2017 Environment Award Winners

Friday October 27 saw our annual Environment Awards, acknowledging the significant contributions of exceptional members of the community towards sustainability and the environment in the ACT. The diversity of our groups and activists working to protect the environment in quite amazing.

We’re very proud of all our nominees and would like to extend our congratulations and warm thanks for all the hard work they’ve done in 2017. The decision was a difficult one for our judges, but we’re happy to announce the winners of our 2017 Environment Awards.

Moira and John Rowland Young Environmentalist of the Year was awarded to Violet Cully of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC). We would like to acknowledge AYCC’s great work over the years – they won the Member Group award in 2014, Moira Cully of AYCC was winner of the Young Environmentalist award in 2014, and in 2015 Emma Bliss of AYCC received a commendation for Young Environmentalist. It’s so good to have AYCC doing so much to protect the environment and their future.

Member Group of the Year was awarded to Ginninderra Catchment Group. GCG supports 15 landcare groups and also coordinates citizen science and community education programs including the ACT and Region Frogwatch Program and Ginninderra Waterwatch. The group has demonstrated significant achievements in integrated environmental activities in the ACT region. Current priority programs include: community environmental stewardship; improved condition of priority ecosystems (particularly grassland restoration); Aboriginal land management; waterways and riparian areas; sustainable agriculture; citizen science; and community engagement.

Environmentalist of the Year was awarded to Martin Chalk of the National Park Association ACT (NPA ACT). Martin has been an active member of NPA ACT/NSW for over 20 years and has been the Work Party Coordinator since 2003. As an ex-navigator of F111’s, Martin uses his navigation skills to lead bushwalks and provide navigation courses. He also organised the NPA ACT photographic competition; represents NPA ACT in the debate about feral horse management in Kosciusko National Park; and was a founding member of the Gudgenby Bush Regeneration Group, undertaking backbreaking ACT Waterwatch activities with the group every month since May 2003.

The Senior School Sustainability Award winner was Julia Heather from Merici College. In her elected role as Sustainability Captain, Julia has helped facilitate sustainability events such as Clean Up Australia Day, Earth Hour and many more. She has also developed several original initiatives including Ride to School Day, a ‘Sustainability Chill Out Zone’, a soft plastics recycling program, and an ‘Introduction to Sustainability’ activity that is now mandatory for all incoming year 7 students.

Board members fiduciary obligations

 

The Conservation Council Board has again looked at the policy on Board members Fiduciary Obligations and re-endorsed the existing policy. This is a common and standard but important policy to guide organisations on their governance and Board members in their roles.

Like their for-profit counterparts, board members of a not-for-profit corporation are in a fiduciary relationship with the corporation. This means that they are obliged to act honestly and in good faith in respect of their role within the corporation. The obligation of board members has many components, including a duty to avoid conflicts of interest and a duty to avoid abusing their position to gain personal benefit. Another component of board members’ fiduciary obligation is a duty to maintain the confidentiality of information that they acquire by virtue of their position within the corporation.

It is a fundamental aspect of good governance that all Board Members understand that their role on the Board is first and foremost to act in the interests of the organisation as a whole. Board Members are not on the Board to represent and promote the interests of particular groups or stakeholders. They are not there to represent the interests of their constituents.

The overriding obligation on all Board Members to act in the best interests of the organisation as a whole arises by virtue of what is known as the ‘fiduciary relationship’ between each Board Member and the organisation. The fiduciary relationship is a general law notion and simply dictates that Board Members must always and unwaveringly act in the best interests of the organisation and must act honestly, fairly, loyally, in good faith, and with integrity.

In all deliberations as a member of the Board you must have regard to the overriding principle that your duty is to act in the best interests of the organisation, irrespective of any personal or other interests.

Another essential aspect of good governance is that Board Members maintain confidentiality in respect of all Board matters and discussions. Confidentiality forms the basis of trust and encourages an open and honest forum for discussion. Board Members have a right to freely express their views without fear of being named outside the Board Meeting as taking a particular position.

Signpost of good qualities

Summary of some common duties

Act with care and diligence
  • This duty requires Board Members to apply reasonable care in the performance of their office Act in good faith
  • Board Members must act bona fide for the benefit of the Organisation as a whole – the interests of the organisation must always be the principal consideration
  • To act in good faith means not to act in bad faith
Act for the proper purpose
  • As a Board Member, you must only exercise any associated powers for the purpose for which they were conferred
  • You must not act for an improper purpose
  • Not make improper use of the position on the Board
  • A Board Member must refrain from improperly using his or her position on the Board in order to gain a personal advantage or an advantage for a third party
  • A Board Member must also refrain from improperly using his or her position to cause any detriment to the Organisation
  • An individual will make improper use of the position on the Board if he or she uses it to manipulate or intimidate other stakeholders
  • Not make improper use of information obtained by virtue of the Board position
  • A Board Member must also refrain from improperly using any information obtained by virtue of the Board position (e.g. information obtained at Board Meetings, information divulged to the individual in the capacity as Board Member) in order to gain a personal advantage or an advantage for a third party, or to cause any detriment to the organisation.

Agreed by Conservation Council ACT Region Board October 2016, re-endorsed October 2017

Conservation Council joins Stop Adani Alliance

The Conservation Council ACT Region has accepted the invitation to join the Stop Adani Alliance.

The Alliance is one part of the overall Stop Adani campaign and currently has over thirty organisations as members, with a combined supporter base of over two million people. The current membership of the Alliance includes the Australian Conservation Foundation350.org, Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Conservation Council South Australia, Conservation Council WA and several Queensland Conservation Councils.

