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