The Community Environment Network (CEN) has made the following submission in response to the exhibition of Central Coast Council’s Dogs in Open Spaces Action Plan.
Our interest in the Council’s Dogs in Open Spaces Action Plan relates to the potential impacts of the plan on nature, particularly on threatened or ecologically endangered communities and species. We are thankful that the Central Coast Council has prioritised “The protection and enhancement of natural environments” as one of its core objectives for introducing its DIOSAP.
Council has also acknowledged the benefits of Dog Exclusion Zones as including the significant reduction of the impact of dogs on sensitive flora and fauna.
Whilst we believe Council’s objective of creating more spaces for companion animals is admirable, we are principally concerned that an increase in dog off-leash areas and a flouting of the rules for on-leash areas could continue to cause substantial damage to local bushland and threatened and endangered species.
CEN believes all off-leash dog areas created by Central Coast Council in the final version of its DIOSAP should be fully fenced. This is the only sure way to allocate off-leash areas and prevent damage to adjoining or nearby bush reserves and biodiversity. We believe the precautionary principle must apply in relation to Central Coast Council’s responsibilities under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act as a landowner or manager of Crown Land. Clearly the Act states that any landowner has liability for allowing damage to native species, both flora and fauna.
The Commonwealth Government’s recently-release State of the Environment Report confirms the desperate need to protect habitat so that we can stem Australia’s appalling levels of species loss and endangerment.
Whilst the idea of controlling unfenced off-leash areas by allocating particular times for off-leash dogs may protect people, it will not prevent the threat to species in nearby habitat, so it is an idea than cannot be endorsed by CEN.
The plan’s 10-year timeframe seems excessive given the level of population growth expected in the Central Coast region between now and 2041. We believe the plan should be reviewed and adjusted every five years, particularly, as stated in the draft, given the high level of dog ownership in the region.
Regarding Table 2 on pages 6 and 7 – it is disappointing that the description of No Access for Dogs provision does not go further than including the need to protect beach and onshore environmental areas. Given the Council’s description of this region as including 50 per cent national park, state forest, bushland, open space and nature reserves, we believe the Central Coast Council’s DIOSAP should specify those areas as No Access for Dogs.
On-leash Only Access Areas must be located well away from environmentally sensitive sites, particularly given Central Coast Council’s ongoing limited resources for surveillance and enforcement. CEN has major concerns about unfenced off-leash dog access areas on the Central Coast due to the high levels of environmentally-sensitive sites and species that we have here. The need for protection of remaining habitat on the Central Coast must not be downplayed. It is essential for sustaining biodiversity and threatened species. Off-leash dog areas should be confined by fences. If a time-share arrangement is in place it should be given priority in confined areas such as sporting fields and dedicated dog parks.
We encourage Central Coast Council to be a leader in the area of protecting biodiversity and, as such, we encourage you to lobby the NSW Government to disallow dogs from being allowed in State Forests, regional parks even if they have to be under “effective control” in those locations. We believe taking such a position would be in line with Council’s obligations under the Local Government Act to consider ecological sustainability in all its activities.
Regarding On-Leash Only Provision, in addition to the challenges listed, CEN believes another challenge is that dog owners may allow their pet off-leash in sensitive bush areas. There needs to be a strategy in place to minimise the likelihood of this occurring, including the role of Rangers and penalties for non-compliance. CEN also believes the DIOSAP needs to reference the implications of knowingly or unknowingly causing damage to native flora and fauna under the Biodiversity Conservation Act to reinforce the importance of not allowing dogs into areas of high conservation value.
We believe most off-leash areas need to be fenced in order to prevent damage to sensitive flora and fauna and we believe as landowner, Council has a legal obligation to prevent such damage under the BCA. Perhaps off-leash dog parks could also have personnel and a small charge attached for their use to prevent inappropriate animals and owners from utilizing this resource to the detriment of others. Incentives to encourage developers to include FOLAs in developments must also be considered as part of Council’s DIOSAP in its final form. Any developer FOLAs should be fully, not partially, fenced wherever possible. This is particularly so in more densely populated areas where remnant habitat is under increasing threat from over-development and is increasingly important to sustain wildlife linkages.
