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. 

BEAM Mitchell Environment Group as a membership-based volunteer organisation has been championing various environmental causes in Mitchell Shire for more than 31 years.  We operate locally within the biggest of pictures.  We have 95 members, and growing.  We advocate, educate, and activate where we can.

BEAM has established a respect within the Shire for our activities and the quality of our perspectives (this is the feedback). WE have not always been successful, but we have always taken on issues in the best interests of a bigger picture quality of life in our community that respects the value of the natural world, and sees our community health directly linked to the health of our natural world.

The coronavirus pandemic is clear evidence of this link, and likewise wildfires of the past Black Summer, and Black Saturday of 2009.

Remnant vegetation has a traditional primacy for BEAM, but our 2020 world has a lot of challenges around our bigger environment and rapid climate change.

Climate Change dominates our current focus and our many activities.  We have an urgent and pressing need for strong action locally, nationally, globally. The personal is where this starts…and our community is our family in this regard.

We have lived through one of the most interesting of years, a crazy year and a very challenging year.

Last year’s AGM at Blue Tongue Berries saw a bumper Committee elected, …..then things then settled back into the usual pattern of a huge BEAM workload not evenly carried. Broad engagement and commitment is not easy…sometimes its easier to “just do it oneself”, then create the overload problem.

BEAM’s activity spread over the year gone by…

Committee meetings every 2 months.  Like everyone, BEAM has grappled with video meetings. Not that well at times, but it got better. The upside of Covid times is that one doesn’t have to DRIVE to meetings, and if the technology works well, it is quite efficient but not as much fun as “the old days”..  Our AGM continues this New World communication reality…..

BEAM has again had a busy year though, despite patchy Committee Meetings. This is what we have been up to….

  • We objected to Bunnings in Seymour, but Council voted 6-3 in favour. Very disappointing.. one we lost
  • Attended the National Climate Emergency Summit feb 2020
  • Submission to the State Biodiversity Inquiry
  • Submission to the Gas Infrastructure proposal at Crib Point
  • Submission to the Rural Land and Activities Review
  • Submission into the Inquiry into Environmental Infrastructure for Growing Populations. A big note of appreciation PM.
  • Commenced on-site revegetation with Permacroft community (design, planting, maintenance for 10 years) at Glenaroua
  • Our Opposition to the Seymour Levee Proposal continued, the Council finally voted unanimously to cease the Levee Proposal. Success, and now an opportunity to rework the Seymour Structure Plan. We in the community need to lead more on this, not follow in the tracks of approving Council planning work.
  • Engaged with Mitchell Shire Staff in surveying how more ambitious action on climate might be progressed. A good response.
  • Engaged with Mitchell Shire Youth Council, with Climate Change and Council Action our target conversation.
  • Successful application to DELWP for a Community Mini Grant “Composting and Planting for Climate Resilience” a school-based program $7k.
  • In recent months, Invitation from the Kilmore and District Residents and Ratepayers Association KADRRA to assist with a Planning Scheme proposal of rezoning and concern around the protection of remnant vegetation in Kilmore South. BEAM joined them to head a response… a planning decision is pending. Protecting remnant vegetation in the face of suburban expansion is a big battle.
  • Support for 51 Trees campaign in Nagambie…more important remnant vegetation needing protection from urban expansion.
  • Worked with Mitchell Community Energy in a number of initiatives
  • Rattle your Pen: Encouraged A letter-writing campaign to local media about the opportunities from Covid19 going forward to a greener economy, and some stick for Damian Drum for being on that other path, the “gas-led recovery’ to ….the precipice.
  • Save the Tallarook Forest. A BEAM Press Release about impending logging of 500ha of the Tallarook Forest (mainly for woodchips) has sparked a strong local campaign of education and resistance. See SaveThe TallarookForest on FaceBook and BEAM’s website.
  • BEAM Bulk Foods continues its growth, with regional growth into “pods”, and a new operational structure.
  • Volunteer resident Clean-Ups in Seymour and Kilmore when restrictions were less,

Regular communications

  • Newsletters after every Committee meeting + many in between.
  • Website and FaceBook posts regularly
  • Maintained a weekly radio program EarthChat with some excellent guests, on Fridays at 10am and now repeated Saturdays at 8am. After prompting and support we use our FaceBook page a lot more- previewing the coming EarthChat program, on Thursday nights, and airing other interests of ours.

And….. there are endless emails and maybe phone calls of response and lobbying and sharing perspectives on issues from day-to-day.

I return to Climate Change, and the associated stress outcomes we have endured over the past 12 months, and the “call to arms” whether we want to or not.

Two recent events have strongly shaped BEAM’s future activity focus..the Black Summer Fires, and Covid-19.

The lessons we must learn from our Black Summer of wild fires, many months of intense bushfires spreading down the east coast from Queensland to Eastern Victoria are clear to our group.    In our Shire we were spared physically, but not so emotionally .THIS is what has been predicted as “what to expect” as climate change gathers pace. Gathers pace, not being held, not reduced. As the Bushfires Royal Commission heard, we can expect fires like this more often, earlier, with longer fire seasons and up to 3 times as intense heading to 2050. Three times as intense.

