.
But council’s staff had recommended councillors approve the hub.
“The development does not seek to alter the timber processing capacity of the site, and timber harvesting does not form part of this development application,” the report stated.
Forestry operations in state forests must obtain approval from the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Lands and Forestry.
ANWE told council the development would use already-harvested timber, some of which would be repurposed to the new uses of pallets and briquettes.
Council staff said the site, which is owned by South East Fibre Exports and operated by ANWE, was developed to support the operation of the wood chip mill which currently processes up to 650,000 tonnes of timber each year.
“As the proposal would be centrally located within the existing wood chip mill and does not seek to increase the volume of timber processed at the site each year, the environmental impacts of the Timber Optimisation Hub are not expected to be significant,” they said.