‘Diesel trees’ the good oil for pow­er­ing fu­ture, jobs

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - RICHARD KOSER

WONGA Beach-based en­tre­pre­neur Rod Miller’s team of work­ers have planted 20,000 “diesel trees” around Lock­hart River in the past two years - and he wants to plant a mil­lion more.

“Each tree yields about 40 litres of oil a year,” Mr Miller said by phone from Lock­hart River. “We’ve got mar­kets for all our oil. We could pro­vide 60 mil­lion litres a year just to the mines on Cape York.”

The oil comes from the seed of the pongo tree, an Aus­tralian na­tive that has been used as a source of lamp oil and medicine in In­dia for more than a cen­tury.

“We’ve got 20 fan­tas­tic peo­ple work­ing for us at the moment, all in­dige­nous,” Mr Miller said. “In a few years, we should have 200.

“There’s a lot of peo­ple here who want to work, and want to work on their land.

“We’ve had el­ders from other land groups come and see us, ask us to do the same thing on their land. They can see it’s real work for real wages.”

Deputy mayor of Lock­hart River Paul Piva says Mr Miller’s Ev­er­green Fu­els project is the best thing to ever come to the com­mu­nity, in terms of mo­ti­vat­ing the lo­cal youth.

“We have to sup­port things where you can see out­comes,” Mr Piva said.

“There is too much money be­ing wasted in train­ing and re­train­ing, but we never see full-time em­ploy­ment for our peo­ple.

“I know all the boys and girls out there work­ing, and most of them have never had full-time work be­fore.

“The old CDEP ’work for three days’ idea killed most peo­ple’s work ethic, but to see this mob work­ing hard shows that we do have a fu­ture in Lock­hart.”

Mr Miller ad­mits the road from the seed of the idea to reap the first crop has been a long one.

“We didn’t plant a sin­gle tree in the first three years, we were sort­ing out all the pa­per­work,” he said.

“I’ve sunk $2 mil­lion into the project, and we’ve just taken on a fi­nan­cial part­ner.

“We won’t get any re­turn for a cou­ple of years yet.”

Mr Miller said Ev­er­green Fu­els had not re­ceived any help from the State or Fed­eral Govern­ment, and didn’t ex­pect any.

“We’ve had ab­so­lutely no help from the Govern­ment,” he said.

“In fact, we had a phone call from a bloke in Anna Bligh’s of­fice who said ’Don’t ex­pect any help from us’.”

Mr Miller, who used to own the biodiesel plant in Moss­man, said peo­ple had a lot of mis­con­cep­tions about biodiesel.

“If it’s made right, it will run in any­thing that uses diesel,” he said.

“I’ve got a Toy­ota Land­cruiser that has done 240,000km on biodiesel, and my part­ner’s VW Jetta has done 140,000.

“It ac­tu­ally ex­tends the ser­vice life of your ve­hi­cles. The oil never changes colour. The ser­vice man­ager at Toy­ota in Cairns said he’d never seen such clean oil.”

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