Saturday 27 May 2023


A waste incinerator in the Northern Rivers at Casino is one of four being planned by the NSW Government for regional locations. Legislation which came into force in July last year has implemented this as part of the government’s Energy from Waste Infrastructure Plan.  According to a July 8 2022 EPA news item, the plan strategically locates the four facilities in designated locations “to maximise efficiencies in infrastructure, waste management, innovation and energy recovery”.

What is significant is that all locations are well away from major population centres where the majority of waste is created and that local regional communities have little - if any - say in being chosen for these incinerators. 

There are major concerns about pollution from waste incinerators.  They emit toxic chemicals, many of which are banned chemicals under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants 2001.

Jo Immig, the National Toxics Network Coordinator, is very concerned about the impact pollution from the incinerator will have both on the health of local residents and on local agriculture. 

She said, “It doesn’t matter how stringent the NSW Government claims its pollution requirements will be, international practice and independent science show these incinerators cause dangerous dioxin air pollution and toxic ash contaminated with PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ wherever they are.

“Waste incinerators dressed up as ‘renewable energy producers’ are effectively plastic burning facilities producing the dirtiest form of energy, worse than coal and gas, which will just worsen the climate emergency and lock in waste incineration for decades, completely distorting efforts to minimise waste and incentivise re-use and recycling for a zero-waste society.”

Richmond Valley Council supports the proposal.  The growth of local opposition has led to the formation of Residents Against the Richmond Valley Incinerator (RARVI) which has a facebook presence. It has held a number of public meetings and is raising the issue across the Northern Rivers.

There is the expectation that if this proposal proceeds it will be fuelled with waste from surrounding Local Government Areas (LGAs) which presumably is necessary to ensure its economic viability.  So that raises questions about the positions of councils in the adjoining LGAs.  Another question of interest is whether the newly elected state government will support the establishment of waste to energy incinerators in Casino and the other regional areas.


Saturday 20 May 2023


Clarence Valley Council’s meeting in Maclean on April 18 considered a very important Notice of Motion (NOM) lodged by Councillor Greg Clancy on the rezoning of lands on West Yamba Floodplain. 

The NOM aimed to have Council request that the Department of Planning and Environment approve rezoning of lands in the West Yamba Urban Release Area (WYURA) which do not have development approval for a subdivision, from Residential (R1) to Conservation (C2) zoning or a mix of Conservation (C2) and Rural (RU2).

This NOM followed Council’s receipt of legal advice in February that rezoning of land which did not already have development approval for a subdivision was possible without Council being liable for paying compensation.

The West Yamba urban development was approved in 2007 despite considerable opposition because of concern about the advisability of adding tonnes of fill to wetlands to enable residential development and the likely impacts of climate change. 

Early in 2022 Council’s pigeons came home to roost with a vengeance as protracted rain at Yamba led to unprecedented flooding of many houses outside the WYURA and road flooding cutting the town off for days.  So the earlier concerns about the impact of extreme weather resulting from climate change appear to be justified.

Before the opening of the April Council meeting there were two strong deputations supporting the NOM.  The first was from Sue Higginson, Greens member of the Legislative Council and former chief solicitor for the Environmental Defenders Office.  Ms Higginson reiterated the legal advice which Council had received in February and spoke of the importance of acting now.  The second was from Gulmurrad resident Peter Maslin which should have indicated to the councillors that the issue was not just a Yamba issue, but a floodplain issue for the Local Government Area in general.

So the large gallery attending the meeting found it very disappointing that the motion was rejected by five of the seven councillors eligible to vote.  (Mayor Tiley and Cr Johnston as members of the Planning Panel could not participate in the debate or the vote.)  Those voting for it were Councillors Clancy and Smith.  Voting against it were Cr Day, Cr Novak, Cr Pickering, Cr Toms, and Cr Whaites.  Arguments against it included the need to wait for some more reports, the fact that no other councils had ever taken action like this and it was up to the State Government to act on floodplain development. One councillor disputed that the town was cut off for an extended period and another asserted that, despite the legal advice, compensation of millions would probably have to be paid to developers.

What happened in 2022 will certainly occur again and the continuing addition of fill and further urban expansion in the West Yamba area is almost certain to lead to even more extensive flooding of existing dwellings elsewhere in Yamba as well as to road flooding leading to the town’s isolation for days.

What is interesting is that the councillors who voted against the motion are disregarding the very serious concerns of Yamba residents who want effective action and do not want this delayed until more reports are produced.  Also interesting is that some of the councillors voting against the action actually live in Yamba.

The opposition to this unsustainable floodplain development will continue through local groups like Valley Watch and the recently-formed Yamba CAN (Community Action Network) as well as from other Clarence Valley groups such as the Clarence Environment Centre and the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition.  And the motion that failed may well be brought forward again after the required three month gap.  Will the naysaying five have seen the light by then?  It will be very interesting to see how many new West Yamba Development Applications will be submitted to Council in the meantime.


Protesters outside Maclean Council Building on April 18 2023



Saturday 6 May 2023


The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) is renewing calls to end the logging of public native forests in light of a report detailing that NSW taxpayers will reap a $45 million benefit from stopping logging of North East NSW’s public forests immediately.

With logging causing populations of many forest-dependent species to rapidly decline, spreading weeds, causing widespread dieback, reducing stream flows, and increasing fire risk, there is a need for immediate action, NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.

“As climate heating gathers momentum, the increasing temperatures, droughts, heatwaves and wildfires are compounding impacts.

“We urgently need to help our forests recover from past abuses, to allow them to sequester atmospheric carbon out of harm’s way, regrow big trees for nectar and hollows, and regain their natural resilience.

“And we can make money at the same time” Mr. Pugh said.

The independent public policy think tank Blueprint Institute has released a report  ‘Branching Out: Exploring Alternate Land Use Options for the Native Forests of New South Wales’ which assesses the economic potential of native forest conservation by modelling the value of carbon sequestration and tourism against continued logging, demonstrating “conclusively that there is no economic case for continued logging of native forests on the North Coast of New South Wales”.

They found that managing the North Coast region in a manner consistent with conservation would over the period from now to 2040:

·       abate an average of 0.45 million tonnes of carbon annually, which equates to a net present value of $174 million

·       increase tourism to the region, providing a net present value of $120 million.

After allowing for an Industry adjustment package of $215 million and generous assumptions of potential yields, the Blueprint Institute identified a net benefit value of $45 million in present-day dollars by stopping logging immediately.

“NEFA considers their figures on carbon sequestration grossly understates the annual carbon sequestration potential of recovering forests, and thus the benefits of ceasing logging.  Neither does the report account for the immense environmental benefits.  While the benefits are understated, there can be no doubt that as recommended in the report we need to stop NSW taxpayers subsidising the logging of public native forests and legislate to immediately end their logging,” Mr. Pugh said.

-         NEFA Media Release, 27 April 2023