Author Archives: Sara Kite

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.

Community Climate Change Adaptation (3CA) Grants Program

Do you or someone you know have an amazing idea for adapting our community to the impact of climate change?

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is delivering a small grants program to build resilience to climate change impacts through community-driven adaptation activities that address identified gaps and priorities in Victoria’s regions.

The 3CA Grants program will:
  • identify and support practical projects focused on adaptation activities with clear community benefit;
  • foster partnerships between communities, local governments and regional stakeholders on adaptation; and
  • generate and share lessons on good practice approaches to community adaptation.

The 3CA Grants program is part of the Victorian Government’s Supporting our Regions to Adapt initiative, a three-year program providing practical support for communities to prepare for the challenges of a changing climate. It supports outcomes from Victoria’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2017-2020.

Key dates

  • Applications close: 11:59pm Sunday 31 March 2019
  • Project completion date: projects must be completed by 31 December 2020.

What funding is available?

  • Funding available: total funding available for the 3CA Grants Program is $1,000,000.
  • Grants of between $25,000 to $75,000 will be awarded.

Who can apply? Eligible projects must either be led by, or implemented in partnership with, a local council, traditional owner corporation, community group, or not-for-profit organisation. See Guidelines for more details.

What type of projects might be funded? This program will fund two categories of projects:

  • Building Adaptive Capacity: these projects will build the capacity of communities or regions to better plan for, coordinate and deliver actions that support communities to adapt to current or future climate change impacts.
  • Delivering Adaptation Action: delivering adaptation action projects will implement practical actions that will support communities and regions to adapt to current or future climate change impacts.

For more information on climate change impacts and climate change adaptation priorities and gaps in your region of Victoria please refer to the relevant Regional Climate Change Adaptation Snapshot Report.

Application guidelines & FAQs
For more detailed information including Guidelines on project eligibility, grant assessment criteria, application process and funding conditions, and FAQs click here.

Start an online application
Apply online via DELWP’s grants online portal

Future of our Forests

“The Victorian Government in partnership with Traditional Owners is embarking on a major program to reform our forest management and guide the modernisation of the Victorian Regional Forest Agreements.” This gives us another opportunity to add our voice in calling for changes in forest management. Go to https://engage.vic.gov.au/future-of-our-forests and tell the government about the places you value and how they should be used and managed.

Forests have been a point of contention for decades, and the Regional Forest Agreements were an attempt by governments to balance the many conflicting views on how forests should be used. Following a decade of extensive resource assessments and consultation, 20 year Regional Forest Agreements in various regions were signed off between 1997 and 2000 (see here). They were supposed to be plans for “the sustainable management and conservation of Australia’s native forests”. Although they did slow the debate, there has been a lot of concern about how forests have actually been managed over the past 20 years. Conservation groups supported by Environmental Justice Australia have successfully mounted several legal challenges over the management of forests across Victoria (see here).

 

Also. our views about these forests have changed. More people value forests for reasons other than for their timber and woodchips. Declines in biodiversity in general and iconic forest species such as the Greater Glider and Leadbeater’s Possum have stimulated pushes to protect many of our forests. With climate change, forests in the higher and wetter areas of Victoria are becoming more and more important as refuges and core areas for biodiversity, and as the catchments for all our river systems. And more and more people are appreciating forests for recreation and an escape from the rush and turmoil of life in our towns and cities.

So there are many calls for more protection for our forests from destructive exploitation – see https://vnpa.org.au/future-parks/. Locally we are looking at ways to protect the forests extending from the northern Strathbogies (see https://strathbogiesustainableforests.wordpress.com/) through to the Tallarook Ranges and Mount Disappointment Forests (check out https://www.facebook.com/mountdisappointmentclonbinane/).

So please add your voice to all the calls for better conservation of our forests.

Video: Strath Creek Falls in the Mount Disappointment State Forest (with thanks to Friends of Disappointment).