Yellow Box Dispatch — February 2017
Big pictures and details
Welcome to the first Yellow Box Dispatch for 2017 with reports on just some of the environment-related activities in the ACT and region.
The beginning of the year is a good time to look forward and there have been a few gatherings where we have assessed coming opportunities and challenges.
The Conservation Council’s Biodiversity Working Group met at the end of January to refine our focus areas for the year. We noted some achievements – we were a key driver for the integration of nature conservation functions in ACT Government – and also looked to developing policies to protect mature trees in the landscape and to continue to meet the challenges of the impacts of urban development on our Bush Capital.
We have asked questions about what is happening on the Government’s commitment – along with support from the other political parties in the Assembly – for zero net greenhouse emissions by 2050 – at the latest. We have written to all parties to get support for creative engagement of the Assembly and the community to develop a pathway to reducing emissions to zero. What do we need to do, what are the options, how will Government do its part and how do we include all the community?
We look forward to working with you in 2017.
Our vision: Nature is respected, protected and embraced by an ecologically sustainable, socially just and economically viable society which lives lightly on the planet.
Environment Exchanges are back for 2017!
Be part of an inspiring environment network as we explore a different theme on the fourth Tuesday of each month. Hear from fascinating guest speakers and engage in open and lively discussion about a range of topics in sustainability and environment. Visit our events page to peruse the line up or download and share our lovely flyer.
The lunchtime series includes sessions on mature trees, climate change, renewable energy, waste reduction and sustainable town planning.
Volunteer Needed – Contact [email protected] if you can help at Environment Exchanges and provide basic logistical support. Duties include setting up lunch, chairs and tables etc. We sweeten the deal with a free light lunch included at the event!
Mature trees in landscape – pillars of biodiversity
Mature trees are a biological keystone in the ecosystem. They provide habitat for wildlife, nurseries for seeds to grow and facilitate vital soil processes.
Several local groups are nominating “Loss of Native Hollow-bearing Trees” as a threatening process. This would be considered by the ACT Scientific Committee and if endorsed could lead to better protection of these trees.
Unfortunately we are rapidly erasing these pillars of biodiversity from the landscape. Given that these trees take hundreds of years to replace, urgent decisive action is needed before it is too late.
How can we restore what has already been lost? How can we protect what remains?
The first 2017 Environment Exchange will be held 12-2pm, February 28 at the Renewables Innovation Hub, 19-23 Moore Street, Turner ACT 2602.
We provide lunch to start – donations to cover costs are welcome. Please register here to help us plan the catering.
Women’s Environmental Leadership Australia – apply now for WELA 2017
Applications for WELA 2017 close Sunday 26 February – information and application forms
Are you a woman and an active environmentalist living in Australia? Are you looking to take your next step in leadership? Then WELA 2017 is for you!
The Women’s Environmental Leadership Australia (WELA) program will bring together 20 women environmentalists of different ages and diverse backgrounds for a challenging and inspiring program. Participants will be working on a variety of environmental issues and campaigns around the country, some with environment groups, some independently, and in both paid and unpaid roles.
The program includes:
- three residential retreats in Victoria (May, July and October)
- mentoring sessions with experienced women environmental leaders
- small group projects on key issues facing women environmentalists
- access to an ongoing supportive network of powerful women!
The retreats will be facilitated by Holly Hammond (Plan to Win) along with special guests with expertise in campaigning, political life, management, and many other aspects of leadership. The WELA Program information and application form: welaprogram.org.au
For further details or to speak to someone from the WELA 2017 team, email [email protected] with your phone number and a good time to call. One of Sue, Holly, Margaret will ring you back.
The draft terms of reference for an inquiry panel on the Foy Group Limited waste plastic to fuel Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in Hume do not address the issue of whether the industry should be located in the ACT at all.
While the panel will go some way to looking at health impacts of pollution on local residents and the potential impact of disasters the panel is not being asked to look at whether this is a suitable long-term industry for the region.
The panel should be asked whether the ACT needs an industry proposing that up to 50 tonnes of plastic per day be imported into the ACT to be processed into fossil fuels and then for the ACT to manage the residues. The proposal comes from a company wanting to establish an industry rather than emerging from consultation or assessment under the ACT Waste Feasibility Study (see graphic).
That 50 tonnes would become 200 tonnes per day when the plant is operating at design capacity. It is also interesting to note that all plastics can be recycled and burning or heating and refining are not the only or even easy options.
At a time when the ACT is supposed to be reducing emissions from the transport sector we are considering importing waste, then burning fossil fuels to generate heat to refine the plastic into more fossil fuels.
It is unsustainable to reduce future greenhouse emissions through the light rail system but then generate more emissions from imported waste.
We might not have a proposed coal mine in the ACT but we do have a proposed fossil fuel facility. It is not clear that the Government has a process to say no but instead is only slowing down the process of saying yes.
See the Canberra Times article online ‘Panel appointed to Hume plastics to fuel factory inquiry‘.
The Conservation Council’s Biodiversity Working Group is a key committee in the organisation, meeting monthly and reporting to the Board on the range of biodiversity issues facing us in the region.
The January meeting looked at priorities and emerging issues so as to identify where we need to focus our work over the year. Main issues included Planning Strategies; Threats to Biodiversity (for example including roaming cats and invasive weeds); Urban expansion-New greenfields developments; and then there are Planning Issues; Biodiversity Monitoring; Old/Paddock trees (see Environment Exchange 28 February); Reviews of Strategies and Plans for threatened species & communities; Plans of Management; Institutional arrangements – Restructure of LDA and National environment laws.
If you want more information on the work of the Biodiversity Working Group please contact us.
