Author Archives: Sara Kite

Sustainable House Day – Seymour walking tour

10am – Sunday 15th September 2019

Bookings via Eventbrite here

Come and join us for a fantastic morning learning first hand how several houses in the Seymour area have retrofitted their properties to make them more comfortable and more sustainable.

This a casual walk around Seymour looking at 4 older Houses and various energy efficient upgrade options explored.

Start at 10.00am    at 20 Heywood Crescent Seymour.   Allow a 3 hour walk in all.

House 1.

A 3 bedroom timber dwelling with poor orientation, but a good opportunity. The Living Room was re-located to gain winter solar access, and a Trombe Wall added for a passive boost. The existing roof, walls and part of the floor were insulated. Water tank, solar water heating, and a rooftop PV was added.

20 Heywood Crescent at the front gate

 

House 2.

A 2 bedroom timber dwelling with the back facing north. A north-facing Living Room on a mass floor was added, with provision for underfloor solar air heating. Water tanks, good low water native garden with intermixed vegetables.

House 3.

No work has commenced on this newly purchased timber dwelling with some orientation challenges. This property invites an on-the-spot design workshop…what is possible?

House 4.

12 months on from last year when only a rooftop PV system with battery storage was installed. A Victorian timber cottage with recent Upgrade works to the Kitchen + Dining + Bathroom have since been completed.  

 

We will be invited for soup and toast after House 4 inspection and discussion.

Hand-out summary notes will be provided.

BEAM continues its opposition to the Seymour Flood Levee

The location of the levee on Robert Street

Since the Council decision to go ahead with the Levee in 2010, there has been very little public discussion or consultation about the levee.  We raised concerns in our submission to the Council’s budget in 2015 and continued to express concerns during the period set aside for public information sessions a few years ago – when they would have received unsolicited feedback anyhow.  Many others in the community have also raised concerns over that past few years.  So the decision by the current Council to consult with the community before going ahead – and committing $20million to the project – is very welcome.

In 2015, the budget papers indicated funding for “Stage 2 of the project which involves strategic planning for the acquisition of land and construction of the Levee.  What was not clear was the total cost of the levee.  It was at least $6 million in one report in 2009 (Preliminary Design Report 2009) but, in this report, the cost- benefit analysis only compared flood damage to property and infrastructure against the costs associated with construction of the levee.  It omitted many of the environmental, social and financial costs as well as benefits of the levee – and it also omitted any mention of the costs and benefits of any alternatives to the levee.

We have several concerns about the Flood Levee, and these have become stronger during the development of the Seymour Structure Plan (including release of Whiteheads Creek flood maps) and meetings of the Seymour Revitalisation Working Group.  Our specific concerns are: 

1. Hydrology:  The proposed levee will become a significant choke on the river during a major flood, and will increase and focus the force of a flood.  What will be the impact upstream and downstream?  With the current trajectory of the river, a flood is likely to remove the end of Robert Street and take out the private land and Hanna Street downstream.  Yet this is where the levee will be sitting.  And how far downstream – and upstream – will be affected by this increased velocity?  One of the strategies for floodplains (24.01-2) in the Local Planning Policy Framework of the Mitchell Shire Plan states:  Discourage raised earthworks that reduce natural flood storage, obstruct and/or redistribute flood flows, and increase flow velocities and levels.

2. Heritage values:  the proposed levee will have a major impact on the New Crossing Place and Old Town Historic Precinct listed as heritage sites in the Planning Scheme – including the backdrop provided by the big old Red Gums on the floodplain.  .  The levee will place a visual as well as physical barrier between the town and the river bank – it will be an eyesore  

3. Natural values:  as well as being an intrinsic part of Seymour’s heritage, these trees and the remnants of riverine forest along New Crossing Place Park (including Lions and Apex Parks) have very high conservation values and are covered by environmental overlays in the Planning Scheme  In particular, the big old Red Gums in New Crossing Place Park Old are an important resource for a wide diversity of wildlife including possums and gliders.  Tthe gradual loss of the trees in the region is pushing many animals to the point of extinction.  Construction of the levee will cause disturbance of the parks and bushlands. Several of the old Red Gums on the floodplain (particularly along Tierney Street) will be removed.

4. Economic issues:  One of the visions for Seymour is for the town – and tourism and hospitality businesses in particular – to engage more with the river as a real drawcard for Seymour.  It is a great asset and more and more people are using the river bank and the great walking trails through the natural and historical areas along New Crossing Place Park.  For more tourism, we need to promote the river and the park, and have businesses turning to look at the river rather than Emily Street.  The barrier caused by a levee will be a big setback to these ideas.