Regarding Sites recommended for decommissioning: CEN supports the decommissioning of all listed sites. In particular the Illoura Reserve at Davistown must be decommissioned as it is one of the last known nesting and habitat areas for the Bush Stone Curlew on the Central Coast. CEN understands that the alternate site being considered in Davistown is home to the globally vulnerable Green and Golden Bell Frog. However, we believe the greater of the two threats from dogs in open spaces is to the Bush Stone Curlew which is more likely to be active and visible during the same time periods as those preferred by dog owners for either on- or off-leash activity in the area.
We support Council’s proposal to extend the currently-protected area at Illoura Reserve to include the parkland and associated water shallows.
If dogs are still given access to this area on-leash we strongly recommend that the final version of the DIOSAP includes signage to educate dog owners about the significance of this area for the protection of the Bush Stone Curlew and regular Ranger activity in the area to ensure that the on-leash ruling is adhered to. Meanwhile, whilst we accept the alternative OLA in Pine Avenue Reserve may be the lesser of two evils, CEN can only support this alternative site if it is fully fenced and regularly patrolled due to the presence of the Green and Golden Bell Frog.
We believe there will be a need for regular Ranger activity at the Terrigal Haven site to ensure dog owners adhere to the new on-leash only ruling. We are disappointed that Council has not provided more detail about the location of the alternate OLA at Duffy’s Road so we can assess its conservation value. We respectfully repeat our call for all OLAs to be fully fenced with a strong enforcement presence.
Regarding locations where site boundaries are recommended for change: the sensitive flora and fauna at the Mataram Ridge Park Woongarrah suggests that a fully-fenced OLA is necessary because the proposed off-leash area will still be in close proximity to the sensitive area. CEN would also like to suggest that signage about the importance of the flora and fauna and a substantial Ranger presence would also be necessary and should be included in the final DIOSAP.
CEN therefore supports Actions proposed to address emerging priorities on page 17 and requests the final version of the DIOSAP includes a review and upgrade of all signage regarding the status of dogs in State Forests, COSS, other reserves which have substantial biodiversity value to CEN and the Central Coast Community.
We support the introduction of seasonal access limits for dogs in onshore areas. We are disappointed that this DIOSAP draft does not mention stronger protection of hyper-sensitive areas which are increasingly and illegally used by dog owners, both off- and on-leash. The most significant example is the Wamberal Lagoon Nature Reserve. As a Nature Reserve this area is afforded the highest level of protection under the National Parks and Wildlife Act and, yet, it is constantly used by dog owners in an irresponsible and potentially damaging manner. This area is a nesting ground for several species of migratory birds protected under international treaties. While the reserve proper is obviously the responsibility of the NPWS, access areas to the Reserve, including Memorial Avenue, walkways from the surf club and via the beach and dunes are the responsibility of Central Coast Council. Council’s suggestion that it improves signage in this area to better inform dog owners about how to access the OLA is disappointing. CEN recommends the final DIOSAP specifies Wamberal Lagoon Nature Reserve as a prohibited area for dogs, including on-leash, with strong signage and a regular Ranger presence. Any mixed messaging that could encourage more dog activity in the Reserve must be avoided. Please add measures to be taken by Council to improve protection of Wamberal Lagoon Reserve to Table 8 of the DIOSAP.
We must reiterate our opposition to the strategy of “minimizing” fencing of off-leash areas. Many off-leash areas are in close proximity to environmentally-sensitive areas. Council, as landowner in many instances, has a legal obligation to prevent damage to native flora and fauna and as such CEN encourages the fencing of OLAs.
We are opposed to the removal of the fence at Colongra Bay Reserve.
We encourage Central Coast Council to provide the community with a clear definition of “effective control” and urge Council to make it clear that dogs chasing birds, particularly threatened or endangered species, is not effective control. CEN recommends the inclusion of this provision in the Council Order considered on page 22 of the DIOSAP.
The comments on page 23 regarding the use of landscaping and sensory barriers instead of fencing and fraught with risk for nearby flora and fauna. Unfenced OLAs, particularly quiet ones, are more likely to attract irresponsible dog owners. CEN does not believe this strategy will be adequate for Council to fulfil its legal obligations to protect flora and fauna from damage.
The halving of Council’s animal management services staff in 2020 is alarming to CEN. Animal management is a core Council activity and CEN urges Council to at least restore staffing levels to pre-2020, particularly as the population grows in coming years. The public has been informed recently that Council’s financial stability has been restored and we are on our way to achieving a reasonable budgetary surplus for the current financial year. Restoration of Ranger services to pre-‘crisis’ levels should follow.