The Conservation Council, member groups, and many other people and organisations are interested in the ACT Government’s next steps on climate change, particularly to reduce the Territory’s greenhouse emissions to zero as soon as possible, remembering that all the parties elected in the 2016 ACT Legislative Assembly election agreed on 100% renewable energy for electricity by 2020 and zero net emissions by 2050 at the latest.
Among other things, the Conservation Council wrote to party leaders suggesting that a Select Committee should engage with the community on next steps. The Assembly did not establish such a Committee at its first sitting in December 2016 although we did receive a letter from the Chief Minister that the Government would consider the option of a select committee “as it assesses the best way to involve stakeholders and the community in the process”. He also wrote: “Any new policy development on a pathway to zero net emissions will include extensive public consultation and will seek to engage a broad cross-section of the Canberra community.”
Local climate change groups met as planned in late January to look at what to do in case we saw gaps in the Government’s approach. In particular we identified that there needed to be good genuine consultation so that the whole community is engaged and hopefully broadly agreeing on the steps needed to eliminate our community contribution to human induced greenhouse emissions. We recognised that we community groups need to be prepared to talk beyond our usual audiences and we need to encourage responses and genuinely listen.
Since the climate change groups meeting we have been informed by Minister Rattenbury’s office that he has written to the members of the Assembly Standing Committee on Environment and Transport and City Services “about the ACT Government’s planned action to develop a pathway to zero net greenhouse gas emissions, and to suggest the Committee may wish to conduct an inquiry on this topic”.
The Minister also wrote that the Environment Directorate “will begin to prepare a policy and action blueprint for an ACT pathway to zero net emissions by 2050 by the latest.” This would commence in 2017 and continue throughout 2018 and the Minister said that a discussion paper for public comment is planned for release by mid 2017 and “If the Committee could present final advice from any zero net emissions inquiry by September 2017, EPSDD could consider it in the development of its policy and action blueprint.”
The Directorate has also separately contacted environment groups to hold a roundtable probably 27 February to discuss both consultation approaches and strategies to reduce emissions.
The climate change groups are planning to meet again before end of February to discuss resources and ideas to develop community engagement in a successful long-term strategy.
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Mature trees – pillars of biodiversity
What: Mature trees are a biological keystone in the ecosystem. Several local environment groups are nominating “Loss of Native Hollow-bearing Trees” as a threatening process and discussion of this nomination will be part of the event.
When: Tuesday 28 February, 12noon-2pm starts with ploughman’s lunch (no gender-neutral term available for this specific dish)
Where: Renewables Innovation Hub, 19-23 Moore Street, Turner ACT 2602
Register: Conservation Council website No charge but donations welcome to help cover lunch costs
Volunteer: if you’re available to help set up and clean up. Contact [email protected]
Assembly sitting times
What: Expanded Legislative Assembly will settle into its first full year of work with thirteen sitting weeks, two weeks of Budget Estimates (16-30 June) and four weeks of Annual Report hearings – two weeks on 2015-16 reports (27 February-10 March) held over from 2016 due to the election and two weeks for 2016-17 reports (6-17 November).
Where: ACT Legislative Assembly, 196 London Circuit, Canberra ACT 2601 or watch online live or replays.
Have your say on Draft Lower Cotter Catchment Reserve Management Plan
The ACT Government is inviting comment on a draft reserve management plan for the Lower Cotter Catchment.
The plan was prepared under the ACT Nature Conservation Act 2014, which requires management plans for all public land reserve areas, and released for public comment 16 January with a closing date for submissions 10 March 2017.
The plan is at www.yoursay.act.gov.au or follow these links:
Personal and organisational comments are welcome through visiting the website or by email: [email protected] or even post: Manager, Conservation Planning, Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate, PO Box 158, Canberra ACT 2601
There is also a Lower Cotter Catchment public information session:
When: Wednesday 15 February 2017 05:00 pm–07:00 pm
ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Centre, 245 Lady Denman Drive, Yarramundi Reach, ACT now Function Room, Ground Floor, North Building, Dame Pattie Menzies House, 16 Challis Street, Dickson
Please RSVP to: [email protected]
Pedal Power ACT 2017 AGM
strong>When: Tuesday 21 March 2017 7:30 to 8:30pm.
Where: Southern Cross Club, Woden
What: election of board and presentation of annual Pedal Power ACT awards
- Paul Truebridge Memorial Volunteer of the Year award
- Event of the Year award
- Annemarie Driver Memorial Leadership award
- Several service and recognition awards.
Agenda: can be downloaded and viewed here and contains agenda for AGM, details of those standing for election to Board, minutes of last AGM, and proxy and voting forms.
Pedal Power ACT annual report and financial statement for 2017 will be available prior to the meeting from the Pedal Power ACT website. Minutes of the last Annual General Meeting 2016 available here.
Low interest rates, no fossil fuels, help Conservation Council
What: Conservation Council has partnership arrangement with Bank Australia where people can nominate us as they take out or transfer a loan and Conservation Council ACT receives one-off payment of 0.40% of loan value.
Who: Bank Australia does not invest in fossil fuels and is good way to move away from supporting fossil fuels. Bank Australia began in 1957 as CSIRO Co-operative Credit Society then became Members and Education Credit Union (mecu) then bankmecu then Bank Australia.
How much: Bank Australia fees and rates are lower given they are a member-owned bank. There is no money cost to you to move your home loan, just some of your time.
Contact: Executive Director, Larry O’Loughlin, for more details and to put you in touch with the bank. He has made the switch.
“What is the Ginninderra Falls all about?”
When: Tuesday February 28, 2017, 5:30pm – 7pm
Where: Cook Community Hub 41, Templeton St., Cook
Who: Panel discussion with speakers:
- Wally Bell
- David Wong
- Doug Finlayson
- Dr Bryan Pratt
For more information: http://ginninderra.org.au/