The view from the Seymour Old Town Heritage Precinct looking towards the river. The levee will be a wall across this view

5. Whiteheads Creek:  The proposed levee does not address one of the major threats to the town caused by the floods in Whiteheads Creek.  Whiteheads Creek has a small steep catchment and – as shown in 1973 – heavy rain can cause serious flash flooding.  Climate change modelling suggests that such local intense storms may become more likely.  This has been exacerbated by the choking of Whitehead’s Creek at the railway and Oak Street bridges and embankments.  These floods far more dangerous to lives than the Goulburn flood that arrive slowly enough for everyone to be warned and actions taken to protect people and assets. The levee will not resolve all the flood issues in Seymour. In fact, there is cause for concern that a Whiteheads Creek flood could get into the areas of town enclosed by the levee via subways and cause a much worse situation.  These are very big concerns among people we have spoken to.

6. Flood warnings:  The need for the levee is less than it was ten years ago.  We recognise that a major flood will cause economic distress to many businesses in Seymour.  But we also point out that we have had plenty of warnings over the past 180 years of European settlement.  

7. Alternatives to the levee:  Many business places and residences have heeded these warnings and built to minimise the impact of flooding to a few days of inconvenience caused by flooded roads.  Many of the older buildings have been replaced by buildings on pads or stilts above flood level – including fast food outlets in Emily Street, Aldi, TAFE College, accountants offices – and possible the Seymour Club.  Some newer businesses have built on stilts that allow shaded parking underneath – a good response in a hot climate and one that could be copied by the retailers in town.  The lack of a levee is clearly not deterring businesses in Seymour.  

Seymour waterfront, with large Red Gums which are home to many wildlife.

8. Be prepared:  People and businesses could be provided with information and support to be prepared physically, financially and emotionally for floods.  In other words, prepare for floods as we prepare for fires. In particular, new buildings can be above flood levels and we would like to see some assessment of the alternatives before proceeding the levee.

9. Cost of the levee:  The cost of the levee is very high but the benefits of the levee will only affect a small section of the town.  A Goulburn flood would be only a minor inconvenience to most people in Seymour.  Other people in the flood zone are prepared to take the risk – or, as mentioned earlier, are already prepared to minimise the impact of a flood.  Council is asking beneficiaries of the levy about payment through some form of levy, but there are many people and businesses in the flood zones that have already taken action and would not want to pay for the levee.  

10. Other ways to spend $20 million?  Floods are not frequent – it is a long time since the last flood came into the town in 1974 .  Another flood is inevitable – we just don’t know when. But $20 million is a big investment for the Shire – plus the continuing cost of maintenance of all the barriers and pumps levee.  That money could be better used for all the other projects that will make life better in Mitchell Shire – the Council and community have plenty of plans ready to go

So we call on the Council to reverse that decision made in 2010 – to abandon plans for the levee and look at the alternatives that will make Seymour flood-ready and a great place to live.

We would like your feedback on these points and any additional points you would like to make – please add them below.

Victorian Inquiry into Recycling and Waste Management

BEAM Mitchell Environment Group laments the distinct lack of progress in advancing a widespread government-supported recycling and waste management industry in Victoria. We made a submission to this enquiry:

China’s decision to refuse to take Australia’s dirty and unsorted waste is a wake up call for Australia, and should encourage us as a society to travel the road we could have been on for decades already.

Victorian householders give strong support to recyclables collected at the roadside. Local Government has been active in promoting this scheme as a responsible action to minimise waste being lost to landfill, and for recyclables to be recycled. But industry skill and support in recycling has faltered. Clearly, we have a toxic problem that deserves a serious effort to change how we do business in packaging, and our public expectations of packaging.

BEAM is of the view that

  • We need to promote alternatives to plastics across the full ranges of packaging and manufactured goods. Single use plastic bag banning is just a start.
  • Packaging must be manufactured to be re-usable. Difficult to re-use packaging should be banned. Recycling for re-usable packaging must be efficiently developed, and the State Government should play a leading role in this.
  • We need to REDUCE waste, with public education, industry action and government support for practices that only use recyclable packaging, and less packaging.
  • our collection system needs to be reviewed to educate householders to become more engaged in sorting their recyclables at source. Programs in schools, public places and events are a good place to start.
  • manufacturers of packaging material and retailers of packaged goods should have more obligation to take responsibility for the downstream re-use of their packaging;
  • Minimum levels of recycled material to be introduced into packaging feedstock mandated by Government;
  • Manufacturers should be supported to develop products using recycled materials.
  • Government to be a leader in the purchase of the products of this minimum mandated recycled material content;
  • All beverage containers attract a container deposit like most of Australia. Victoria has a pathetic record in this successful initiative pioneered by South Australia;
  • Single use packaging should be outlawed (fits with packaging must be recyclable, and industry established to efficiently DO the recycling, as above), in conjunction with a Statewide education initiative to encourage shoppers to bring their cloth bags with their wallets, always.