We didn’t see leadership from the Federal Government, but we did see leadership elsewhere, like  in retired essential Services people like Greg Mullins, telling it for what it is > Royal Commission. This was leadership from a nightmare.

BEAM attended the National Climate Emergency Summit in February this year at the Melbourne Town Hall. (Clare Daly and I attended).  Depressing, inspiring….the expected climate change mix…and some inspirational leadership from Ian Dunlop, John Hewson, Carmen Lawrence, Anika Molesworth, Greg Mullins and many more.  

In a nutshell…….. we have 10 years to make dramatic changes to our economy, our emissions, our renewable energy transition and our honesty about an existential threat if we become complacent.  But you know this, most of Australia does.

We didn’t know at the time, but the newly appointed Sustainability Officer at Mitchell Shire, Brendon Garrett, was also there too. This is valuable.

From this Summit, BEAM has taken on the challenge to engage our Mitchell Shire to go harder with more ambition in action on climate change. Net Zero Emissions by 2050 adopted in the Council’s Environment Policy, adopted earlier this year, is no ambition at all. We propose a Declaration of Climate Emergency, a net zero Council emissions target by 2030, and are building links with the Youth Council in this process. By way of inspiration, Shepparton Declared a Climate Emergency earlier this year spearheaded by its Youth Council. They adopted a Net Zero Emissions target by 2030, and then develop a plan to achieve this.

WE have our work cut out with a new Council and a campaign of education and action.       In just four years, more than 1,700 local governments around the world have taken this Declaration of Climate Emergency. WE see this as strong leadership, we want to be in that space.

The coronavirus. Covid19 became the kiss of death for too many in nursing homes in the second wave of infection in Victoria. And  A daily captivation of curves and numbers and challenges being restricted in movement….but our air has become cleaner, coal-fired power businesses were hit with a downturn in demand (and profits),  renewables continued to grow, and we have time to consider a different road forward from here….a greener future of more Australian manufacturing, a Green New Deal. This could be everything a gas-fired recovery will never be.

John Garnaut’s book  Superpower details this possibility.  Even Australian company directors are calling for this (Guardian Oct 25) .  Coronavirus, and its hybrids may be with us forever. We need to live with this in a partnership of social responsibility and science.  It’s the same with climate.

Going forward, there are a number of stand-outs of unfinished business from our year just gone.

Local action on Climate Change dominates, with implications for many other campaigns already happening. When our environment is stressed, and it turns its fury on us (2009,2019,2020) we realise our impotence. But we can shift things, if we play harder and earlier.

As BEAM going forward, we will build on work from the year passed, and….

  • further engage with young people in BEAM through the Youth Council.
  • work with the new Mitchell Shire Council in developing strong local action on climate
  • grow the “Composting and Planting for Climate Resilience” project
  • take inspiration in recent election results in NZ and the ACT, and in the continuing roll-call of farmers and business groups and big companies making commitments to reducing emissions and investing more in reducing carbon emissions. We are inspired by the Federal leadership of Helen Haines in neighbouring Indi electorate – notably her engagement processes (g. developing the Local Power Plan of community-owned renewables).                                                                                                                                    
  • further build our resilience. …policy over politics. We are challenged by the Federal Government’s indifference on climate change…the science is fine on Covid, but we don’t listen to climate science… but there are many other upbeat conversations…. possibilities for a different path (like The Green New Deal) ….the States and broader community and business and BEAM move on regardless. This is the decade of humanity’s greatest challenge. A strong cohesive community is one of the most important tools we have in building communities resilient to a changing climate.
  • engage with Seymour in a new Structure Plan, again, but with lessons learnt from the past. We need some bold conversations.

 Into the coming BEAM year, we also need to look after ourselves all, to be best placed to speak out for and with our local community. As dark as the news and the science so often seems, we continue to see rainbows from unlikely places. Glass half full, dear members.

Our recent activities in the southern end of our Shire highlight our need to strengthen our relationship with the likes of the Wallan Environment Group. As a volunteer group, BEAM is stretched to keep up with challenges and opportunities, often operating in the centre and north of our Shire, so broadening the support base in the south is an imperative.

In the meantime, the Cherry Tree windfarm we strongly supported generates clean power for our region (and elsewhere) and the resplendent view east up Anzac Avenue to the graceful turning of the 120m diameter turbines is a welcome reminder of THAT active campaign. We as BEAM meg have many things to be proud of, and we have much unfinished business.

Finally,  thankyou

  • to the retiring committee of Richard Telford, Clare Daly, Irene Telford, John Stares, David Clarey, Peter Mitchell, Marie Gerrard, Vanessa Malendrin, James Bramwell, Scott Robinson, Peter Gaffney.
  • to the inspiring Trent Patten for joining us as our guest speaker,
  • to Phil Bourne as MC, an established feature of our AGMs…for every year he says “yes” its a bonus.
  • To David Clarey for setting up our virtual AGM.
  • And to YOU our members, and bystanders and comrades- together we are strong.

That’s it, the President’s Report for 2020.   Anyone for a Bush dance?

Peter Lockyer, President,  BEAM Mitchell Environment Group Inc 2019-2020

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