No energy-from-waste facility proposed for Richmond Valley

DESPITE widespread misinformation, there is no proposal for an energy-from-waste facility to be built in the Richmond Valley.

Richmond Valley Council’s General Manager Vaughan Macdonald said the Regional Job Precinct at Casino had been identified in the NSW Government’s Energy from Waste Infrastructure Plan as a site where an energy-from-waste facility may be permissible, subject to development approval in the future.

However, Mr Macdonald said Council had no intention of building such a facility and no one else had come forward with a proposal to do so.

He said Council had investigated a range of options for dealing with residual waste because the current practice of landfilling waste and/or transporting it to Queensland was unsustainable.

“Despite our successful recycling and organics programs, our community still creates more than 9000 tonnes of residual waste each year,” Mr Macdonald said.

“We transport most of this waste to Queensland landfill sites, at an annual cost of more than $2 million.”

Mr Macdonald said most councils on the North Coast were experiencing similar challenges with waste and Richmond Valley Council had worked with 12 other councils to explore alternatives.

He said as part of this process, modern energy-from-waste facilities were investigated as a possible solution, however, Richmond Valley Council resolved at its November 2022 meeting to pause any active investigation of energy-from-waste facilities and to focus on other waste streams such as food organics and recycling.

He said although energy-from-waste facilities had been operating overseas for more than 20 years, they were new to Australia and both the Federal and State governments were still refining the regulatory issues around them, informed by detailed assessments by the NSW Government’s Chief Scientist and Engineer.

“Energy-from-waste facilities are too hi-tech and expensive for Council to contemplate building, so any future proposal would need to come from private enterprise,” Mr Macdonald said.

“A private investor would first have to determine if such a facility was commercially viable, find a suitable block of land, and go through a lengthy assessment and approval process with the NSW Government.

“This would include extensive consultation with the community and environmental regulators to obtain a social licence for the facility.

“If a facility was approved, it would take several years to construct and commission and would then be subject to 24-hour emissions monitoring by regulators.”

Mr Macdonald said because there were many unknowns in this scenario, Council had no commitment to supporting the building of an energy-from-waste facility and continued to consider all options for its residual waste.

He said there were a lot of opinions about current waste issues and Richmond Valley Council was keeping an open mind about possible solutions as it worked to resolve the community’s residual waste problem.

“Council is finalising the construction of a new landfill cell at its Nammoona facility, which will provide capacity for more than 10 years of residual waste from the Richmond Valley,” he said.

“We will continue to explore other technologies and processes to manage the waste generated by our residents and businesses.”

Mr Macdonald said Council would monitor any developments elsewhere in NSW, such as the Parkes Special Activation Precinct where a procurement process was underway for an energy-from-waste facility.

“We have been transparent on this issue throughout and will continue to provide regular updates to our community through Council reports and other communications,” he said.

“However, we need to be clear on the fact there is currently no proposal for an energy-from-waste facility in the Richmond Valley.”

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