Author Archives: Peter Mitchell

BEAM – busy during 2019-2020 and more to come

A report of the Annual General Meeting on 31st October 2020

The Annual General Meeting was an online meeting with 25 people.  BYO snacks and drinks and meeting from home was not the same as the great food and face-to-face company of previous meetings, but it was the cheapest AGM BEAM has ever had! 

 As the President’s Report shows (below), we have been busy and have a very active committee carrying several campaigns and activities into 2020-2021.  Continue reading

Mitchell Council Elections – Candidates Questionnaire

BEAM Mitchell Environment and Mitchell Community Energy sent a questionnaire to all candidates in the 2020 Mitchell Shire Council Elections.  Attached are the candidate’s responses (or lack of responses) received up to Monday 12th October and collated and annotated by Clare Daly and Peter Lockyer.  Just click on the responses you want to see.

North Ward Candidates responses

Central Ward Candidates responses

South Ward Candidate responses

The Council Elections 2020 have posed a number of challenges, but most noticeably getting information before voters to make a choice about the type of Councillor best equipped to represent their views over the coming 3 years has been particularly challenging.

What do we know about those who seek to manage our rates and our communities for the next three years? What do they want to do on Council? What are their capabilities? Why are they seeking election? How will they manage the Council budget? Will they champion community interests?

In previous years, community meetings provided an opportunity to ‘meet the candidates’ and ask questions. This hasn’t been possible this year so BEAM Mitchell Environment Group and Mitchell Community Energy worked together to create a questionnaire for candidates around some of the key issues that council will face in the next three years – climate change, population growth, transport, energy, etc. None of these 9 questions implied Council should be committed beyond its ability, but all questions provided an opportunity to respond with Council as a leader in local action on big and urgent challenges that our communities face, as a number of other Councils in Victoria have. 

The questionnaire invited thinking beyond roads, rates, rubbish and structure plans. The questionnaire also acknowledged that working together with other councils, ambitious action generates excitement in the shire and great value in health and amenity for all ratepayers.

There are 16 candidates over three wards. 5 responded within the framework of the questionnaire (albeit one was lost in the technology). 3 responded as emails outside of the framework but responding broadly to the issues. We received one email response “I have not completed it deliberately”. 7 did not respond.                                               

While the three specific responses to the questionnaire are thoughtful and encouraging, it is  disappointing that the other candidates did not take the opportunity to share their objectives and ideas with those of us who will vote. What does this say about those who seek to represent us, and to deal with the challenging issues and opportunities of our time?  

We would have liked to have seen candidates think deeply and creatively, particularly in a post-Covid19 recovery requiring ambition and a different way of thinking.   This won’t be the last pandemic in all probability, and disasters like droughts and fires more often than we are used to are expected in coming years. We can be more prepared, and our local Council is an important part of this preparedness- mitigation and resilience.

Peter Lockyer

President, BEAM Mitchell Environment Group

No time for incremental steps to renewables

In the interests of keeping an open mind, I recently listened to the National Press Club address by Andrew Liveris, former CEO of DOW Chemicals and special advisor to the National Covid-19 Commission Advisory Board (NCC). While he is a very successful businessman, I’m not convinced of his advice to the Morrison Government to implement a gas-led recovery. There was a lack of scientific intelligence at the NCC table; in fact, it would appear that a gas-led recovery was a foregone conclusion, which raises the issues of conflict of interest and integrity.

Liveris outlined what is needed to modernise our economy, for example, the need for a more equitable economy; modern manufacturing supported by investment in education and skills training for the future; investment in our innovators and researchers to keep them from leaving Australia, and diversified trade partners and secure supply chains. Not much to argue with there.

But how to get there?

The effect of gas on climate change

In “4 reasons why a gas-led economic recovery is a terrible, naïve idea” published in the Conversation (Aug 25th, 2020):

“Australia’s leading scientists today sent an open letter to Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, speaking out against his support for natural gas.

Accelerating gas production will increase greenhouse gas emissions. …

Natural gas primarily consists of methane, and the role of methane in global warming cannot be overstated. It’s estimated that over 20 years, methane traps 86 times as much heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.”

The alternative approach

A renewables-led recovery has strong support from the public, small communities, the business community, many local and some State governments, the UN, climate scientists, economists and many national governments world-wide. All that’s lacking for Australia to seize the opportunity to tackle climate, recovery AND prosperity is Federal policy.