The Board has agreed to joining the Alliance because the Conservation Council’s aims, objectives and values Declaration are in line with the Alliance Declaration; Conservation Council membership of the Alliance helps strengthen the overall alliance and joins us with a range of other conservation, environment, faith and community organisations, and; membership of the Alliance is free of charge yet also provides access to some campaign resources.

The grounds of opposition to the proposed Adani coal mine are set out in the Alliance Declaration (below). Member organisations all endorse the Stop Adani Alliance Declaration, not every single moving part of a diverse campaign.

Stop Adani Alliance Declaration

We stand together to stop Adani Carmichael coal mine, rail and port project because:

  • It will fuel catastrophic climate change
  • The project trashes Indigenous rights, land, water and culture
  • Coal kills people and threatens our way of life
  • Adani can’t be trusted
  • Our future lies with clean, renewable energy

We stand for:

  • Urgent and serious action to cut carbon pollution
  • A complete withdrawal of the Adani Carmichael mine, rail and port project
  • A ban on new coal mines and expansions in Australia
  • An end to public subsidies for fossil fuel projects
  • Solidarity with Traditional Owners and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are standing up to protect country
  • Respect for each other’s autonomy to campaign in ways that make sense to us while working collaboratively to build community power
  • Peaceful collective action

THE TIME FOR RIDING ROUGHSHOD OVER INDIGENOUS RIGHTS IS OVER.

THE TIME FOR BUILDING NEW COAL MINES IS OVER.

THE TIME FOR ACTION TO STOP ADANI IS NOW.

If you would like to know more about the Conservation Council joining the Alliance contact [email protected]org.au More information on the Alliance is available at the Stop Adani Alliance website. If you would like to be involved in Stop Adani actions in the ACT contact the 350.org Canberra team [email protected] or attend a 350.org meeting on the first Wednesday of each month from 5:30pm-7pm at the Conservation Council ACT Region office – Barry Drive. All are welcome!

Yellow Box Dispatch October 2017

Yellow Box Dispatch October 2017

As we come close to the end of the year it’s good to feel that there have been some achievements to protect the environment in the ACT. It;s great there are people who recognise and work on issues, looking after places and matters that are important to us now or into the future. And while Governments can be a problem (can’t live with them, can’t live without them?) there are good public servants who really do care and Ministers and MLAs who really try to do things better.

So welcome to our warm springtime report on some of our recent activities and other events coming up in the region.

Our annual Spring Mingle is coming up on 27 October, we look forward to celebrating with you. The Spring Mingle is our way of making a space to say thank you to the many people who make contributions to protecting the environment in the ACT. Part of the way we do this is to announce the Conservation Council’s 2017 Environment Awards 2017. Thank you for the nominations, they are being judged to be announced at the Spring Mingle.

The first steps of our Walk the Border ACT fundraising event took place Saturday 7 October at the Centenary Trail Track Head in Hall and the Walk is now well underway. You are still welcome to join as a walker or support the walk through sponsoring a walker. Or you can join the mailing list for updates.

Our Environment Exchange series of lunchtime dialogues has been very popular this year and we have only one more session to go: Biodiversity offsets in the ACT – are they working, how are they being managed?

We have been involved in discussions on a few pieces of legislation and mostly the changes seem okay but it’s a lot better when people are consulted before a few

In this Yellow Box Dispatch we have (click to link):

And there’s more events below including an exciting Food Sovereignty Convergence taking place in Canberra and a butterfly walk with Friends of Black Mountain.

Please forward this Yellow Box Dispatch to people who might be interested in reading it or looking at the pictures.

Regards

Larry O’Loughlin
Executive Director, Conservation Council ACT Region

Save the Date: Spring Mingle and Environment Awards 

Join us to celebrate our environment achievements at the 2017 Spring Mingle, Friday 27 October 2017 from 6pm, at the Renewables Innovation Hub, 19 Moore Street Turner.

Connect with other Canberrans who are passionate about the environment, and celebrate the announcement of the 2017 ACT environment awards. There will be a bar, music, entertainment, a silent auction and we will provide lovely food as usual. We will also celebrate the end of Walk the Border ACT.

We look forward to celebrating with you! Please book now to help us with our planning and catering. Entry is by donation.

(Pictured is part of the 2015 Spring Mingle and announcement of the Environment Awards).

The Conservation Council ACT is proud that the 2017 ACT Environment Awards will be announced at the Spring Mingle. There are four awards to recognise individuals and groups who have made a significant contribution towards the environment:

  1. Moira and John Rowland Young Environmentalist Award
  2. Environmentalist of the Year Award
  3. Conservation Council Member Group of the Year Award
  4. Senior School Student Sustainability Award

For further information contact [email protected]conservationcouncil.org.au.

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Walk the Border ACT – A Watershed Walk

The Walk the Border ACT – A Watershed Walk is a fundraising walk that will complete a full circuit of the ACT’s border over 21 days starting 7 October 2017. A 306 km walk that crosses ancient pathways and defines the Australian Capital Territory, Walk the Border ACT is seeking to raise funds for the Conservation Council ACT Region. The walk also offers a rare opportunity to raise community awareness about the breadth of the ACT’s ecosystems and the many cultural aspects associated with the landscape. 

There are several ways in which you can get involved with Walk the Border ACT:

Donate

What is a fundraising walk without donations? Walk the Border ACT is seeking to raise funds for the ACT’s peak environment body, the Conservation Council ACT Region.