On page 28 please exclude “natural parkland” as an appropriate location for new OLAs. It is reasonable to assume that many species of flora and fauna are located in natural parkland and should not be subject to further threat or degradation at a time when so many species are under threat. Please include, at all OLAs signage about the importance of protecting flora and fauna from harm and enhancing understanding of “effective control”.
CEN would be more than happy to assist Central Coast Council with any community education initiatives rolled out as part of the introduction of the DIOSAP. We believe dog owners are animal lovers and, as such, will respond well to education and information about how to make sure their dogs are not threatening or causing harm to other species or flora. We believe such education initiatives should be an important part of the final DIOSAP. We support the introduction of one FTE to work on education and dog management initiatives and would like to see protecting nature as part of those initiatives.
The Land for Wildlife (LfW) program, facilitated across NSW by the Community Environment Network, has received a welcome boost with eight new recruits joining the private land conservation network.
The new assessors join people from around the state who are helping landholders to protect the biodiversity and wildlife on their properties by offering specialised technical and educational support to members of the scheme.
Amongst the impressive cohort of new regional officers are experienced ecologists, leaders in Landcare, graduates of environmental science and natural resources management, and conservation managers.
They will be working across properties in the southern NSW region in Cowra, Hilltops, Upper Lachlan, Goulburn Mulwaree and Yass, and in the Greater Sydney and the Illawarra areas.
CEN’s Deputy Chair, John Asquith, led the training session in Goulburn in early June.
The funding to support the high demand for LfW assessors was provided through a partnership between the Great Eastern Ranges and IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) as part of a broader bushfire recovery effort.
“It is pleasing to see a group of qualified and passionate LfW assessors coming on board in this important landscape.
“LfW provides an easy and obligation free way for landholders to get involved in private land conservation,” Gary Howling, chief executive officer of Great Eastern Ranges said.
The training program was offered in partnership with K2W Glideways.
‘Connecting with people in the bush’
LfW is a free and voluntary property registration scheme for landowners who wish to manage areas for wildlife and native vegetation on their property.
The program encourages and assists landholders to include nature conservation along with other land management objectives.
The cornerstone of the program is a one-on-one visit by the local officer who will help landowners develop a personalised property plan. This will assist by helping integrate nature conservation with other activities such as residential use and grazing.
Other benefits include access to funding and training opportunities and being part of a network of like-minded people to support and encourage conservation.
The new assessors will be supported by the K2W and the Great Eastern Ranges to provide LfW and conservation planning for landholders.
Read more about the LfW program
Watch LfW Assessor Lori Gould at Bohara, a 3000-acre sheep property at Breadalbane in the Southern Tablelands.
The winners of the Community Environment Network's (CEN's) #Reconnect photograph and short film competition will be announced at the CEN's 25th anniversary gala dinner which will be held on Saturday, July 23.
"This is the first time we have run a photography and short film competition concurrently and we are excited by the entries we have received so far," says CEN CEO Samantha Willis.
"We know it has been a tough couple of week for Central Coast residents so we have decided to extend the deadline for #Reconnect entries until July 20 to give everyone a chance to enter," Ms Willis said.
"Residents of the Central Coast love the natural environment - we all adore our beaches, lagoons, forests, bushland our creeks, rivers and wetland and that is why we have made the theme of this competition about reconnecting with nature.
"The fires, floods and flus of recent times have seen us spending more time indoors and feeling stressed about issues like climate change so CEN thinks its time to focus on everything that is positive about nature.
"We also thought the competition was a great way to celebrate CEN's first 25 years of working for Ecological Sustainable Development and against threats to it.
"Our executive, staff and volunteers are so excited about offering all amateur photographers and film makers the chance to win $500 by creating an image or short film that can best depict the theme of reconnecting with nature.
"We cannot wait to reveal the winners at our gala dinner on July 23," she said.
You can enter the #Reconnect film and photography competition here.
Tickets are still on sale for the gala dinner. They can be purchased here.
The Community Environment Network (CEN) will be hosting a Winter Solstice celebration at its Wildplant Nursery on Friday, June 24 from 4pm to 6pm.
Special guests will include author Julie Brett, local gardening personality Cheralyn Darcey and Traditional Custodian Tracey Howie.
