Hepburn Shire Council has shown strong leadership towards climate goals. Hepburn wind is lauded nationwide, the Solar bulk buy was very successful, and declaring a climate emergency has been hailed by many as a big step in the right direction.
Why then would the council want to contravene those aims?
In the community of Hepburn Shire, and specifically where I live in Wheatsheaf, a large number of people are concerned that these proposed amendments would hamper our efforts to work together towards the stated aims of the council, and also hinder both the global and local movement towards sustainability in general.
This submission will show ways in which the amendments to this Draft Law No. 2, and also the original law itself, are not in alignment with the council’s stated climate goals, with Z-NET’s goals, CACE (the organisation at the heart of Climate Emergency Declaration), or the culture of the shire itself.
At the end are some suggestions as to how this legislation could be rethought or opened to community engagement in a way that would be more in alignment with these goals, as well as forging a stronger partnership between council and constituents in order to work together towards our shared aims of responding to the threats and impacts of climate change in a practical, resilient and sustainable way.
Primarily, on the website of Hepburn Shire Council there is the Sept 2019 Declaration of Climate Emergency which clearly shows the council’s priority to assist the community in mitigating climate change.
“At last night’s meeting, Council unanimously resolved to join a growing global movement and declare a climate emergency. This further supports the proactive actions Council is already taking to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, by reducing our own emissions and assisting the community to reduce theirs”
CACE, the organisation campaigning for more councils to follow Hepburn and make the same declaration, specify that,
“To create a global cooling we need to:
- Reduce our emissions to as close to zero as possible in all sectors of our economy, including energy, agriculture, landuse, and industrial process; and
- Draw down past emissions.”
https://www.caceonline.org/entering-emergency-mode.htmlIt is clear from the Victorian Government’s website in the section ‘A circular economy for Victoria’ that the Victorian government values and promotes the concept of circular economy.
In the diagram on the website above, reuse is prioritised above recycling, as a step that needs to take place before materials are recycled, according to the Victorian government’s recommendations.
“The main objective of CE is to maximise the use of materials through collection and reuse (stage 6) and recycling (stage 7). This is to reduce the amount of waste (stage 0) being generated thereby leading to a solution where everyone benefits” (Pan et al., 2015, Tukker, 2013).
CE is defined “as a regenerative system in which resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage are minimised by slowing, closing, and narrowing material and energy loops” (Geissdoerfer et al., 2017)
The communities ability to assist in this aim is currently inhibited by Local Law No.2 sections 8.1 & 8.2, which have only as on Dec 13th 2019 been enforced by Transfer Station management.
“8.1 Unless in accordance with a permit, a person must not search through or remove any articles of rubbish, recyclables or items from the municipal tip or left for collection on a public place.”
“Use of Tip or Transfer Station
8.2 A person must not use a municipal tip except in accordance with the directions of an authorised officer or tip attendant and any signs.”
I understand that the steel at the Daylesford Transfer station is usually recycled rather than added to landfill, but to encourage the reuse of steel and other construction materials is a valuable method of emissions reduction that has a much lower impact on climate change than industrial recycling, as it reduces the emissions created in the production of new items as well as removing the impact of the industrial recycling processes.
“…materials reuse requires minimal energy usage as compared to the energy needed for material recycling” (Addis, 2006)
“As distinct from recycling, reuse of construction products involves their reuse with little or no reprocessing. Reuse offers even greater environmental advantage than recycling since there is no (or few) environmental impacts associated reprocessing. For example, reusing a steel beam in its existing form is better than remelting it and rolling a new steel beam, i.e. the energy used to remelt the beam is saved.”
“To ensure effective circular economy, it is important that a good percentage of building materials are recoverable for reuse and recycling (Pan et al., 2015, Tukker, 2013). This ensures that the use of raw materials and the disposal of waste to landfill is minimised. Although building material recycling is a common practice, a more value-driven use of materials is reuse. This is because recycling requires more energy usage than material reuse.” (Pan et al., 2015)
It is also clear from the Hepburn Shire Council’s website that the council is also a strong supporter of the Zero Net Emissions Transition (Z-NET) project.
“Z-NET Hepburn is the expansion of the Z-NET Uralla project, and has used historical and recent input from community members in the Shire to deliver a roadmap which is truly representative of the region.”
“Council is working with community groups to develop education programs. This is with the intention of embedding knowledge more broadly within the community and building literacy around emission reduction activities”
In order to take into account and act accordingly with these aims, it would be necessary to consult with the community to determine a safe process for facilitating the reuse of steel from the transfer station rather than prohibit salvaging, which would directly contravene guidelines laid out by both local and state government.
By the same token, the wood pile at the tip would more effectively be reused rather than having it chipped, which increases methane production.
In the same way that the Council’s successful initiatives reducing organic waste to landfill e.g. the worm farm project, we could look at new initiatives that would further reduce waste and environmentally harmful industrial and agricultural processes by promoting and supporting the use of foraged foods.
The community’s ability to forage foods on public land & roadways would be inhibited by
item’s 2.2 & 2.18 of the proposed legistation Draft Law No. 2.
“2.2 A person must not destroy, damage, remove, interfere with, attach to or change in any way anything in, on or under a road, footpath or public place.
2.18 person must not, without a permit, remove firewood, including dead trees and fallen branches, flowers, other vegetation or fruit from a road reserve or Council land, unless permitted to do so by Council signage.”
Foraged foods use less energy and create less emissions than modern agricultural practices, and there are many experts in this field within our community that could aid in running workshops and leading tours around public land promoting safe foraging practices, which would again reduce emissions, increase tourism, and foster a stronger sense of community and connection to the land.