The Conservation Council has been a major force in the protection of the ACT’s urban and natural environments though lobbying, campaigning educating for more than 37 years.

As a non-profit, non-government organisation, every donation to the Conservation Council, no matter how small, is important.

You can sponsor one of the walkers or just donate to the walk in general by going to donate

Be part of the support team

Not able to join the walk itself? There are opportunities for volunteers to help with the running of the walk.  Tasks include picking up walkers at the end of a stage or helping in managing the communications around the walk? Contact Walk the Border ACT on [email protected] to find out how best to help.

Spread the Word

The more people that know about the walk the more likely we will be able to tell people about our work and for them to make contributions. So let all your friends and family know about ourblog site and Facebook page and encourage them spread the word as well. More information at the website and email[email protected] with any questions.

In the news

Walk the Border’s successful launch at the Namadgi Nation Park Visitor centre was featured in the Canberra Times – see the article here. Pictured are the Conservation Council Executive Director Larry O’Loughlin, left, with Minister for the Environment Mick Gentleman, and President Rod Griffiths, who leads a 306 kilometre circuit of the ACT’s border.

The first steps of Walk the Border ACT fundraising event took place Saturday 7 October at the Centenary Trail Track Head, corner Hoskins and Hall Streets Hall.

Join the Walk 

It’s not too late to join the walk! See details for best days to do part stages to join for a day or more here. Have a look at them in conjunction with the descriptions in the walk schedule to see which might best suit your personal requirements. And then you can register here to become a border walker.

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The people’s pathway to zero emissions – Canberra

Canberra is a national and international leader on local climate change action and delivery and we are proud of this. We are leaders because we have: a 100% renewable energy target by 2020; a 40% reduction target by 2020; plans and contracts in place to deliver these targets. We also have a target of being zero net emissions by 2050 and we have tri-partisan support for all of these things.

Our climate policy is working. In 2010 the ACT Government set greenhouse gas reduction targets and started to invest in renewable energy. As at 2017 already over 40% of our electricity is from renewable sources and we are on track to deliver 100% renewable electricity by 2020. Our greenhouse gas emissions have dropped 11.8%!

What could possibly go wrong?

We seem to be going from strength to strength. However, this local momentum for local action on climate change has been community driven and it needs to be maintained.

Environment and community groups have been raising awareness going back over two decades including the November 2015 People’s Climate March prior to the Paris meeting for the United Nations climate summit. Hundreds of thousands turned out globally and in Canberra we had 10,000 people – Canberra’s largest ever climate change rally.

A key factor of this turnout was it wasn’t just an environment rally – it was attended by a diverse range of peoples, including firefighters, faith communities, unions and workers, farmers, health professionals, business people, artists and musicians. It was a colourful and family friendly event.

If we are to develop and implement a zero net emissions plan it must be embraced by the ACT community, by a wide range of organisations across sectors and by our major political parties.

Effective community ownership will be an essential part of delivery of our zero net emissions goal.

Conservation groups are working with other peak organisations to develop and build community ownership to ensure our local community is engaged and committed to a shared vision of achieving zero net emissions in a fair, sustainable and equitable way as soon as possible. We also need our pathway to not displace our emissions into other jurisdictions

However post-2020 there is no plan to achieve the zero net emissions target by 2050 and there are no interim targets. While the Government has clearly stated its intention to make further moves on climate change there has been little visible progress since the 2016 election.

There is a particular looming challenge of dealing with emissions from the transport sector. The transport sector will be the ACT’s single biggest contributor to greenhouse emissions after we move to 100% renewable electricity.

We need to work together as a community to develop agreed pathways on climate change that work for all sectors of society to ensure a just transition to adapt to climate change by developing further responses in consultation with climate affected communities and workers.

The pathway to zero net emissions will be and needs to be community driven.

Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury has indicated that in the near future he will bring forward development of a post-2020 plan.

While it will be important for the Government to develop strategies and systems the big challenge will be to build on community ownership of the vision and pathway for a zero net emissions Canberra as soon as possible. Sign up here if you want to be kept up-to-date on our local action to address climate change.

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Conservation Council joins Stop Adani Alliance

The Conservation Council ACT Region has accepted the invitation to join the Stop Adani Alliance.

The Alliance is one part of the overall Stop Adani campaign and currently has over thirty organisations as members, with a combined supporter base of over two million people. Thecurrent membership of the Alliance includes the Australian Conservation Foundation, 350.org, AYCC, Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Conservation Council South Australia, Conservation Council WA and several Queensland Conservation Councils.

The Board has agreed to joining the Alliance because the Conservation Council’s aims, objectives and values Declaration are in line with the Alliance Declaration; Conservation Council membership of the Alliance helps strengthen the overall alliance and joins us with a range of other conservation, environment, faith and community organisations, and; membership of the Alliance is free of charge yet also provides access to some campaign resources.

The grounds of opposition to the proposed Adani coal mine are set out in the Alliance Declaration (below). Member organisations all endorse the Stop Adani Alliance Declaration, not every single moving part of a diverse campaign.

Stop Adani Alliance Declaration

We stand together to stop Adani Carmichael coal mine, rail and port project because:

  • It will fuel catastrophic climate change
  • The project trashes Indigenous rights, land, water and culture
  • Coal kills people and threatens our way of life
  • Adani can’t be trusted
  • Our future lies with clean, renewable energy

We stand for:

  • Urgent and serious action to cut carbon pollution
  • A complete withdrawal of the Adani Carmichael mine, rail and port project
  • A ban on new coal mines and expansions in Australia
  • An end to public subsidies for fossil fuel projects
  • Solidarity with Traditional Owners and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are standing up to protect country
  • Respect for each other’s autonomy to campaign in ways that make sense to us while working collaboratively to build community power
  • Peaceful collective action

THE TIME FOR RIDING ROUGHSHOD OVER INDIGENOUS RIGHTS IS OVER.

