Welcome to our monthly summary of some of the environmental issues and events in the ACT and region. We include links to more information and to documents where available.

We have reports on some of our recent events such as the Annual General Meeting outcomes and the very pleasant Spring Mingle where we announced and presented the ACT Environment Awards to the worthy winners. We also had an interview with Rod Griffiths, Conservation Council President, who had that day concluded Walk the Border ACT – A Watershed Walk.

We are encouraging people from low-income households to answer an ActewAGL survey of lower income households. It is good that ActewAGL Distribution engages with a broader spectrum of the community and they are giving away vouchers for completed surveys.

The Conservation Council is maintaining its strong interest in local action on climate change including in engaging on Zero emissions – Canberra. We concluded the 2017 Environment Exchange series with the interesting and well attended discussion on Biodiversity Offsets: Are They Working in the ACT?

The Conservation Council is also active in the waste space – is that the right term? – and working along with others in engaging proponents and the Government on waste issues and we have some actions where interested members of the community might engage too. There will be further information and discussion on the proposed waste to energy plant at Fyshwick: Is waste a burning issue?

We are also calling on the ACT Government to do better with its proposed green bin pilot program: Can ‘green bins’ be changed to fix real problem? Green bins for garden organics are a missed opportunity when the real organic problem in our bins is food waste. Garden organics bins are only displacing small business and private drop-off systems without any substantial decrease in waste to landfill.

And see below to the Events including Australian Pollinator Week, Transition Street Celebration, SEREE’s Renewable Energy Day, the CURF annual forum and a special screening of ocean conservation doco ‘Blue’.

Please forward Yellow Box Dispatch to people who might be interested in the Conservation Council ACT Region and environmental activities in the bush capital and the region around.

Regards

Larry O’Loughlin
Executive Director, Conservation Council ACT Region

AGM Outcomes – Board Members and Office Bearers

The Conservation Council ACT Region Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held 9 Novembers 2017.

It went through the business of confirming and accepting the minutes from the previous AGM held 4 November 2016 and heard and accepted reports from the Board (President) and the Executive Director and the statement of accounts and the reports pursuant to section 73 (1) of the Associations Incorporations Act 1991 (Treasurer).

The AGM also appointed our Auditor and the following nominees will be members of the Board and office bearers for 2017-18:

  • President: Rod Griffiths (National Parks Association ACT)
  • Vice-President: Christine Goonrey (NPA)
  • Vice-President: Nick Tebbey (NPA)
  • Secretary: Helen Sims (Friends of Aranda Bushland)
  • Board member: Anthony Burton (Pedal Power)
  • Board member: Jenny Bounds (Canberra Ornithologists Group)
  • Board member: Christopher Dorman (Sustainable Population Australia)
  • Board member: Ian Falconer (Friends of Aranda Bushland)
  • Board member: Peter Ottesen (Southern ACT Catchment Group)
  • Board member: Glenys Patulny (Southern ACT Catchment Group)

Thank you to all those who attended to form a relatively large group for an AGM. In accordance with the Constitution the Board at its first meeting after the AGM appointed a treasurer – Charlie Salter – who renominated for a second term.

ActewAGL seeking views of lower income households

Over recent months ActewAGL Distribution has been engaging with its customers around the development of the 2019-24 electricity network plan. This five-year proposed plan will be submitted to the Australian Energy Regulator for review in January 2018. Details of the development of the plan can be found at http://www.actewagl.com.au/Networks/About-our-network/Initiatives/Electricity-5-year-plan.aspx

As part of the customer engagement, ActewAGL Distribution has undertaken a number of customer workshops and an online survey. Currently ActewAGL Distribution is seeking the views of lower income households, those with a pre-tax income of less than $100,000 per year. If your household falls into this category, ActewAGL Distribution invites you to complete a short online survey https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Electricitynetwork

For further information on ActewAGL Distribution’s Customer Engagement program visit www.actewagl.com.au/consumerengagement.

The Conservation Council supports this survey because it is good that ActewAGL Distribution engages with a broader spectrum of the community on how it goes about deciding future “poles and wires” issues. We don’t seek or keep data that would tell us who on our mailing list would be classified as lower-income so it’s up to you to figure that out and get involved and please forward this information to others. They are giving away vouchers for completed surveys.

Spring Mingle

It was great to catch up with everyone who made it to our Spring Mingle and Environment Awards on October 27 and to see all your lovely smiling faces!

As well as announcing the award winners, we were pleased to welcome our president Rod Griffiths back from his intrepid voyage around the ACT border. For 21 days Rod and several enthusiastic volunteers followed in the footsteps of ACT’s original surveyors; crossed various diverse landscapes, terrains and weather conditions; and encountered a wide range of local plant and animal life.

