I will be speaking more broadly about what these laws will mean for us heading into a climate emergency.
I would like to first acknowledge we are currently without a Local Law #2 as the 2009 General Local Law No.2 – Community Amenity & Municipal Places has expired. And I’d like to acknowledge that both the lapsed law and the proposed law, which is built upon the 2009 version, no longer serves our community in a climate emergency. This is the right time to get these laws into an appropriate state for our shire for the next ten years. This is the right time for council to incorporate the thinking of the community.
It is encouraging that Hepburn Shire Council has declared a climate emergency and the council is beginning to work towards the unprecedented challenges of climate change. It is encouraging that council is considering making some changes based on the large number of submissions to date, and we applaud these minor changes while at the same time we request much more.
After reading the entire draft of the proposed Local Law No.2 of 2019, I have found this document to be largely working at odds with the council’s declaration and therefore at odds with ‘community safety’. If these laws were really about community safety we would have strict laws that would ban car use, for example. Cars are one of the major killers of people in Australia and their manufacturing and running emissions are a large part of the a story of unfolding climate chaos.
Today, ahead of this community-led public meeting, is the first day council staff at the Daylesford tip prohibited me from doing what myself and others have done for more than ten years – salvaging useful waste materials from the wood and scrap metal piles.
Council has effectively stopped me from being a responsible, low-carbon resident. I simply wanted to take home a 2m red gum post from the wood pile and hold up this useful timber from being chipped and thus turned into methane gas (within a year or two). As a building material for food beds it would have lasted another 10 years. I was willing to pay for it.
On the one hand council is saying the tip is safe to off load materials, but it is unsafe to upload materials. This is nonsensical. You can’t have the same workplace operating in two parallel versions of reality.
These local laws that attempt to inhibit negative or careless behaviour in the community will also inhibit many positive activities.
This region is known as a pioneering region of sustainability and localised food systems and many of these proposed laws will reduce the capacity of local people from developing further these new forms of economy and carbon-positive living in a climate changed era. They will reduce the necessary modelling of behaviour changes in the household and community economies, where true resilience will flow from in times of emergency and crisis.
Community and self-provisioning are both key to a future of immense challenges and for people’s ability to cope, adapt and even thrive. Activities such as planting public fruit, shade or habitat trees on nature strips, foraging edible weeds and introduced fungi in public places, collecting fallen firewood to reduce fuel loads in our neighbourhoods, and fishing for and procuring feral animals to include as non-industrial forms of food all contribute to preparing for and building resilient household economies that are not reliant on fossil fuel grids.
Across this nation and in many places overseas, people are looking at how we in this shire are performing fairer, climate-safe, innovative and more holistic economies, not only at an institutional level but in the space of informal household and community economies. These economies are designed to lessen dependence on the globalised fossil fuel driven economy responsible for so much environmental damage and climate destabilising. It would be regrettable that a number of the items of the Local Law were included because they would negate much needed non-institutionalised behaviour change, and generally choke environmental innovation and a diversity of approaches to the complex predicaments of our time.
I accept that council is caught between institutional ways of working and accounting, and the community’s informal organisations in non-monetary ways of transitioning, and this is why there can be conflict. But considering Council and other agencies cannot currently cope with or afford the immensity of weed and bushfire mitigation work needed on public land, then encouraging residents to be local caretakers of their environments or with agreed council guidelines will be important conversations to have going further down the path of climate change.
In a climate emergency there must be greater encouragement from council for informal household and community groups working towards food and energy security and community land management activities as the same such processes. This is holistic economy that gives meaning and purpose to local lives and helps prepare people for an uncertain future together.
Flexibility, changes, deletions and exceptions are required to the proposed local laws to protect young people, farmers, First Nation residents, elderly pensioners, traditional families, low income and frugal-living folk, and environmental actors modelling carbon-positive and ecologically sensitive lifeways.
These laws attack common folk in the shire, and that council only reached out proactively to business for consultation and the social media council posted to the rest of us made it look like these were cat and dog laws has irritated those of us calling for best practice community consultation.
We want to work with council, but a few minor changes to laws that won’t be reviewed for 10 years is not enough. We are requesting a slow, steady and side-by-side working arrangement with council to properly address Local Law #2.
This is our future, this is our shire.
Dr Patrick Jones