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Newcastle City Council passes motion opposing woodchip and biomass plans for the city, region

The NSW Nature Conservation Council congratulates Newcastle City Council’s opposition to plans to restart woodchip exports from the Port of Newcastle and expand the biomass industry in the region. The council’s position was outlined in a motion passed at a council meeting on the 28th of September.  

“It is fantastic to see Newcastle City Council making it known they want no part in the woodchip industry on the North Coast. They join the Port of Newcastle which has also distanced itself from Sweetman Renewables’ proposal in recent days, ” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.  
“The council has a vision for the future of Newcastle, and the return of this destructive, extractive industry does not fit within it. Newcastle continues to make steps towards becoming a green, smart city with a thriving cultural scene- this dinosaur industry is in stark contrast to its future,” said Mr Gambian 

“We currently face a climate crisis and an extinction crisis. Burning native forest woodchips for electricity is the ultimate lose-lose proposal because it would exacerbate both of these,” Mr Gambian said. 
“Biomass must be outed for the fake ‘green’ energy it is. It cannot be allowed to grow in NSW and draw investment and subsidies away from genuine green technologies,” said Mr Gambian 

“Sweetman Renewables’ plans to start a biomass industry in the Hunter will continue to be met with fierce resistance. My suggestion? Give up - you won’t win this one,” Mr Gambian said. 

City of Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said City of Newcastle strongly opposes the export of woodchips from the Port of Newcastle and is pleased to note the Port of Newcastle has taken the same position and would not provide a lease or licence for this purpose. 

"Councillors unanimously opposed the export of woodchips from the Port of Newcastle at Tuesday's Council meeting and the news that the Port has likened the export of woodchips to the export of live cattle and radioactive waste, both of which are activities that would not be considered, was welcomed by Councillors,” said Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes. 

"While we do support the creation of clean energy such as hydrogen, and advocate for the creation and use of green energy to reach net zero emissions in the future, we in no way support the proposal of 60,000 tonnes of native forest woodchips per annum to Japan, or woodchip-fed hydrogen power plants," Lord Mayor Nelmes said. 


Background: text of motion passed by City of Newcastle council meeting 28 Sept 2021 

That the City of Newcastle:

1.Opposes the export of woodchips from the Port of Newcastle.

2.Opposes the proposal to export 60,000 tonnes of native forest woodchips per annum to Japan over 20 years through the Port of Newcastle. 

3. Opposes the accompanying proposal for a woodchip-fed hydrogen plant in the Greater Newcastle region, noting the significant potential for our region in generating Green Hydrogen, manufactured by electrolysis with renewable energy.

4.Notes the correspondence to all Councillors from the Port of Newcastle on this date 28th September which confirms: 

a) that the Port of Newcastle has not had any discussions with this group raising the idea, 

b) the Port of Newcastle would not lease facilities for this purpose, 

c) existing lease arrangements exist with stevedores and logistic companies that the Port of Newcastle do not control,

d) the use of the port for this proposal as the Port of Newcastle understands it from media reports does not fit with their values and aspirations for the future.
5. Writes to the NSW Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Primary Industries expressing Council’s concerns with the proposed use of woodchip from native forests, and requesting their support to prohibit the export of woodchips from native forests.

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