It's a sad indictment on the state government that it takes a small community to highlight the gaping holes in its waste strategy.
Jerrara Power's plans for a waste to energy plant at Bungonia sparked vehement community and council opposition that has ultimately caused a rethink.
All power to the people of Bungonia and district who were not going to take it lying down. As Jerrara Action Group member Leisha Cox Barlow succinctly put it, the company "absolutely underestimated" the village.
Sheer people power, a broad range of expertise and the backing of Goulburn Mulwaree Council and MP Wendy Tuckerman have secured a policy change that will effectively prevent companies just plonking these plants anywhere, especially on rural land.
But was it ever so complicated?
Surely it was never too much to expect the government to properly assess its future waste needs, decide how many of these facilities might be required and where they were best located.
The Energy from Waste Infrastructure Plan released on Friday stated that one large-scale energy from waste facility would be required to service Greater Sydney's waste to 2030, and another three by 2040. It sets out priority areas in the southern part of Goulburn Mulwaree's LGA, Parkes, Richmond Valley and West Lithgow for the plants.
Landfills accepting Greater Sydney's putrescible waste are also expected to reach capacity in 15 years.
Waste to energy plants are a quick fix for the problem and hardly encourage re-use. It seems it is all too hard for Sydney and it is conveniently palming off its problems to the regions.
Notably, not one urban or metro area is flagged in the plan.
Meantime, regions like Goulburn Mulwaree are miles ahead in waste re-use, including FoGo. Only this year has the state mandated council separation of food and organic wastes from household rubbish.
Putting all that aside, it took a monumental effort to persuade government that one could drive a truck through its waste to energy approach.
If not for people power, persuasive well-formed arguments and action at political level, it could have easily been otherwise.
The process exposed the state's planning department's bias towards Jerrara Power. It was hellbent on finding a permissability pathway for an industrial plant on pristine rural land.
That is bad enough but the stress and anxiety imposed on the community is quite another. Some landowners, who felt powerless in the face of such bureaucracy, sold up and left.
We hope better days are ahead for Bungonia. In the meantime, the state planning department would do well to reflect on its actions.
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