Northern Rivers shells out for environment

A CONTROVERSIAL poll by the Lowy Institute says 21 per cent of people wouldn't put a red cent of their hard-earned towards solving climate change.

However, while Lowy Institute executive director Allan Gyngell yesterday said concern over economic issues had increased at the expense of the environment, State Government figures show Northern Rivers residents are already shelling out to save the environment.

Bernard Carlon from the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change questioned the Lowy Institute figures, saying most people did want to contribute to the cause. His comments were backed by research, done by the department, suggesting more than 60 per cent of people were willing to reduce energy and water consumption.

In fact, our region leads the State in adopting energy-saving measures.

Mr Carlon, the department's director of sustainability programs, said Byron Shire ranked second out of 154 local government areas in New South Wales, based on population, for taking advantage of rebates to convert electric hot water systems to solar.

Bellingen Shire topped the list, with Tweed Shire coming eighth, Kyogle 15th, Lismore 18th, Ballina 20th and Richmond Valley 45th.

“Converting household hot water to solar is the most significant thing you can do to help reduce energy consumption in the home,” he said.

“We know that people think climate change is an important issue and they want to see governments and businesses taking action.”

The State department's $1200 rebate to convert to solar hot water is funded through levies extracted from energy utilities and will continue for another three years.

Country Energy spokesman Mike Hely said energy use in the Byron area appeared to be dropping.

Recent years had seen the area's population boom, with total energy use rising. However, Mr Healy said the rate of the increase had slowed. From 2003 it had dropped from 3.5 per cent per year to 1.6 per cent.

“This may indicate people are becoming more energy conscious,” he said.

Rainbow Power Company's Peter Pedals said public interest in sustainable power had grown in recent years.

Advances in geothermal power also appeared promising.

“But the biggest obstacle we have to overcome is learning to do with less,” he said.

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