THE TIME FOR BUILDING NEW COAL MINES IS OVER.

THE TIME FOR ACTION TO STOP ADANI IS NOW.

If you would like to know more about the Conservation Council joining the Alliance contact [email protected]org.au More information on the Alliance is available at the Stop Adani Alliance website. If you would like to be involved in Stop Adani actions in the ACT contact the 350.org Canberra team [email protected] or attend a 350.org meeting on the first Wednesday of each month from 5:30pm-7pm at the Conservation Council ACT Region office – Barry Drive. All are welcome!

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Environment, planning, sustainable
development issues in ACT 

Our Environment Exchange topic for September was environment, planning and sustainable development issues in the ACT with a speaker from the ACT Government Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD).

Ben Ponton, Director General EPSDD, was unavailable to attend this event at late notice. We were pleased to be joined instead by Acting Deputy Director-General Geoffrey Rutledge. Our Environment Exchange got off to an exciting start with our guest speaker, Geoffrey, rushing in to join us from attending a cabinet meeting.

Rutledge ended his presentation with an anecdote highlighting the biodiversity of our region and the importance of community consultation. As when the little eagle nesting pair returned to Strathnairn, all sectors of the Directorate came together to protect this endangered species.

This is what the Directorate aims to achieve with their community consultation, bringing all areas together to create the city we want to live in.

To do good community consultation will require different conversations in order to reach the disinterested and time poor. As Rutledge noted, this was initiated with the echidna love trains at Mulligans Flat being hash-tagged the Bachelorette on social media. Therefore the Directorate is aiming to spread out and connect with difficult-to-engage ACT residents and as a result creating a new conversation on environment, planning and sustainable development issues in the ACT.

A big thank you to our wonderful volunteers (pictured) who made this (and other events) such a success. We can’t do our work as the community’s voice for the environment without you.

See a summary of the event and find out more at our Bush Capital Blog. 

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Gas under a cloud?

If we had a chance to start anew we probably wouldn’t enforce gas infrastructure for every residence. Would we?

Natural gas is basically methane and it produces greenhouse emissions when it burns (and it’s even worse if it just leaks into the atmosphere) and most of us recognise that climate change is going to get worse if we keep adding emissions. Indeed, in the ACT we even have a policy of having zero net emissions by 2050 at the latest so surely gas is on the way out.

Oh, and then we have the escalating prices for gas and the predicted shortages and that they are now extracting it with destructive practices such as fracking. Meanwhile electricity is becoming much ‘greener’ and it can replace gas for most purposes. [Pictured: Chief Minister Andrew Barr demonstration cooking with electricity at World Curry Festival July 2017. He actually said “I usually cook with gas” but eager tasters reported he cooked well!]

Some developers have seen the writing on the wall and want to build suburbs without the requirement that all residences have gas infrastructure at the property boundary. Why spend millions of dollars on pipes and valves and taps when we are trying to build more affordable houses? Why build it if no-one will use it? This infrastructure will become stranded assets: assets which are obsolete or non-performing and never able to make back the cost of their installation.

Now let’s look at what’s happening in the ACT. It is currently a mandatory requirement for development in Canberra (Territory Plan, Estate Development Code, p14) that gas be provided to each block. Riverview Developments (undertaking the Ginninderry development that will traverse the ACT-NSW border at West Belconnen) wants to have suburbs without gas. The gas supplier ActewAGL (part-owned by the ACT Government through Icon Water) argues that gas infrastructure should be installed. They say that there is a future for gas, if not natural gas it might be biogas (available in limited supply and still an emitter) or syngas (produced from waste or coal or biomass and potentially more available but much dirtier and still an emitter).

The decision-maker will be the ACT Government. They should decide, very soon, between the views of ActewAGL and the views of Riverview wanting to start building infrastructure (but not gas) for tens of thousands of homes.

And that decision will show if the Government is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If they want to have zero emissions they will not be cooking with gas.

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Utilities (Technical Regulation) Amendment Bill 2017

Conservation Council was briefed on the Utilities (Technical Regulation) Amendment Bill 2017, which has been presented to the Assembly by Minister Rattenbury for debate in October.

The Bill looks at vegetation management around power lines and poles to reduce the risk of the infrastructure starting fires and also to protect the infrastructure in case of fires.

The proposed amendments will change shift the responsibility for tree clearing from Transport Canberra and City Services to ActewAGL (or any other future network utility), as the network operator, while establishing new protections to avoid unnecessary and excessive clearing of vegetation.

The process looks broadly acceptable, with clear responsibilities, significant roles for the Conservator, easier application of fines for non-compliance, and a codified guidance for how and when vegetation can be cleared.

However it will be important to look at the detail of the proposed Technical Code which would be developed before the legislation would be implemented.

If member groups want to be consulted on the technical code or want more detail on the Bill please contact [email protected]org.au.

The Bill will be debated in late October. Thank you to Minster Rattenbury for facilitating and the TCCS and EPSDD Directorates officials for providing the consultation.

Tree Protection Amendment Bill 2017 

The Conservation Council wrote to Minister Fitzharris 11 September expressing concerns with the Tree Protection Amendment Bill 2017 presented  24 August 2017. We also copied in Liberal and Greens MLAs.