Further, the timber industry needs to recognise the higher value uses of timber (for buildings, furniture, craft) rather than downgrading to meet outdated pulp and paper targets. This has particular significance in how we view and conserve native forest areas. Regional Forest Agreements must give way to smarter practices in valuable native forests.

Drinking water fountains and refill facilities should become widely available, like in public places.

The Victorian Government must also work in partnership with other States and with the Federal Government to design and structure a national recycling industry.

Resource recovery should be at the forefront of how we treat our recyclable and waste material. BEAM sees that waste material generation suggests an incomplete manufacturing process. Getting material back into the user stream must become our goal, and with a level of urgency.

Landfill is expensive and not a modern response to recyclable and waste material. The time for a smarter and more resource efficient solution to packaging beyond its first life is now.

BEAM welcomes this inquiry and challenges the State Government to give the inquiry the substance to create a change in our way of doing things that sees recyclables back into the packaging stream, that a packaging stream has only recyclables, and the very generation of waste material is challenged. Such a changed attitude and practice will be of great benefit to our society, to our economy and to our efforts to address Climate Change. This is the challenge for the 21st century- being smarter and more efficient, and more appreciative of a quality of life that is built on better education being greater commitment to efficiency.

Peter Lockyer, President, BEAM Mitchell Environment Group Inc.

BEAM’s Bunnings submission to Council (January 2019)

BEAM Mitchell Environment Group has been closely in promoting sustainability in Seymour and has made detailed contributions to the Seymour Structure Plan. So we are concerned about the proposal to locate a Bunnings store in central Seymour. We object to the proposal for four main reasons: the location of the store will have a negative impact on future developments in a central part of Seymour; the store will increase traffic in areas where people and bicycles should be a primary consideration; the destruction of old factory buildings is not consistent with the heritage values of the area; the store will have a negative impact on local businesses and on the economy of Seymour.

This submission has been prepared using arguments raised and developed by several members of BEAM.

Location of the store in Anzac Avenue

One of the major topics for discussion around the Structure Plan was the enhancement of Anzac Avenue as a retail and service precinct. Our broader vision was a place for people with an emphasis on pedestrians and bicycles.

The Seymour Structure Plan specifically proposes that the Anzac Avenue site should be developed to “minimise the visual bulk of large buildings”; it should “provide active and engaging frontages”; there should be “transparent and engaging shopfronts that contribute positively to street life”. The Structure Plan has the Bunnings site marked as highway/commercial/tourism/retail/ food and beverage uses” which implies a diversity of uses, and proposes the area be rezoned from “Industrial 1 Zone to Commercial Zone 2 to encourage more active uses along Anzac Avenue” (Figure 11, also S2.2)).

The Bunnings development is entirely incompatible with these objectives. Bunnings would occupy a large space – a large warehouse plus a carpark and loading bay facing the street – to the exclusion of a diversity of many smaller business outlets and offices, community facilities mixed with higher density housing close to the main commercial outlets and community services including the station. And it would set the area on a path to other industrial warehouse-style businesses setting up in the geographical centre of Seymour.

So building a Bunnings store in Anzac Avenue will lock Seymour into more of the same and lock out the better visions for the town reflected in the Structure Plan.

Impact of traffic

Anzac Avenue is a critical area for pedestrians with the school, shops and library, medical services, Seymour Pre-school Centre, maternal and child health centre, senior citizens centre, and the sporting ovals and sports and aquatic centre. The Plan states that “there are opportunities to improve connections between these centres and nearby facilities by providing an integrated pedestrian and cycle trail” (5.3.5). We have argued for a more people-friendly town, and that means placing the interests of pedestrians and cyclists above the dominance of vehicles.

We have argued that bicycle use – almost non-existent in Seymour at present – could be enhanced with modifications along Anzac Avenue. The Plan supports this in principle: “Prioritising walking and cycling will help to create vibrant streets, improve safety and surveillance and strengthen business activity” (5.8.2). The Plan also identifies future options for walking and cycling paths along Anzac Avenue, Oak Street and Victoria Street. The Plan does not have any details on how this would be achieved but identifies the development of a Trails Network as a high priority. BEAM has proposed a single lane either side of Anzac Avenue to allow for this Network and make it easier for pedestrian movement.