Rod and his walking companions were very gracious to get straight into party mode and join us at the Spring Mingle to regale us with tales from the road and share a slideshow of photographs from along the way. Chris Endrey’s interview with Rod was a highlight of the evening and Rod proved himself to be quite a natural storyteller.

The Walk the Border ACT event was a great success and we managed to soar past our fundraising target, so thanks so much to everyone who donated!

And, of course, a big thanks to all the volunteers who made sure the Spring Mingle evening ran smoothly.

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.

Walk the Border ACT – A Watershed Walk

The Conservation Council’s president Rod Griffiths spent the month of October leading a fundraising bushwalk around the ACT border.

Walk the Border ACT – A Watershed Walk was no small feat and was a landmark event that saw Rod and various volunteer walking companions travel for 21 days on foot, traversing a range of interesting and diverse landscapes as they followed in the footsteps of ACT’s original surveyors.

The first steps of Walk the Border ACT fundraising event took place Saturday 7 October at the Centenary Trail Track Head in Hall. Heading along the Centenary Trail, the walk followed the border in a clockwise direction, taking in some of ACT’s roughest and most beautiful country, including the source of ACT’s water supply.

The walkers were out of human contact for days at a time, crossed gorgeous grassy woodlands, went through pine forests, onto railway lines, urban streets, industrial sites, and up into the beautiful mountain ash country. They encountered a wide range of local plant and animal life and observed how the landscape is changing.

The walk crossed some of the area’s most remote and rugged terrain, making it even longer than the outlined 306 kilometre border as Rod and his companions were occasionally forced to venture off course to avoid cliffs and other obstacles.

We’re incredibly proud of Rod and everyone who got involved in Walk the Border ACT. The event was a great success that piqued the interest of local and national media, with ABC News, The Canberra Times and other local papers featuring the event several times. Read some of what they had to say here, here and here.

It was also a big fundraising success and we’re pleased to say that we more than reached our $10k goal, so again we’d like to say THANK YOU to everyone who sponsored the walkers and made donations! The money raised will go towards protecting ACT’s urban and natural environment.

If you’d like to see more of Rod’s photos and stories make sure you head to the Walk the Border blog.

Zero Emissions – Canberra

The Conservation Council is continuing to engage with the ACT Government on developing a good process for community consultation on getting to zero net greenhouse gas emissions.

All political parties in the Legislative Assembly – Liberals, Labor, Greens – support this goal. We need to take this high-level party political agreement and build genuine community engagement so that we reduce our greenhouse emissions in a fair, shared, fast and effective manner with people understanding how and why steps will be taken.

There should be a place for community organisations – like the Conservation Council and many others such as ACT Council of Social Services, Unions ACT and the Canberra Business Chamber – to be involved in developing and obtaining community engaagement on measures.

Minister Rattenbury has established the Climate Change Ministerial Advisory Group (CCMAG) to meet for the first time 16 November. The Minister’s invitation says:

I am establishing a Climate Change Ministerial Advisory Group (CCMAG) to provide a mechanism for community organisations and businesses to provide input to me from their sectors and member groups as we develop the pathway to net zero emissions. The CCMAG will also be an avenue for communication from Government through CCMAG members to their respective organisations.

The Minister’s intentions seem good – it will be interesting to see how officials react. The ACT Government has already obtained consultants’ reports on emissions from various sectors and is preparing a discussion paper without broad community engagement.

The ACT Government is also seeking economic modelling on emissions reduction options to help develop a new climate change strategy and action plan to 2050. The Conservation Council has provided feedback that one useful approach might be a model where measures would be assessed for the amount of emissions that would be obtained against the overall cost of the measure as in this example for Australia as a whole.

Developing a similar model for Canberra to take account of our main greenhouse gas emissions would allow different measures to be compared and then also be considered for their fairness, likelihood of uptake and overall benefit.

Biodiversity Offsets: Are They Working in the ACT?

Biodiversity offsets are ostensibly about replacing destroyed areas of nature with others of similar value. They are designed for development undertaken by developers and government and are being used as a tool here in the ACT and across Australia.

The Conservation Council has expressed concern about biodiversity offsets for some time, so for the final Environment Exchange of the year we invited a range of speakers involved in studying and implementing offsets in the ACT for a focused discussion on the processes used and how they are delivering in practice.

