Port, Council United In Opposition To Woodchip Exports At Newcastle

Newcastle Council has moved to block a new push to export woodchips from the Port of Newcastle and expand the industry in the region.

Sweetman Renewables is looking to secure a 20 year deal with a logistics company that would see 60,000 tonnes shipped out of the Port each year, to be burnt in Japan’s biomass fuel power plants.

The practice has been slammed by environmental groups including the Nature Conservation Council, labeling it fake ‘green’ energy.

“Burning native forest woodchips for electricity is the ultimate lose-lose proposal because it would exacerbate the climate crisis,” CEO Chris Gambian said.

“It cannot be allowed to grow in NSW and draw investment and subsidies away from genuine green technologies.”

On Tuesday, Newcastle Council unanimously opposed the plan and an accompanying proposal for a woodchip-fed hydrogen plant in the Greater Newcastle region, noting the significant potential for generating Green Hydrogen, manufactured by electrolysis with renewable energy instead.

“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 Nuatali Nelmes said.

Councillors also called on the NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean to outlaw the practice of exporting woodchips from native forests.

The Port has also distanced itself from Sweetman Renewables’ proposal, writing to Council to say it has had no dealings with the company over the proposal to date, and confirmed it would not allow any new lease or license for such a use.

“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,” Cr Nelmes said.

However, a potential loophole has been noted, with the Port acknowledging existing lease arrangements with stevedores and logistic companies were in place that it has no control over.

                                                                Image credit: Port of Newcastle