The Beyond Zero Emissions – The Million Jobs Plan is one example of a well-planned, costed roadmap making the economic argument for a renewables-led recovery.

A target of zero emissions by 2050 is out-of-date. Many scientists are now telling us that the target should be zero emissions by 2030, but that on our current trajectory, we won’t even meet a 2050 target, and that we are heading for global warming of 3-5℃ by 2100.

Unfortunately, there is no time for the proposed incremental transition from coal to gas to hydrogen and renewables. Scientists are telling us time is running out for us to avoid catastrophic global warming. We need vision and courage in our leaders to step away from the fossil fuel mindset.

Clare Daly, Highlands, Victoria

Save the Tallarook Forest – the Campaign in underway!

Great progress has been made with building momentum to protect the Tallarook State Forest from logging. A new group, Friends of Tallarook Forest, has been formed (allied with BEAM), by a dozen or so neighbours and users of the forest. We have created a change.org petition, opened a facebook page, had articles in the media, contacted politicians, and started surveying the endangered species in the proposed logging coupes.

Photo:  Greater Glider

Lobbying and publicity

 The petition change.org/Save the Tallarook Forest was launched on 22 August, and has already clocked up over 2,600 signatures at time of writing. We are getting about 100 new signatures each day.

Our facebook page Save the Tallarook Forest, was created on 31 August. We are using it to report on campaign progress, and post photographs, videos and information about the trees, animals, birds and plants of the forest. We have 86 followers so far – a facebook following builds more slowly than a petition!

We’ve designed a flier, distributed it at the September Tallarook Farmers Market and will continue to circulate it widely.

One main thread of the campaign is to lobby the relevant Victorian Ministers and MPs. We’ve written directly Jaclyn Symes (Minister for Agriculture, Regional Development and Resources). An advisor to Symes has replied in general terms that there are no plans to log in the current financial year, and they are considering selective logging, rather than clearfelling. There is plenty of wriggle-room in this response. We are also encouraging BEAM members, and the wider public, to write directly to these Ministers, and also selected Greens, Liberal and National MPs. We’ve created some form letters for this which you can access here.

Finding threatened species

 Recording the locations of threatened species is a crucial campaign program. VicForests is required to not log within defined zones around recorded locations of greater gliders, powerful owls and sooty owls, all of which have been sighted in the Tallarook Forest. The higher the population density of these animals, then the more complicated the logging will be. If it is too complicated, they will probably not consider it worthwhile logging these coupes.

The most important animals to record are active at night. WOTCH (Wildlife of the Central Highlands) has provided advice and training in how to spotlight with powerful torches, record video evidence, and note GPS locations. Although our surveying has only just commenced we have already found dozens of greater gliders, indicating that the Tallarook Forest is an important sanctuary for this vulnerable species. We have also found koalas, sugar gliders, feathertail gliders, mountain brush-tailed possums, kookaburras, cockatoos, woodswallows and more. It’s exciting and awe-inspiring getting into the forest and night and seeing how lively the nocturnal communities are.

Financial support from BEAM members has enabled us to buy sets of the equipment we need to this work, and we encourage people to join us in the night survey. There’s a lot of forest to cover.

Native forests in other parts of Victoria, such as the Strathbogies, Mirboo North and Warburton, have had logging plans cancelled because of community pressure. We can definitely Save the Tallarook Forest!

How you can get involved:

  • Sign the petition change.org/Save the Tallarook Forest, and add your comments. These will go to VicForests with the petition.
  • Join our forest survey teams – video recording the locations of individuals from threatened species.
  • Follow Save the Tallarook Forest facebook page and invite your Friends to follow too
  • Write to the Ministers and MPs – details here
  • Write letters to newspapers

Prepared by Paul Macgregor

Community battery webinar now available

In Australia, there is currently considerable interest in community batteries, and a number of installations are now providing initial results. Community batteries can provide benefits to individual customers and to the network services, and are likely to encourage more solar installations on homes.

Mitchell Community Energy conducted a webinar on 31st August that brought together national experts to explain how community batteries work, where they have been installed or planned, models of ownership and management, and the economic and social benefits and costs of providing and operating them. It was an important webinar for communities across Australia at this time of rapid change in our energy system.

Speakers were:

  Revana Boodhraj,  Senior Business Analyst, Western Power

  Dr Marnie Shaw,  Research Leader, Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program, ANU

  Justin Harding,  Manager, Network Growth, Ausnet Services

  Ben McGowan,  Managing Director, Indigo Power

A recording of the webinar is available here,  Passcode: 1+b$CDv4

National Webinar on community batteries

Community batteries – what are the prospects for your community?