“Possibly some of the most sustainable – and nutritious – foods could be growing wild in our backyards or footpaths: edible weeds. Most cities even have guided foraging tours to help residents find them.”
It is also a very important way that the Dja Dja Wurrung continue and deepen their connection to country. There may be ways in which we as a community in collaboration with the Dja Dja Wurrung could help foster and share in this connection through learning about, and revegetating nature strips and other public land with, native plants and bushfoods. This would increase our resilience to fire, invasive plants and reduce the emissions involved in food production.
“…the way we produce and consume food is contributing to the problem. The latest Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) report describes how agricultural production is complicit in increasing emissions, reducing biodiversity and polluting environments. The entire food production system, including transportation and packaging, is responsible for as much as 37 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
The IPCC states that ‘balanced diets featuring plant-based foods such as those based on coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low-greenhouse-gas-emission systems present major opportunities for adaptation and mitigation while generating significant co-benefits in terms of human health’.”
“Important tucker and medicine species can still be found across our Country. We use local plants such as reeds (djarrk) and wattle (wai wai). Access to plants and forest produce keeps us connected to our ancestors and allows us to revive and develop our traditional culture.”
A large part of our objections to this proposed changes to legislation is the lack of collaboration with the community in general, and in the way promised by the declaration of climate emergency.
“COMMUNITY – the council is mobilising its community to support council action, undertake their own action and to work with council to put pressure on higher levels of government achieve net negative emissions by 2030 or earlier.
GETTING TO NET NEGATIVE – a community wide planning process has been undertaken on how the council can achieve net negative emissions, including consumption emissions, by 2030 or earlier including the development of key budget requirements.”
Again from the Hepburn Shire Council website,
“Hepburn Shire has strong community leadership on sustainability projects, as evidenced by the existence of numerous Sustainability Groups. These groups work across many of the towns and villages around the Shire; they are vital in helping Council and the broader community in developing and implementing local projects”
“Victoria is leading the way on environmental issues, particularly when it comes to climate change mitigation and adaptation. To ensure that we are delivering best practice projects, Council works closely with other Local Governments and experts in the region”
We have seen submissions and statements from ‘experts in the region’. There are local projects in place and emerging that potentially could be made impossible with this legislation. We have seen the passion of the community for sustainability and the potential for our becoming national or even international leaders in the global movement towards our clarified climate goals, and the stated aims of this legislation change –
“b) promoting a healthy and safe environment in which residents and visitors to the municipal district can enjoy”.
There are so many options and possible ideas to explore, and an abundance of experts in these fields amongst the community as demonstrated in the meeting of Dec 13th.
We ask to be part of the conversation to create legislation, initiatives and projects that would benefit the whole community towards the council’s stated goals for mitigating the impacts of climate change. All we ask for is that you don’t prohibit us from working together with you.
Here are some ideas that could with collaboration and time become potential solutions for mitigating climate change, along with reducing long term costs, and improving metrics of emissions reduction, carbon sequestration and even the aesthetics of the shire and mental health amongst it’s constituents.
- Community run and council sponsored workshops and events designed to foster safe use of public land, whether it be foraging, removal of fire load/fallen branches, hosting community events
- Liaising with the community to put forward a system of guidelines in order to create community contracts guaranteeing indemnity to the council from legal action should any issues arise from community members not following the advice of community experts in safe practices
- Rethinking with the community ways to safely reuse steel donated to the tip, potentially involving safer storage of materials to enhance accessibility for the community, or expanding the tip shop to include more items previously discarded.
- Community working Bees, facilitated in connection with council and the Dja Dja Wurrung with local experts, enabling volunteers to safely remove invasive species and regevegetate with native plants and bushfoods
- More community workshops events with the CFA in collaboration and the Dja Dja Wurrung with local experts on Traditional burning practices, reducing fireload and the impact of climate related bushfires in the future
- Community workshops events engaging the support of community groups like the Repair Cafe and Men’s Shed to encourage repair and reuse of products, and materials salvaged from the tip, reducing landfill and emissions
- Reuse network/library of products & tools that are rarely used for example gardening and landscaping tools that could be accessed by the community, along with instruction on safe usage, in order to reduce consumption and emissions
- Nature strip beauty contests, Community members are given the option to either manage or have their nature strip managed by council, and given guidelines and native plant lists and potentially redirected budget they can use to revegetate and produce food to be shared with the community, along with an event similar to ‘Open House/garden’ events where a map of these community managed nature strips could be circulated, encouraging tourism, and prizes given to the best use of these valuable plots of land, creating community engagement, inspiration to and investment from tourists who come to view the plots on the day of the judging of the contest
- Council support and encouragement for projects that can reduce emissions for example the Goat Collective and Blackberry Biochar carbon sequestration as mentioned in the Dec 13th meeting
- Tourists have complained to me about unmanaged public land and invasive weeds encroaching on their experience in the area. Supporting and facilitating community management of public land would not only beautify the local area, empower and educate the community towards climate goals, and increase the quality of the experience of visitors to the area
Building with Reclaimed Components and Materials: A Design Hand Book for Reuse and Recycling
Earthscan, London (2006)
M. Geissdoerfer, P. Savaget, N.M.P. Bocken, E.J. Hultink
The circular economy – a new sustainability paradigm?
- Clean. Prod., 143 (2017), pp. 757-768S.-Y. Pan, M. Alex Du, I. Liu, I. Liu, E. Chang, P. Chiang
Strategies on implementation of waste-to-energy (WTE) supply chain for circular economy system: a review
- Clean. Prod., 108 (2015), pp. 409-421A. Tukker
Product services for a resource-efficient and circular economy – a review
- Clean. Prod., 97 (2013), pp. 76-91