We have also argued against Oak Street as the main truck route from the east as this brings more traffic and particularly trucks into this high pedestrian zone. Now we have a proposal from Bunnings to increase the vehicle traffic using Anzac Avenue, Victoria Street, Wimble Street and Oak Street. Vehicles turning at the intersections (including U-turns at Oak Street) will make these intersections more hazardous. And the additional busy driveways and the loading bay access cutting across the footpaths and any bicycle trails will add to risks. Delivery trucks – i8ncluding semi0trailers – are a critical issue. Bunnings are planning to increase the number of trucks using Wimble Street and Victoria Street which are residential streets (and include the Pre-school Centre). These are quiet streets with few heavy vehicles at present. The increase in traffic will increase hazards to pedestrians, people entering and leaving vehicles, and cyclists.

In addition, trucks in particular will create a lot more noise to these residential streets. Bunnings are expecting to have trucks coming between 6am to 4pm each day. And reversing alarms from forklifts at the loading bay will add to noise levels. Seymour is a remarkably quiet town and we want to keep it that way. Trucks delivering to Bunnings will significantly increase in noise levels in the centre of Seymour

So a Bunnings store in central Seymour will work against any aspirations as a place for people to walk and cycle in safety and comfort.

Heritage and streetscape values

The original factory building with it saw-tooth truss roof is part of Seymour’s history. The current building is old and needs work to remove hazards, but it could be renovated and used in imaginative ways. Seymour could build a future in and around our old industrial and manufacturing buildings stock. Whether these are heritage listed or not, old dominant structures re-used allow our history to continue into new use (like WineXSam has done) and reinforce our identity. Such re-use of buildings will keep one of the features that makes Seymour unique as an affordable town that is commutable to Melbourne. A large metal Bunnings Warehouse is inconsistent with this. The Bunnings proposal would throw away the building and all the materials – the usual wasteful practice – and replace it with a building of no visual interest and probably limited life.

The Plan identifies Anzac Avenue as one of the entry points into Seymour and proposes landscape plan for a staged entry. Again, a large Bunnings building would not enhance the streetscape but would preclude any future preferred alternatives.

Economic impacts of a Bunnings store

Bunnings is a large organisation with a strong competitive ability compared with local businesses. Feedback from these businesses indicate that at least one local hardware store will go out of business and many other specialist hardware and garden suppliers in Seymour will be affected by the lure of Bunnings.

Bunnings is not a local business and the entry of a nationally-owned Bunnings store will see money flow out of the community, compared with local and regional businesses that feed their income back into the town. The net result is that more money spent on hardware will drain from the town. Bunnings assistance to the community in supporting sausage sizzles is a small contribution to the community and a large promotion for their business.

We recognise that Bunnings stores are popular for their cheap prices and wide diversity (in their mega-stores), but we feel this does not make up for the long-term negative impacts on the town.

Finally

If we must have a Bunnings in Seymour, this type of bulk warehouse merchandising style could go ANYWHERE on the outskirts of Seymour and thrive. People rarely walk to hardware stores, so we propose that it be located in an industrial area away from the centre of Seymour and in an area that is more accessible to trucks and cars. The best locations would be to the west of the railway line to minimize traffic through the township and optimize access from the freeways. The Structure Plan identifies several existing and proposed sites readily accessible from the freeways and the town.

An alternative is the current industrial area in Wimble Street. The Plan identifies this industrial area for “urban renewal” although this would require major changes for many businesses and is unlikely in the short to medium term. Again, this area has buildings that are part of Seymour’s industrial and military history but new buildings could be integrated into the site.

 

We ask the Council to talk to Bunnings prior to the vote in Council, to persuade them that the community is not happy with their current proposal to use the Anzac Avenue site, and to propose and support the use of another site that will provide a good alternative for Bunnings and for the future of Seymour.

 

Mitchell Community Energy update

Mitchell Community Energy Inc. has been quietly active this year.  The following report from John Thompson and Peter Lockyer covers some of the action:

Karingal. MCE is pleased to see the 99kWh solar system on Karingal turned on and providing this important community facility savings of more than $25,000 per annum. MCE conducted the feasibility work, developed the specifications, prepared the tender process and evaluated the resulting tenders, and recommended a financial solution. A local firm, Eko Solar, installed the system.

Seymour Sports and Aquatic Centre. MCE also worked with Mitchell Shire Council on a similar sized solar project for the Seymour Sports and Aquatic Centre. Work on the installation of this project (again by another local firm) will be undertaken very soon.

