Concerns have been raised about the use of timber from the Tarkeeth State Forest to create bioenergy.
Located 2km south of Bellingen and 30km south-east of Coffs Harbour the Tarkeeth State Forest is 1450 hectares in size.
The Bellingen Environment Centre (BEC) says the use of timber resources from the forest to produce what is being billed as clean energy is a deadly combination bound to end with dire consequences for our land, water, wildlife and forests.
The Forestry Corporation has confirmed that resources from the Tarkeeth State Forest are being sold to a bioenergy plant but says it’s only the residue left from harvesting operations.
“The Tarkeeth plantation harvesting operation is generating sawlogs and poles for local industry to mill into products needed by the community, especially in the post-fire rebuilding effort,” a Forestry Corporation spokesperson said.
“The residue is what’s left over after these high value products are recovered and some of the residue is being sold to a bioenergy plant.
“Removing the residue will reduce the amount of post-harvest burning which needs to be undertaken in the forest to ensure fuel loads are kept under control and minimise the impacts and risk of fire on the local community.”
But the Bellingen Environment Centre (BEC) says the forest is worth millions of dollars to the tourist industry; bringing visitors from across the nation and around the world.
The BEC understands the timber being used from Tarkeeth for what they term the ‘bioenergy experiment’ is going to the Broadwater Mill near Byron Bay.
“Part of the process of harvesting for biofuels includes dragging trees roots from the ground, wood chipping on site, and trucking them to Broadwater Mill,” Caroline Joseph from the BEC said.
“The resulting extreme erosion caused through this brutal process is a disgrace and a threat to the health of our rivers and estuary.
“Cape Byron Power own plants at Broadwater and further north at Condon and run two 30 Mega Watt Biomass Powers Stations on the NSW North Coast. Together these form one of the largest renewable base load generators in Australia.”
The BEC believes the biofuel Industry is wiping out any chance of survival or regeneration of our remaining Native Forests.
“Burning trees to make electricity is unsustainable.”
But the Forestry Corporation has downplayed the concerns saying biomass is not the reason for the harvesting, rather a way to deal with the residues as an alternative to burning in situ.
They have also downplayed concerns that their operations are being increasingly subsidised by the Government.
“The Hardwood Forests Division, which manages operations in both native forests and hardwood plantations, has returned a profit for the last five years and operations are not subsidised by the Government.”