Our main concerns were that:

  • The Amendment Bill would allow for easier removal of urban trees.
  • The Amendment Bill would limit standing for review of the approval, refusal to approval, cancellation or refusal to cancel the registration of a tree.

We were also concerned about the additional responsibilities loaded on to the Conservator without clear statutory guidelines. As we have pointed out the ACT Government does not always have well-qualified Conservators, such as the current Conservator Annie Lane, so all Conservators should be provided with guidance.

Ironically since that time we have learned that Annie Lane will be retiring as Conservator and from ACT Government at the end of 2017. She has given Conservators a good name and will be missed.

Neither the Conservation Council nor the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) had been contacted for consultation or briefing on the Bill.

Since our letter to Minister Fitzharris debate on the Bill was withdrawn from the September sitting, both the Liberals and the Greens have been provided briefings. The Conservation Council and the EDO were briefed in the first week of October and while it was a good briefing some of our concerns remain.

Nature Conservation (Minor Public Works) Amendment Bill 2017

The Nature Conservation (Minor Public Works) Amendment Bill was presented by Minister Gentleman to the Legislative Assembly on 14 September.

It proposes to make changes so that the Parks and Conservation Service does not have to submit a DA for every minor work and have the Conservator of Flora and Fauna prepare an Environmental Significance Opinion (ESO) for minor works.

Instead the Conservator would prepare a ‘minor public works code’ and all proposed works would comply with that Code.

This process would seem to work as it would apply to repairs or straightforward replacements and genuine minor works. The proposed code would be a disallowable instrument so there is theoretically more scrutiny and transparency.

It might be useful that public servants can operate more efficiently and operate against rules (namely the Code) rather than have to follow time-wasting processes which in effect do not provide any more protection or scrutiny.

The Conservation Council was briefed on the Bill before the Bill even went to the Assembly and we have been offered consultation on the Code as it is developed. We were even listened to as we raised points. From our point of view that is a good consultation process.

If you would like to know more on the Bill or be involved in the consultation on the Code please contact [email protected]org.au.

The Bill will be debated in late October. Thank you to Minster Rattenbury for raising the issue and then to Minister Gentleman for facilitating the consultations with EPSDD officials.

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Going backwards on reducing ACT’s waste

The Conservation Council has produced a briefing paper – Going backwards on reducing ACT’s waste – on some key “fails” by the ACT, especially the Government, on reducing ACT waste.

We are concerned that the Government is encouraging the establishment of waste incineration through waste to energy facilities to deal with failures to achieve key targets in waste minimisation and waste management.

What is needed:

  • Community Engagement: more resources to reduce waste generation, increase resource recovery
  • Systems and processes: including minimisation and sorting of commercial and industrial waste
  • Reduce: ban single-use non-recycled materials such as polystyrene in the ACT
  • Legislative: amend Waste Act to require a statutory long-term waste strategy, with legislated overall targets, and targets for particular waste streams (i.e. e-waste, organic (kitchen) waste, demolition waste), annual reporting on performance tabled in Assembly, 5-year reviews of strategy
  • Waste-to-energy: ACT Government to say no to current Capital Recycling Solutions proposal; develop a clear set of guidelines for considering waste-to energy proposals including a requirement that it is only a “last resort” measure.
  • Waste Feasibility Study: to have a strong focus on waste reduction.

See the key fails on waste minimisation and management here.

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Icon Water proposals for water and sewerage tariffs 2018-2023

Image result for Icon Water proposals for water and sewerage tariffs 2018-2023Conservation Council ACT Region made a submission in September 2017 to the ICRC on Icon Water proposals for water and sewerage tariffs 2018-2023 prepared by Emeritus Professor Ian Falconer, Board member, Conservation Council ACT Region.

The Conservation Council has a long-standing role in commenting on tariff charges for water supply and use.

In collaboration with the ACT Council on Social Service (ACTCOSS), the Conservation Council supported a dual rate charging system at the last review five years ago, which resulted in which low use customers supplied with water at a rate well below that charged to larger users.

Following the draft ACT Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) proposals for water charge revision in March 2017, a submission was delivered to the ICRC that strongly opposed the ICRC’s proposed new tariff structure from 2018, on the basis that it progressively transferred the costs of the utility to small domestic users and householders, while saving substantial costs to big consumers.

This submission has now reviewed the new Icon Water paper on tariffs for the next period, which are more in-line with the intentions of the Conservation Council than the earlier proposals from the ICRC. Icon Water’s proposal supports a dual tariff structure while appreciating that the utility is required to balance its finances and repay capital expended on ensuring supply in drier times.

The relatively modest increase in supply charge reflects the major component of water supply costs, which are those from infrastructure and capital, rather than the actual cost of a volume of treated water. The dual tariff is proposed to be continued with close to ‘cost of living’ increases in cost per unit of water volume supplied (KL).

The two points requiring further evaluation in the Icon Water proposal are the large return on capital, which is quoted at 26%, and the ‘Uneconomic Bypass’ provision.

While profit from Icon Water passes to the ACT Treasury as owners – thus being set against Canberra’s rates – this capital return appears excessive, leading to unnecessarily large profits.

The other issue is the open-ended nature of the new ‘negotiated contracts’ provision for high volume users who have potential for alternative water sources, such as pumping from Lake Burley Griffin. This is currently unspecified by volume, and could comparatively disadvantage other users since the decrease in income is passed on as increased costs to other consumers. The parameters for these contracts need specification.