Phil Gibbons, an associate professor at Australian National University, shared his observations from examining biodiversity offsetting in NSW over a ten year period. Assoc Prof Gibbons has concluded that a no-net-loss policy will only work if introduced alongside actions that tackle those parts of society and the economy that represent the drivers of biodiversity loss.

Lexi Williams (filling in for Clare McInnes), Bethany Dunne, Stuart Jeffress and Michael Mulvaney from ACT Parks and Conservation Service (PCS) are part of the team responsible for implementing offsetting activities in ACT. The PCS officers outlined matters of national environmental siginicance requiring offsets in the ACT, including the Superb Parrot (pictured), and spoke of the Issacs Ridge tree thinning project as a way of improving Yellow Box-Red Gum grassy woodland for increased biodiversity.

As well as on-the-ground action, PCS is delivering offset commitments by securing long term funding, standardising monitoring, prioritising strategic data collection and increasing collaboration between different sections of government.

Our final speaker, Jenny Bounds, is a member and convenor of the Biodiversity Working Group. The group has been looking at existing offset arrangements in the ACT and has developed assessment criteria asking important questions relating to offset conditions and plans; habitat improvements; monitoring and reporting; and community involvement.

You can read more about October’s Environment Exchange event and Biodiversity Offsets in ACT at our Bush Capital blog.

Is Waste a Burning Issue?

The Conservation Council expressed concern over a proposal to “burn Canberra’s rubbish to generate electricity when contacted for comment by the Canberra Times in July.

We feared that there would be a “feed the furnace” mentality, with no incentive for the ACT governement to reduce waste levels – more emphasis is needed on education programs, separation facilities and compost before considering burning waste.

The Conservation Council had direct discussions with the company behind the project, Capital Recycling Solutions (CRS), and facilitated a meeting in early September with CRS director Adam Perry and concerned members of the community.

Our briefing paper – Going backwards on reducing ACT’s waste – included the recommendation for ACT Government to say no to the current proposal and develop a clear set of guidelines for considering waste-to energy proposals including a requirement that it is only a “last resort” measure.

CRS contacted us in late October, stating that they would be removing the waste-to-energy component from their current proposal due to the expectation it would prevent approval of the entire proposal. They will be going ahead with the recycling and railway components for now and intend to revisit the waste-to-energy plan in the future.

The Canberra Times reported that the company will halve the capacity from a 30 mega-watt to a 15 mega-watt plant and will not import any waste from Sydney to “feed the furnace.”

(Pictured: the former Shell site at Fyshwick, earmarked for the waste-to-power plant)

While the recycling proposal has merits on the surface – refurbishing the rail line and helping get trucks off the road – the Conservation Council welcomes the decision to delay the waste to energy proposal, particularly the move away from importing waste.

The proposal documents are expected to be on display by the end of the year and environmental impact statements expected to be available by late next year.

The Conservation Council, along with member groups and interested individuals, has been invited by CRS to attend an information meeting. If you would like to be added to the contact list for this meeting please click on this link to send an email to [email protected].

Can ‘green bins’ be changed to fix real problem?

The ACT Government is running a trial or pilot green waste service in the suburbs of Chapman, Duffy, Fisher, Holder, Rivett, Stirling, Waramanga, Weston and Kambah. The pilot program will help the government understand how best to roll out green bins across the ACT.

In the pilot, green bins are for lawn clippings, small branches, weeds and other garden waste: collectively known as garden organics (GO). The green waste collection service is scheduled to be extended to Belconnen in late 2019, with all suburbs across Canberra to be included in 2020.

The current green waste service is a missed opportunity. The largest single component by weight in ACT residential waste to landfill is food waste (food organics – FO).

Local councils around Australia are now rolling out food and garden waste collection services. Green bins for garden waste alone is an outdated approach. Collection services for food and garden waste are available in neighbouring Queanbeyan-Palerang Shire Council for residents in Braidwood, Bungendore and Captain’s Flat. They’re also available in other councils around Australia.

Benefits of including food in the extended green bin collection service:

  • Diverting up to 40% of waste from landfill. A typical Canberra household bin includes up to 40-50% food waste. Less waste to lanfill reduces impact on the budget and the environment.
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from landfill. When food waste breaks down in a landfill, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas that has 25 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Taking household food waste out of landfill and recycling it by composting removes the greenhouse gas impact of food waste. Greenhouse gas emissions from landfill contribute 2.6% of the ACT’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Producing compost for local farmers to use, closing the production and consumption loop.

The current green waste collection pilot doesn’t help us to avoid landfill waste and it displaces a private “trash pack” system that was working well providing local small business jobs and high-quality material to composters. According to the ACT Waste Management Strategy, prior to the green bin trial, Canberra was already meeting International Best practice for garden waste management, with 90% of garden waste already diverted from through a combination of private collection services and private recycling.

