2017 Presidents Report by Richard Telford

I recognise that there are few other independent groups in our region that have a voice, and stand up for issues that affect our environment. We, as a group, fill a vital role for our wider community. We are facing a very interesting time in our region as we transition to renewables, especially up here in Seymour, with the pumped hydro, wind farm and community solar on the cards.

Looking back over the past year I was surprised to see how much we have taken on and achieved as a group.

In October, Barb Moss and Peter Mitchell led a wildflower walk at Monument Hill in Kilmore. Around 20 guests enjoyed a hot cuppa and morning tea at David and Carolyn Atkinson’s place before setting off to find a variety of local wildflowers and grasses followed by a BBQ lunch.

We ended the year with a get together, with our friends from the Euroa Environment Group and Strathbogie Voices, at the Tahbilk Winery in Nagambie for the first time. A great time was had by all with a cruise down the Goulburn, picnic and nature walk.

In Feb, about 20 guests shared a pot lunch dinner with Japanese peace activist and permaculture educator Kai Sawyer, who shared his story in an inspirational presentation at Abdallah House in Seymour.

Also in Feb, Jeff, Marie and Peter Mitchell attended the Community Energy Congress, in Melbourne to connect with other groups and find ways forward to move from concepts to real fully funded projects.

The Repair Café kicked off in Seymour this year, thanks to David Clarey and BEAM treasurer Irene Telford. It’a great opportunity to get broken items fixed and learn some new skills. It happened today and continues each 2nd Saturday of the month at 23 Loco St, just opposite the school. Have a chat with Irene if you’d like to know more.

BEAM’s EarthChat program on 103.9 Seymour FM has extended from a half hour to a full our show on a Friday morning from 10am. A huge thanks to Irene, Marie and Peter Lockyer for their efforts – and to the many guests on the show – quite a few of whom are here tonight.

A local campaign called ‘Plastic Not So Fantastic’ was initiated at Flowerdale Primary School involving BEAM member Linda Kennedy. The awareness of plastic use since then has grown enormously, with the ABC series ‘War on Waste’. While a change is in the air, it’s been a half hearted effort by government and our big supermarkets – who are now likely to charge for heavy duty bags in the coming year. This is expected to have a limited impact.

On that note, Boomerang Bags are a community based campaign of making re-usable cloth shopping bags. Broadford shopkeeper Suezanne Dossor is pushing this campaign, and she intends to join our BEAM Committee. A good project for BEAM to expand on, following the ‘Plastic Not So Fantastic’ campaign.

The BEAM Bulk Food Scheme has three order days this year, with the final one coming up in October – where you can use your own containers – rather than single use plastic bags. Insurance costs are becoming an issue, which is currently being addressed. The program has continues to grow with groups from Yea to Heathcote joining the fray, with the most recent order being the biggest yet. A big thanks to Cynthia and Caro for all of their efforts in their work on this.

The Strathbogie Seymour Energy Alliance, of which BEAM has several representatives, initiated a Pumped Hydro pre-feasibility study in November, with funding from the New Energy Jobs Fund. The study looked at two potential sites. One near Euroa, utilising the Waterhouse and Abbinga reservoirs with 110m height differential and the other at the Trawool Reservoir, with 260m of elevation. The report was released in July, and showed that the Trawool reservoir has good potential with around 36MWh or storage, while the Euroa option has 25MWh of storage. Both projects have potential to go ahead and further investigation will continue. I’d like to especially thank Jeff Wilmot for his contribution in this project.

BEAM representatives have met with Infigen Energy reps a couple of times over the past year to discuss the Cherry Tree Wind Farm project, a 16 turbine development near Trawool. The project has been actively supported by BEAM since 2012 and construction is finally due to commence in the coming year. We are looking into synergies between the nearby pumped hydro project and the wind farm, located on the other side of the valley.

BEAM representatives have also met with council and tonights speaker from Moreland Energy Foundation, Gavin Ashley, on several occasions since December to discuss options for rooftop solar at Chittick Park in Seymour. The project is looking at a 99kW system, which will generate around 20% of the Seymour Sports and Aquatic Centres energy use, with very little excess being fed back into the grid. We are interested in developing a community funding model for the project that could be replicated throughout the region. More about that from Gavin.

A regular ‘Clean Up Kilmore’ day has been running once a month since May, started by long time BEAM member and Mitchell Shire councillor David Atkinson. Thanks for your initiaive there David.

James Anderson from the committee made a submission at the budget hearing in support of a Sustainability Officer at the council in June. The council is currently looking for a full time Environmental Planning and Sustainability Officer – so best put in your application now, if you are interested.

Whiteman’s Reserve link completed by the Broadford Land Management Group in June, which began in 1990 as one of the first activities of BEAM. All good things take time…

Phil Bourne, Irene Telford and Peter Mitchell have been on community liaison group for the Seymour Structure Plan. The draft plan was released for public comment, which closed this week. An extensive submission to the plan was made by Peter Mitchell on behalf of BEAM, with feedback from the committee.

I wanted to give a special thanks to Peter for his amazing efforts in all that he does behind the scenes, from insurance to policy to walks and talks. Our heartfelt thanks.

On a personal note, I’ve decided to step off the committee for the next term, so that I can focus on a the publication, promotion and sales of David Holmgren’s new book, RetroSuburbia: the downshifters guide for a resilient future, which is due for release in February next year. It goes beyond the transition to renewables, into how we can transform our own lives and households for the better. I’m sure you’ll hear more about this in the near future. I’ll still be on board to share my skills where they are most needed in BEAM.

I know that I’m not the only one that’s very busy. It comes part and parcel with caring for the world outside of our own households. It’s not easy to find the time to prioritise things that do not immediately affect us, but, we do not live in a bubble. Eventually these bigger picture issues will affect us. What gives me strength is knowing that our small group has such a BIG say in our region. People listen to us because of what we do and what we stand for. We can achieve so much more as a group than we can as individuals, mostly by chipping in just a couple of hours here and there as part of a team.

We are building fertile soil, and it’s an exciting road ahead. Your energy can make BEAM stronger. I encourage you to get involved.

Richard Telford
Outgoing BEAM President
AGM, Seymour, 16th September 2017

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