Overall the Icon Water proposals are sensible, and avoid the major social disadvantages of the earlier ICRC draft. They are welcomed.

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Last Environment Exchange 2017 — biodiversity offsets: are they working in ACT?

Environment Exchange events are held monthly to provide for informed, in-depth discussions on environmental issues in the region. Member groups are encouraged to attend and to publicise the events to their members and supporters.

The Conservation Council ‘Environment Exchange’ series is held at the Renewable Energy Hub, 19-23 Moore Street, Turner (just off Barry Drive).

All events are scheduled from 12-2pm starting with a light lunch (donations welcome). The first series for 2017 resulted in lively and productive discussions with all events being well attended with good food and interesting conversation. To see the summaries check out our blog posts. 

We saved the best till last: Tuesday 24 October: Biodiversity Offsets – are they working in the ACT?

Enjoy a lunch, tea and coffee while networking and questions from, and discussion with, the audience.

Click here to find our more and reserve your place or call us on (02) 6229 3200.

Please forward this to people who might be interested in attending and encourage them to book online to reduce food wastage and stress.

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EVENTS

SEE-Change Party at Downer Shops

WHAT: Come along and celebrate the rejuvenated Downer shops! Loads of stalls and fun activities for the whole family. SEE-Change is running a Sewing Repair Cafe, so bring along some favourite items that need repair and we’ll teach you how! Join in the fun at the seed bombing workshop, learn how to set up a wicking garden plot and a worm farm. Lots of food and fun for everyone!

WHEN: Saturday 14 October 10am-3pm

WHERE: Downer shopping area, Frenchman Place, Downer ACT 2602

REGISTER: No need! Free and welcome to everyone.

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Springfest Ginninderry

WHAT: In conjunction with Strathnairn Arts Open Day, SPRINGFEST will be held at The Link 14 October 10am-5pm.

From performing artists and handmade crafts to a puppet show, choir performance and a footy clinic, this social and community event will keep the whole  family entertained! Join us for a day of earth-friendly markets, hosting local makers who use sustainable materials and methods, as well as pre-loved treasures. Plus there will be great food and plenty of entertainment.

WHEN: Saturday 14 October, 10am-5pm

WHERE: The Link and Strathnairn Arts, 90 Stockdill Drive, Holt, ACT

REGISTER: Free event, more information here.

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Anti Poverty Week: Hidden Poverty Panel

Image result for Anti Poverty Week: Hidden Poverty PanelWHO: ACT Council of Social Services

WHAT: Join us for breakfast on Wednesday 18 October, and hear a thought-provoking panel discussion on hidden poverty, as part of 2017 Anti-Poverty Week.

The panel will be emceed by ANU academic, Dr Kim Huynh, and will feature ACT Community Services Director-General, Michael De’ath, ACT Education Director-General, Natalie Howson, and A/g Deputy-Director General, Innovation ACT Health, Mary Wood.

WHEN: Wednesday 18 October 2017, 7.30am

WHERE: Rheinberger Function Centre, Corner Weston and Loch Streets, Yarralumla

REGISTRATION: Free event, please register online here.

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Cooking with Cool Climate Natives 

WHO: Canberra Environment Centre

WHAT: Add new flavours to your palate and foster an appreciation of edible natives often found in the Canberra region with Bent Shed Produce’s Fiona Porteous. Fiona is an avid foodie who grows and uses native plants in her everyday cooking. This hands-on workshop will show you how easy it is to incorporate edible natives in simple dishes.

WHEN: Saturday 21 October, 2pm – 5pm

WHERE: Bush Capital Lodge, 191 Dryandra Street,O’Connor, ACT

BOOKINGS: Tickets can be purchased online here. More Events from Canberra Environment Centre on theirwebsite here.

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Butterflies on Black Mountain

Image may contain: flower, plant, nature and outdoorWHO: Friends of Black Mountain

WHAT: Butterflies have been described as “an inexhaustible of spiritual and aesthetic delight”. They have a practical value as well. We all love sunlight, and we owe many glorious and sweet-scented flowers, at least those of long tubular form, to the butterflies and moths that pollinate them. Join our local expert, Suzi Bond to see and hear about butterflies and the plants they like near the summit of Black Mountain.

It will be a generally easy walk with some steep sections followed by light refreshments.

WHEN: Sunday 22 October 10:00am – 12 noon

WHERE: Lookout Terrace slightly uphill from Telstra Tower on Black Mountain (see balloons).

BRING: Bring: Friends and family. Binoculars to see the butterflies more clearly if you wish. Water. Snacks if you wish. ‘Gold Coin Donation’ to Friends of Black Mountain. Wear: Sturdy walking gear, including hat and stout shoes.

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Canberra says YES! rally for Marriage Equality 

Image result for Canberra says YES! rally for Marriage EqualityWHAT: On September 2, we had the largest rally for LGBTIQ+ rights in Canberra’s history. On September 10, 50,000 marched in Sydney, while tens of thousands have rallied in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.

Now’s the time! Join us to stand for LGBTI rights and equality and to make this the biggest, most vibrant rally yet. As the plebiscite continues it’s more important than ever that we stand with one another and keep the pressure on to at long last win marriage equality in Australia!

WHERE: Civic Square, London Circuit, Canberra

WHEN: Sunday 22 October 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm (You can go see the butterflies on Black Mt beforehand!)

INFO: See the Facebook event here for more information.