We are asking the ACT Government to upgrade the green bin pilot program, to include both food organics and garden organics (FOGO) in the green bin collection service. Please add your name to the petition.

Please also see our blog post Managing our green garden and kitchen organic waste

Source information:

EVENTS

Australian Pollinator Week

WHAT: Take part in The Wild Pollinator Count and contribute to wild pollinator conservation in Australia. ACT for Bees has teamed up with the Australian National Botanic Gardens to do a Wild Pollinator Count in the gardens. Guided tours will be taking place at 10am and 12 noon on Tuesday 14, Thursday 16 and Saturday 18. If you want to do a count yourself you can pick up the ‘Wild Pollinator Count’ resources and enjoy exploring the wonderful range of flowers and pollinators which are around now. Find out how to count pollinators, identify insects you see and submit your observations.

WHEN: 12-19 November 2017

WHERE: Australian National Botanic Gardens

INFO: Head to the Australian National Botanic Gardens website for more info on FREE tours. Or, if you’d rather run your own pollinator count, you can find out how and download the kit from here.

Transition Street Celebration

WHAT: SEE-Change is hosting a free street party in O’Connor. Enjoy vegan friendly food, local live music and try out an electric bike. Beeswax wraps and alternatives to plastic like stainless steel drinking straws and bamboo toothbrushes will be on sale.
Plus there will be people who have done the Transition Streets program who can inspire and chat to you about their journey to a lower carbon life. Bring along your friends and enjoy this community event!

WHEN: Saturday 18 November 2017 10am-2pm.

WHERE: Macarthur Place, O’Connor.

INFO: See event details at the SEE-Change website.

Renewable Energy Day 2017

WHAT: South East Region of Renewable Energy Excellence (SEREE) is hosting renewable energy day. Join one for two bus tours to visit renewable energy sites throughout ACT and south east NSW region. Walk amongst majestic wind turbines, be amazed by the world’s largest solar dish, visit the world’s leading battery testing facility. The tour gives unprecedented access to some of the world’s most exciting and innovative renewable energy technologies. Information about the renewable energy technologies and sites will be presented by site managers and tour guides. Includes travel to and from the sites, morning tea and lunch.

WHEN: Saturday 25 November 2017 9am-3:30pm.

WHERE: ACT and south east NSW region.

INFO: $30+bf per person (excl GST). Book here.

CURF Annual Forum – ‘Towards a Carbon-Neutral Society: Canberra and the Region’

WHAT: The 2017 Canberra Urban and Regional Futures annual forum will focus on implementing sustainable solutions for transforming to a carbon-neutral society. Green growth, zero carbon precincts and innovative solutions to water, waster and energy will be presented and debated. The keynote address will be presented by Professor Andrew Blakers, professor of Engineering at the Australian National University. Lunch, morning and afternoon tea provided.

WHEN: Thursday 30 November 2017.

WHERE: Ann Harding Conference Centre, Building 24, University of Canberra

INFO: Free event – Click here to register.

‘Blue’ Movie Screening

WHAT: A special one-time screening of the ocean conservation documentary ‘ Blue’ [2017] will be held at Hoyts Belconnen with all ticket proceeds going directly toward conservation. The film highlights the devastation that the ocean is facing, and how we can change to help. Several Australians including Valerie Taylor were involved in this project, which is a superb wakeup call for what is happening to our oceans. The screening will only go ahead with enough ticket bookings, so if you love the ocean and are interested in seeing the film don’t wait to book.  Watch the movie trailer here.

WHEN: Thursday 7 December 2017, 6:30pm

WHERE: Hoyts Belconnen

INFO: Tickets and info here.

Snakes Alive!

WHAT: If you love reptiles and are interested in learning more about caring for our threatened native snakereptiles and fish, you won’t want to miss Snakes Alive. The scaly event is back at the Botanic Gardens this summer with the theme ‘Pythons: Best Practice Care and Husbandry.’ There will be live displays and feeding demonstrations with snakes, lizards, frogs, turtles and a crocodile! Live feedings will take place at 10:30am and 1pm daily. This is a great, affordable activity for the school holidays – Adults $6, Children $4, Concession $5

WHEN: 15-21 January 2018

WHERE: Crosbie Morrison Building, Australian National Botanic Gardens

INFO: Tickets and info here.

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: Open until 30 January 2018, 10am-5pm daily

WHERE: National Library of Australia

BOOKINGS: Free event – guided tours highly recommended.

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