“The changing of the seasons is such an important part of what takes place in nature and, as the Central Coast’s peak environmental organisation, we want to invite the community to celebrate nature with us,” says Wildplant Nursery Manager, Bes Carr.
“We are privileged to have Julie Brett, writer, jewellery maker and founder of the Druidry Down Under group on facebook, joining us for our Solstice celebration, to speak about the significance of the Winter Solstice and sign copies of her books, which will be available for sale,” Bes said.
“Well-known local gardening enthusiast, Cheralyn Darcy, will also be joining us to talk about winter gardening.
“Tracey Howie from GuriNgai Tribal Link Aboriginal Corporation will give a Welcome to Country and share her First Nation’s understanding of the seasons.”
According to Bes Carr, the fires and floods of recent years can make it easy to suffer from Eco Anxiety and lose touch with everything that is good about nature.
“It is easy to hide away in winter, but the Wildplant Nursery at Ourimbah is a great place to reconnect with nature, meet like-minded people and celebrate the Winter Solstice.
“We are so excited to offer the community something a little bit different on June 24 and we hope they take this opportunity to unwind and reconnect.”
Bookings are essential as numbers need to be capped. Tickets are $15 ($10 for CEN members and concession holders) and the ticket price includes wine and cheese.
Tickets are now available via our website and numbers are limited.
Thankyou Australia. On Saturday, we provided ourselves with a new chance to make a difference to our future. Inner city electorates and many other voters across Australia have asked for change.
The LNP lost its way when they turned against the scientific fact and called climate change a crock. It has taken almost 10 years to bear fruit. I believe this point in time may be seen in future as a turning point in the fight against the climate crisis.
To have any chance of achieving the Paris goals of 1.5C or even 2C, we must move urgently to a zero-carbon economy. We must try to take the rest of the world with us. While Australia is smaller than the big emitters such as the USA, Europe, China, India, etc. our exports amount to a very large liability in the face of the global drive to de-carbonise.
Action is urgent. All the reports say we must have no new investment in fossil fuel facilities and we must plan to shut many existing ones down over the next 15 years. We must do this or abandon our children’s future. This is not some radical agenda. This is simply what the science tells us we must do.
Australia must show we are willing to do our bit to transition or abandon any appeal to the big economies that they must also take swift action. Just because we have a Chihuahua while others have Great Danes, we should still pick up the dog poo.
Achieving a target in temperature rise requires us to limit ourselves to a “budget” of total emissions. Every year we continue to emit greenhouse gases, we must subtract the amount emitted from this budget. When the budget is exhausted, we will have essentially committed to breaching the target temperature for that budget. The idea of an “end target” such as net zero by 2050 is meaningless without a profile of reductions over each year up to the end point.
More than half of Australia’s emissions come from fossil fuel electricity and our transport fleet. Moving to renewable electricity and electric transport at the same time will get Australia onto the right pathway. The correct target for this would be to aim for 2030, but targets for the years up until then must be part of the plan to comply with the budget.
Australia is a caring society where everyone should get a fair go. I do not believe we would abandon the vulnerable during this transition. Jobs must be transitioned to the new low carbon industries that will come to replace fossil fuels. This takes planning and a Transition Authority would perform a useful role.
The opportunities for new industries are huge and reasonably obvious. Australia has immediate opportunities with our fabulous renewable energy resources. Our solar resources are the best in the world. We also have wind resources spread right across the country. Our large land extent provides for space and to enable us to build storage into the electricity grid. Companies are lining up to invest in Australia. We have a stable political and economic environment that makes us a very attractive investment location, especially now that our government will support such investment.
We have a rapidly developing market just to our north with Asia finding its feet through economic development and bringing its people out of poverty. Australia is ideally placed to provide low carbon exports which we can produce using renewable energy from wind and solar. Several big projects already underway aim to export green energy, as electricity via undersea cables or as ammonia or hydrogen.
While emissions reduction is the most vital response to the climate crisis, we must also prepare for the impacts that we have already allowed to build up in the climate system. Repeats of the Black Summer bushfires and the flooding of this year are now inevitable. Such extreme events will also get worse in the future. This is the result of decisions made over the last 30 years, but these are now in the past and cannot be changed. We must look to the future and prepare for unprecedented extremes.