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2017 Food Sovereignty Convergence 

WHAT: Two days of debate, stories, analysis, sharing, strategising and planning, all in the cause of building a fair food system for all Australians! Farmers, consumer advocates, right to food activists, urban agriculturalists, educators, communicators, innovators – whoever you are, wherever you’re from – if you see yourself as part of Australia’s food sovereignty movement, this is for you!

WHEN: 23-24 October 9am-4pm

WHERE: Burringiri Cultural Centre, 245 Lady Denman Drive, Canberra, ACT, 2602.

REGISTER: Purchase tickets and check out the exciting program here. 

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Dombrovskis: Journeys into the Wild

WHAT: Peter Dombrovskis was one of the world’s foremost wilderness photographers. His powerful, reflective and deeply personal images of the unique Tasmanian wilderness had a lasting impact, changing the way Australians think about their environment. The Library has over 3,000 Dombrovskis transparencies, and has printed 70 of the best for this exhibition, the most complete survey of his work to date in Australia.

WHEN: 21 September 2017 to 30 January 2018, open 10am-5pm

WHERE: National Library of Australia

BOOKINGS: Free event – guided tours highly recommended

Cross-border boggers

The September 2017 issue of News from The Alps has a story about toilets in the Alps that is good reading for people Walking the Border. If you’re not deterred by the Walk you shouldn’t be deterred in the toilet either. It’s a great blog read if you have time in lieu. The Walk the Border team will pass these sites 22-23 October.

Cross-border boggers

Who would think that a dotted line drawn on a map would have any bearing on where people go to the loo? The strange thing is, that’s exactly what’s behind the toilets – literally – at these two ACT Parks’ sites. To put it simply, visitors to Mount Franklin or Mount Gingera may not know it, but to use the toilet at either location, they cross the border. They leave the ACT to do their business in New South Wales. And before you leap to the conclusion that this situation must surely strain relations between the two managing parks agencies, understand that this arrangement is longstanding and a great example of the sort of cross-border co-operative management that the Australian Alps Program celebrates and supports. Murrumbidgee Ranger Brandon Galpin knows these two toilets well and is happy to explain how it all works…

“Both Mount Franklin and Mount Gingera sit on the border drawn when Canberra was put in position and allotted its water shed.” Around 1914, Harry Mouat, one of the survey team that drew that dotted line around Australia’s capital, created the section of line that runs through both Franklin and Gingera. “It’s a line that delineates where a drop of rain would notionally fall: if it flows to the east it feeds the Cotter catchment to become drinking water in Canberra; to the west it flows towards the Goodradigbee River.” Clearly Canberra’s founding fathers understood the importance of a source of reliable clean water, and having invested in the survey to create that source, they were also careful to protect it. “When the chalet at Mount Franklin was built in 1938 by the Canberra Alpine Club, as part of their lease agreement, they sited the toilets over the border in New South Wales.

After the 2003 fires the site up at Mount Franklin was a vision of Armageddon. The chalet was burned to the ground but the toilets had survived with just a scorching.” These were repaired, and they continued to service visitors to the site on which in the years since, a memorial footprint of the chalet has been installed and nearby, a new shelter structure.

Over at the base of Mount Gingera there’s a similar loo situation at the site of the research hut built in the 1950s by forester, botanist and founder of the lost Australian Alpine Botanic Gardens, Lindsay Pryor. The original hut still stands as did, until recently, its original toilet. A lot like the Mount Franklin Chalet, Pryors Hut sits virtually on the line dividing the ACT from New South Wales and its toilet is a full 20 metres inside the New South Wales border. Which brings us to another thing both the Franklin and Pyor’s Hut toilets have in common.

“These were pit toilets, and while there might once have been a metal liner in the one at Pryors hut, it had fatigued and the ground water was clearly getting in to fill it up. Over at Mount Franklin, we have to empty the pits more often and the raw geology means we can’t be sure that there isn’t seepage.” Despite being on top of these mountains, rainfall and snow-melt raises the ground water so that seepage is an issue whether it moves westward into less populated areas or eastwards towards Canberra’s drinking fountains.

Visitors to Pryors Hut could be excused for not spotting the works to the toilet (pictured). Looking at it it’s hard to picture the effort that went in below ground by NSW field staff Frank Barnes with shovel, Cam Bates with jackhammer and Rob Burke taking the photo who drew up the plans, decommissioned the old structure and built the new.

Dealing with two old toilets that no longer conform to best practice, brought together agency staff from both sides of the border/rainfall line. Not that there was anything unusual in that. “We’re always in touch with our brothers and sisters over the border. New South Wales manage these toilets but we work together over any issues.” Recently there was a flurry of activity at Pryors Hut. NSW capital works funding gained by Sarah Chubb and Andrew Dickson, Brandon’s NSW Parks colleagues, made it possible to remove the old toilet and replace it with a precast concrete tank pit toilet. “The toilet hut has been rebuilt using reclaimed tin on the walls and roof over a slightly enlarged hardwood frame.” It may look very similar to the previous toilet, but it will require less maintenance and there is less risk that it could adversely affect either catchment.

Hot on its heels is a proposal for an ACT heritage grant for a similar make-over for the toilet at Mount Franklin. “We plan to remove the old pit and fill it in with the material dug from the new toilet site. We’ll also use a precast tank but we’ll be refurbishing the toilet hut and moving it to sit over the new tank pit.” Given that the top half is being recycled, and thanks to a thorough process of competitive quote gathering, Brandon estimates the ‘new’ Mount Franklin loo will cost between $17 and $18K. The new site remains in NSW. The 2003 fires destroyed the Mount Franklin Chalet. Its toilet survived, and there are plans to replace the below ground part of the structure while retaining the upper section which is still in keeping with the original chalet.