“Renewables in Seymour- Open for Business”. A networking evening with the Mitchell business community to explore renewable energy opportunities will be held on July 4th at Wine X Sam. This function, funded under DELWP’s Mini Grant program, will not only encourage the uptake of renewable energy among local businesses, but will also increase MCE’s exposure across the shire. Geoff Lodge from GVCE says “if you haven’t got renewables, you are paying too much for your electricity”. Finance for such commercial installations has never been easier. MCE is the Project leader, and BEAM and Seymour Business & Tourism are project partners in this event.

Two MCE members attended the Hume Region Energy Workshops for Business event in Shepparton May 7th. This is a bigger version of our planned event on July 4th, but it was an inspiring afternoon. There are some exciting renewable projects in action. 2026 should see renewables generate as much power as fossil-fuelled power stations, and 2032 could see us on 100% renewables….with the correct policy settings and a big effort.

Preliminary discussions have been held with Ausnet on the feasibility of a large solar farm, and further information will be provided if there are any reasonable prospects of such a project.

Street Trees in Seymour to ease Climate Change stress. MCE submitted a creative project for an exciting urban greening project for Seymour under the Victorian Government’s Climate Change Adaptation Grants Program. The project would provide a range of significant benefits. In addition to helping the Seymour community cope with a hotter, drier environment, it would be centred on a community education program on climate change. The project would also provide biodiversity benefits, and would add value to properties in the town. MCE will know in July whether the grant application is successful.

PHES. Pumped hydro is at the top of the DELWP list of renewable project action in Victoria, and the pumped hydro scheme at Trawool is still under consideration. Peter Lockyer discussed it with Len Gill, board chair of Infigen, at the sod turning event for the Cherry Tree wind farm (awaiting a response), and further discussions are under way with water authorities. Watch this space.

MCE has been part of, and attended meetings of, a group of community energy organisations in north east Victoria. It is an inspiring group, undertaking some impressive projects in a number of towns, and the group is working on the establishment of a community retailer of electricity in the region, Indigo Power

While the Commonwealth Government has dithered and done very little in the development of renewable energy policy, there are exciting things happening at the local and state levels.

In the election campaign in its later days, the Prime Minister is trying to take credit for the expansion of renewables, yet the Coalition has done little to assist this growth for 6 years!

If you would like to be part of this stimulating challenge, please join us. It’s great to be part of making tomorrow. Just contact Jeff Wilmot on jlwilmot@activ8.net.au

John Thompson and Peter Lockyer

Paddock Trees Workshop (16th March 2019 in Pyalong)

The Importance of a single paddock tree is often underestimated. A paddock tree can reduce the evaporation of soil moisture and protects pastures: if you have a 20m tall tree in your paddock that tree can divert wind off the paddock for a distance up to 15 times the height of the tree.

An individual paddock tree can also:

• create shade and shelter for stock during extreme heat, wind and cold;

• draw-up water from deep under the ground, which pastures can then access through shallower roots;

• provide homes and food for birds and insects that help pollinate and remove pest insects; and

• add nutrients to the soil through microorganisms breaking down leaves, branches and seeds.

All these actions to look after your paddock trees and boost farm biodiversity have multiple benefits including increasing stock fertility, weight gain, wool/milk production, soil health and property value.

To be held on 16th March at 555 West Road Pyalong, 10am start, finishing at 12pm with a BBQ.

RSVP to Karen Brisbane karenb@gbcma.vic.gov.au or Sonia Sharkey Sonia.sharkey@mitchellshire.vic.gov.au

Please RSVP by 12th March for catering purposes.

Click here for the flyer.

Platypus community sessions

Did you know we have confirmed sightings of platypus in areas surrounding the Goulburn River Walking Trail and Kilmore Creek?
There is very little known about this iconic Australian native, and we know even less about how well they are doing.
An exciting Citizen-Science program is being developed to monitor platypus in rivers in the Goulburn Broken Catchment, and the Australian Platypus Conservancy (Official) are looking for volunteers to help out!
Experts from the Australian Platypus Conservancy will be presenting a free talk about how YOU can get involved.
 
Platypus talk on Friday March 1 
7pm at Chittick Park Community Place, Chittick Park, Pollard St, Seymour
 
Training workshop on Saturday March 2 
4pm at the Goulburn River, Seymour  
 
The sessions are free but registration is essential. Please RSVP to Andrea Muskee on 5822 7707 or andream@gbcma.vic.gov.au by 5pm Tuesday February 26.

Ten Reasons to feel hopeful about climate change in 2019

Really?  Climate is changing and is anything happening to at least slow down emissions and the rise in global temperatures?  Well, yes.  

The attached article from the Sierra Club sent in by Lesley Dalziel identifies some positive trends in the US, and we have similar trends in Australia (along with similar failings in our government).  Read on and think about how we can push things towards a less catastrophic future.