Facing up to the climate crisis is no small task. Australia has faced adversity before in our history. The fact is that we have little choice. We must take on this challenge and plan in detail and well ahead or fail to survive the changes that are coming, or to put a break on the spiral towards worse extremes.
We are starting a new phase in Australia's history from a very low base. Let’s get it right.
By Richard Weller from Climate Future
Richard Weller is a retired structural engineer from the Central Coast. His expertise in extreme events (temperature, wind, flood, etc), their definition from measured data and impacts on the built environment provides a firm scientific background for his understanding of the climate crisis.
The Community Environment Network (CEN) is inviting Central Coast residents to celebrateThe Community Environment Network (CEN) is inviting Central Coast residents to celebrateWorld Wetlands Day 2022 by attending ‘Breakfast with the Birds’.
This popular annual event will be held at the Pioneer Dairy on Sunday, February 6.
Event organiser and CEN’s Central Coast Waterwatch coordinator, Rachael Kneeves, said: “As well as enjoying a delicious breakfast, participants will take part in activities such as talksabout wetlands, water quality monitoring, a bird spotting walk and dip-netting for water bugs.
“There will also be a native plant sale, lucky door prizes and displays relating to the CEN'smany environmental projects,” she said.
World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2 each year and marks the anniversary ofthe signing of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention) in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971.
World Wetlands Day was first celebrated in 1997.
The ability to save the world’s wetlands rests on our capacity to foster greater awarenessand understanding of these life-supporting habitats.
This year, the international theme for World Wetlands Day is Wetlands Action for People and Nature.
Wetlands are critically important habitats with huge environmental and social benefits. The theme marks a call to action to scale up efforts to take immediate action and to invest insolutions for the conservation, management and restoration of wetlands.
‘Breakfast with The Birds’ is a celebration of wetlands on the Central Coast and provides participants with the opportunity to connect with these remarkable habitats. A morning of activities has been planned at the Central Coast Wetlands, Pioneer Dairy located on South Tacoma Road, Tuggerah. Doors open at 8am with activities and breakfast running until 11am.
The World Wetlands Day breakfast is coordinated by the Community Environment Network’s Waterwatch and Wetlands project in partnership with Central Coast Group, Birding NSW andthe Tuggerah Reserve Trust.
The Community Environment Network (CEN) has called upon the Central Coast Council to finally expand the Coastal Open Space System (COSS) to the whole Central Coast Local Government Area.
“We are now in the sixth year of the amalgamated Central Coast Council and it is time for the Council to fulfil its commitments – made in the Central Coast Regional Plan 2036; the Central Coast Community Strategic Plan – One Central Coast 2018 to 2028; the Urban Spatial Plan – Framework for a Local Strategic Planning Statement and the Central Coast Council’s Biodiversity Strategy – to expand COSS to the whole Central Coast,” said CEN Chair, Mr Gary Chestnut.
“Both former Councils had exactly the same planning provisions in their planning instruments and both Councils had acquired significant land that is protecting the most sensitive areas of this region from future development,” he said.
In the former Gosford there are 2,573 hectares contained in COSS while in the former Wyong there was approximately 2,400 hectares identified as ‘natural assets.’
“Unfortunately, having sensitive land classified as natural assets has provided no protection resulting in the sale of land at Doyalson which contains areas of high biodiversity value even though it was identified for protection in the Central Coast Council’s Biodiversity Strategy. Approximately 165 hectares of land that should have been protected from future development has already been lost and we cannot afford to lose any more.
“We are calling on CEO David Farmer and Administrator Rik Hart to deliver Council’s promise to the community to expand COSS to the whole Central Coast.
“This region is expected to be home to 415,000 people by 2036 which means 41,500+ additional dwellings so if we are going to protect the livability of this iconic region and the lifestyle it is renowned for our Council needs to take steps NOW to protect our wildlife corridors and high-biodiversity value land.
“The best way to do that is to learn from the visionaries who created COSS in the 1970s and expand it to the whole region.
“We have written to Mr Farmer and Mr Hart asking them to consider a plan to expand COSS which we believe will enhance the amenity and livability of this region, make it more attractive to home owners, businesses and tourists while protecting our most sensitive bushland for future generations.
“This month, in the tradition of the former Gosford City, CEN will celebrate COSS Week. Unfortunately, we cannot do so with live events, so we are launching this campaign to EXPAND COSS to the whole Coast.