It’s also a great feeling to know that when anyone is doing work like this in these very special landscapes, they are doing it with minimum negative impact always at front of mind. Closer to home, it’s also good to know, as Brandon points out, that when you turn on the tap in Canberra you’ve still got the cleanest water of any capital city in Australia.

Gas under a cloud?

If we had a chance to start anew we probably wouldn’t enforce gas infrastructure for every residence. Would we?

Natural gas is basically methane and it produces greenhouse emissions when it burns (and it’s even worse if it just leaks into the atmosphere) and most of us recognise that climate change is going to get worse if we keep adding emissions. Indeed, in the ACT we even have a policy of having zero net emissions by 2050 at the latest so surely gas is on the way out.

Oh, and then we have the escalating prices for gas and the predicted shortages and that they are now extracting it with destructive practices such as fracking. Meanwhile electricity is becoming much ‘greener’ and it can replace gas for most purposes. [Pictured: Chief Minister Andrew Barr demonstration cooking with electricity at World Curry Festival July 2017. He actually said “I usually cook with gas” but eager tasters reported he cooked well!]

Some developers have seen the writing on the wall and want to build suburbs without the requirement that all residences have gas infrastructure at the property boundary. Why spend millions of dollars on pipes and valves and taps when we are trying to build more affordable houses? Why build it if no-one will use it? This infrastructure will become stranded assets: assets which are obsolete or non-performing and never able to make back the cost of their installation.

Now let’s look at what’s happening in the ACT. It is currently a mandatory requirement for development in Canberra (Territory Plan, Estate Development Code, p14) that gas be provided to each block. Riverview Developments (undertaking the Ginninderry development that will traverse the ACT-NSW border at West Belconnen) wants to have suburbs without gas. The gas supplier ActewAGL (part-owned by the ACT Government through Icon Water) argues that gas infrastructure should be installed. They say that there is a future for gas, if not natural gas it might be biogas (available in limited supply and still an emitter) or syngas (produced from waste or coal or biomass and potentially more available but much dirtier and still an emitter).

The decision-maker will be the ACT Government. They should decide, very soon, between the views of ActewAGL and the views of Riverview wanting to start building infrastructure (but not gas) for tens of thousands of homes.

And that decision will show if the Government is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If they want to have zero emissions they will not be cooking with gas.

Walk the Border – best days to do part stages

Walk the Border ACT has many options for part participation.  Have a look at them in conjunction with the descriptions in the walk schedule to see which might best suit your personal requirements. And then you can register here to become a border walker. Don’t forget that you can sponsor a walker and you are welcome to register on our mailing list to stay informed.

Day 1: 7 October – Centenary Trail Track Head to Mulligans Flat Road – For this stage it would be feasible to do the Centenary Trail Track Head to One Tree Hill section of the walk and then return independently back on the Centenary trail to the track head ( 2 – 2.5 Hours return)

Day 2: 8 October – Mulligans Flat Road to Federal Highway –  Join the walk at the start and and independently return to the starting point.

Day 5: 11 October – Kings Highway to Yass Road –  An easy 15 minute walk at the start of this stage get you to a good example of a blazed tree survey marker.   Near the end of the stage it would be possible to walk in from the Molonglo Gorge Carpark along the the beautiful Blue Tiles walking trail to meet the walkers heading towards the carpark along that trail.  You would need to be monitoring the live progress of the walkers (via the walk’s website) to determine the best time to leave the carpark and would have needed to advise me of your intention to do so.

Day 6: 12 October – Yass Road to Gilmore –  Along the length of this walk there are access and exit points at Woods Lane, Lanyon Drive and, in Hume, Arnott Street and Alderson Place.  This stage shows how much the landscape has been modified  although it does also pass the Jerrabomberra East grasslands reserve.

Day 7: 13 October – Gilmore to Royalla – It is possible to exit this stage at the Old Tuggeranong Road at Tuggeranong Pines.  Probably preferable to have a car or pickup arranged for where the Old Tuggeranong Road meets the Monaro Hwy.

Day 8: 14 October – Royalla to Ingledene Pine Forest –  Participants can leave at Williamsdale Road (approximately 1.5 hours from Royalla)

Day 12: 18 October – Boboyan Road to Maurice Luton Fire Trail –  It would be possible to join at the start of this section and return at any time,  in the first two hours, back along the fire trail.

Day 17: 23 October – Pryor’s Hut to Bendora Hut – This day crisscrosses the Mt Franklin Road allowing a lot of flexibility for joining or leaving however liaison may be difficult as access to the internet to follow the live progress of the walkers may be limited.  Mt Franklin and Mt Aggie are beautiful sections of this stage.

Day 18: 24 October – Bendora Hut to Pabral Road – The walk is mainly on the Mt Franklin Road early on which facilitates easy access back to the starting point.  There is road access nearby the rest of the walk but liaison may be difficult due to limited internet reception.

Day 20: 26 October – Mountain Creek Road to Murrumbidgee River – This is a relatively short day with an estimated time of 4 hours.  Participants could shorten in by leaving a car or pickup at the ACT/NSW border on Fairlight road and simply completing the stage from Mountain Creek Road to Fairlight Road.

Day 21: 27 October – Murrumbidgee River to Centenary Trail Track Head – Participants could exit or join at Parkwood Road or via the walking trails of Eldershaw Crescent at Dunlop or Wallaroo Road Hall.