Community batteries are being rolled out in Western Australia with the aim of improving the performance of the power grid, reducing energy costs for the community, and encouraging increased uptake of solar systems on homes.

Mitchell Community Energy (MCE) is conducting a national webinar on community batteries to explore their potential elsewhere in Australia.  The webinar will be held on 31st August at 2.00 pm Melbourne time

The webinar will feature experts from Western Power in WA, Australian National University, Ausnet Services and Indigo Power.

President of Mitchell Community Energy, Peter Lockyer, said that community batteries appeared to be a promising opportunity for rural and regional areas in particular. He hoped that towns in Mitchell Shire could be provided with this technology.

“We are especially keen to also explore how this technology can address social equity issues by making renewable energy more accessible to low income people. Further, Community Batteries appear to be a valuable asset in stabilising renewable energy contributions to the grid.”

For more details and instructions on joining the webinar, go to

http://www.beam.org.au/events/national-webinar-on-community-batteries/

Farmers for Climate Action

Farmers for Climate Action is an inclusive movement of farmers and rural Australians who are leading the way on climate solutions and sustainable food productive systems.

EarthChat (103.9FM on Friday August 7th) had the privilege of talking at some length with Anika Molesworth, a creative mind and 2015 Young Farmer of the Year, and a foundation member and current Board member of Farmers for Climate Action. www.farmersforclimateaction.org.au.  If you missed EarthChat with Anika on August 7th, read more below:

Continue reading

Proposed Logging in the Tallarook State Forest

Recent information from our friends in WOTCH (Wildlife of the Central Highlands) suggests that VicForests propose to log sections of the Tallarook State Forest in the near future. A map of the area, as we understand it, is attached below.

BEAM is alarmed at this proposition on a number of fronts

  • VicForests has a shameful record in forest management, failing to meet FSC standards consistently.  [Bunnings recently banned the sales of VicForest timber for this reason];
  • Logging native forests may well cease by 2030, so this appears a “6 o’clock swill” effort to cull as much forest as possible, unnecessarily;
  • The quality of the forest trees as timber in the Tallarook State Forest is poor. The forest generally is not of saw log size, so clear felling may well produce wood for pulp only. Are we to accept the clear-felling of the Tallarook Forest, and all of its non-forestry values, for just paper pulp? Seriously, when existing forest areas are so valuable in carbon draw down, and Victoria prides itself on its climate change action commitments?
  • VicForests got an $18million grant last year to clean up its act, and only returned a $2million profit as we understand. If this was a private business not subsidised by the taxpayer, it would have folded years ago. Victoria can’t afford to be propping up a “basket case business” like this when so many decent businesses must remain closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It doesn’t stack up. VicForests is a decades-old festering sore that continues as an environmental flashpoint across this State.
  • The small tree size and consequent low timber value must be weighed against the benefits of a standing forest– habitat for wildlife in the air and on the ground, carbon draw down, educational value and recreational value. This is a popular forest for walking, camping, cycling (with or without engines) and hunting. A clear-felled area provides none of these.
  • The Tallarook State Forest contains several threatened species listed in the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, including the vulnerable Powerful Owl and Southern Greater Glider. In this time of extinction crisis, it is likely that the Forest contains many other species not yet recorded in the forest or listed as threatened. This north-west island of mountain forest is a significant link for species moving between the plains and the Great Dividing Range.
  • There are important jobs in the timber industry. The jobs in plantation timber are secure. The jobs in native forest logging, however, are comparatively few and disappearing, but there are  a lot of jobs in recreational tourism threatened when native forests are diminished.

BEAM calls on all of our respected local members, to intervene and stop this proposed logging.

Even if there were no endangered species in the forest, the standing forest has far more value than subsidised clear-felling and the environmental disaster that ensues for so many years.    Mitchell Shire could better use the funds that subsidise VicForests in the destruction of our forests for a financial loss. As a triple bottom line analysis, the demand that we must make post-Covid, this proposal is a loss on all three accounts.

It should NOT proceed, and we ask for their active support to save our forests.

Peter Lockyer, President

Aerial photo showing the proposed logging coupes (outlined in red) in the headwaters of Trawool Reservoir.

Close-up photo of Trawool Reservoir showing previous logging coupes to the west of the reservoir