“Adopting and championing our proposal to EXPAND COSS to the whole Coast would be the best way for Central Coast Council to reassure us that it cares as much about our beautiful local environment as the Central Coast community does.”
To join in and follow our campaign:
1. Join the Friends of Coss
2. Like our facebook page
4. Tell your friends how important it is to #expandcoss
NSW Minister for Planning Mr Rob Stokes MP and the Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast Mr Adam Crouch MP must stop a Central Coast Council planning proposal that could see privately-owned environmental land rezoned and cleared.
CEN’s newly-elected Chair, Mr Gary Chestnut, said he encouraged all residents that live on the Central Coast to write to Minister Stokes and Mr Crouch asking the Minister to refuse the Gateway Determination for private deferred matters lands in the former Gosford Local Government Area.
Mr Chestnut said CEN had attempted to stop former Interim Administrator Mr Dick Persson from progressing a Planning Proposal on the deferred matters land, some of which was earmarked for COSS.
“However, Mr Persson decided to ask Minister Stokes for a Gateway Determination which could result in privately-owned environmental land in the former Gosford LGA being rezoned from the highest levels of protection to much lower levels of protection,” Mr Chestnut said.
“Council’s request for a Gateway Determination on the deferred matters lands will result in 7(a) Conservation zoned land being included in zones other than E2 Environmental Conservation,” he said.
“Rather than shifting all 7(a)-conservation land to E2 and then requiring landholders to seek to rezone land when appropriate, Central Coast Council has taken an approach that is messy, environmentally risky and time consuming.
“Because Council is attempting to rezone conservation land the process could take anywhere from 12 to 18 months.
“During this time deferred matters lands are not fully protected under environmental legislation.
“Council is trying to apply the process used by the former Wyong Shire Council but it means if a parcel of land is zoned 7(a) Conservation, and the land contains no endangered ecological communities, it could be zoned E3 Environmental Management.
“Instead of being zoned to protect, manage and restore areas of high ecological, scientific, cultural or aesthetic values and keep permitted uses limited to eight, an E3 zoning would permit 15 different land uses including extensive agriculture.
“Under the E3 Environmental Management zoning, development applications could be submitted to Council to clear native vegetation for crop production and livestock grazing which is prohibited on land zoned E2 Environmental Conservation.
“It is not logical to treat 600 hectares of private deferred lands currently zoned 7(a) Conservation differently to around 55,000 hectares formerly zoned 7(a) which is now all zoned E2,” Mr Chestnut said.
“Council must apply a consistent set of planning rules to all deferred matters lands. If the Gateway application is not stopped the character of the 7(a) Conservation land in private ownership will change resulting in the loss of environmental value and life-sustaining biodiversity.”
A Federal Court judgement made on Thursday, July 8, that found the Australian Government must assess the risk to future generations of emissions from burning fossil fuels, has been welcomed by the Central Coast’s Climate Future group.
“This ruling will hopefully demonstrate that the Australian Government, including the Prime Minister and Environment Minister, have a personal responsibility to consider the risks posed to young people by climate change,” said Climate Future Chair, Richard Weller.
“It is clear that our Federal Court understands the gravity of the climate emergency we are facing and is sending a strong message to our political leaders to think deeply about the consequences of approving any new coal mines or mining expansions,” Mr Weller said.
“Judge Mordy Bromberg has ruled that before Whitehaven Coal Ltd is permitted to extend its Vickery coal operation in NSW, the Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, must assess the consequences of additional greenhouse gas emissions from the coal produced,” he said.
To quote from the Bromberg judgement – ‘The risk of harm that the minister must take reasonable care to avoid is personal injury or death to the children arising from the emission of carbon dioxide from the burning of coal extracted from the extension project’.
“Judge Bromberg is not alone in his judgement as climate campaigns in many countries turn to their courts for legal recognition of the intergenerational risks posed by the burning of fossil fuels,” Mr Weller said.
“In May The Hague ruled that Royal Dutch Shell Plc must cut emissions faster than planned and many other climate actions are pending in courts around the world,” he said.
“This judgement will hopefully act as a precedent for the examination of future coal projects by the Australian Government.
“His judgement specifically referred to a duty of care in relation to ’emissions of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere’ so it could apply to any project with emissions that needs approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.
“This precedent makes it clear that our government must commit to cutting emissions and do so at an accelerated pace.”
A voluntary change to accounting practices adopted by the first Central Coast Council Administrator in 2016 was disastrous for the new council and must be examined as part of the Public Inquiry being conducted by Roslyn McCulloch.
Chair of the Community Environment Network (CEN), Mr Gary Chestnut, said the group felt compelled to make a submission to the McCulloch Inquiry because of the impact the Council’s financial situation was having on its legal responsibility to Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD).
“CEN exists to support ESD and fight threats to it and Central Coast Council’s financial problems pose a substantial threat to the ecological sustainability of this region,” Mr Chestnut said.
“That is why the CEN has decided to speak out about the real causes of the Central Coast Council’s financial situation and we believe those causes include a voluntary change to accounting practices made in 2016,” Mr Chestnut said.
“The current terms of reference exclude anything that took place before September 2017, so we have written to Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock requesting that the terms of reference are broadened to examine this issue,” he said.
CEN’s submission to the inquiry highlights that, prior to the September 2017 council election, Administrator Ian Reynolds and CEO Gary Noble approved the accounting change that meant restricted water funds were reported as unrestricted and available to spend within the Council’s consolidated general fund.
“In other words, it looked like the Council had hundreds of millions of dollars more cash to spend on capital works projects than it really did,” he said.
“This policy was adopted by the Central Coast Council and its Executive Leadership Team and has never been rescinded.
“It has been undetected and unchanged by a number of Chief Executive Officers (CEO), Acting CEOs and CFOs and was never explained to the elected Councillors.
Central Coast Council’s Internal Auditor, its Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee (ARIC), the NSW Audit Office and consultant auditors all subsequently failed to question the practice which significantly eroded Council’s restricted funds and contributed to a cash crisis in 2020.
The NSW Crown Solicitor has recently provided advice to the NSW Auditor General which further complicates this issue by finding that the spending of those funds was legitimate, according to CEN.
“This advice by the NSW Crown Solicitor may change the financial position of Council considerably.
“The Public Inquiry must be able to examine whether the additional $150 million borrowed since the councillors were suspended was necessary and whether it was reasonable or just to blame the councillors for the organisation’s financial weaknesses given the Crown Solicitor’s advice has legitimized the spending of restricted funds.
“The ongoing mis-reporting of restricted reserves cannot be overlooked as one of the core reasons for the Central Coast Council’s financial failure. It must be examined by the inquiry.”
Climate Future has written an Open Letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison (and sent a copy to every Federal and NSW parliamentarian) pointing out that as the leader of the country he has a duty of care to protect its children from the consequences of climate change.
Climate Future Chair, Richard Weller, said he was compelled to write to the Prime Minister calling for urgent action because “the situation is dire and needs immediate mitigation.
“We are currently heading towards more than 3 ̊C increase, which would lead to a collapsing economy and geopolitical instability,” Mr Weller said. “This is now a question that can only be faced through top level political leadership.
“To avoid an economic and social catastrophe we must act urgently,” he said. “Every year of delay costs Australia $68 Billion/year.”
The Open Letter to Scott Morrison called upon the PM to “take the required leadership” as follows:
Mr Weller said a target of 75% by 2030 would mean that there could be no new fossil fuel projects approved and that existing assets would need to be retired (including petrol/diesel vehicles).
“This would require proper management to minimize economic impacts and transition employees that are affected to new industries,” he said. “We are given the task of stewardship for this planet on which we live.
“Scientists across a broad range of disciplines are warning us that our climate system is spiralling towards disaster.
“We have a moral duty to cease emissions of greenhouse gases so that our children and grandchildren can avoid a chaotic climate and inherit the world in a healthy condition.
“We would be negligent to do otherwise.
“The delays of the last 30 years leave us in the position that the transition is now an emergency and immediate action is required to avoid disaster.
“No other course is open to us but to rapidly cut our emissions.
“Climate change impacts are already affecting Australians. Examples include the 2019-20 bushfire season and the increasing drought situation across the Murray-Darling basin.
“Fabulous opportunities exist for Australia in the new low carbon economy if we act now.
“Instead of mining coal and gas we can mine our abundant sun and wind resources to export renewable energy to the world,” Mr Weller said.
The Community Environment Network (CEN) supports the Central Coast Council’s recommendation to refuse an application for a four-lot subdivision on environmentally valuable land at 35 to 45 Clarence Road, Springfield.
“CEN hopes the Local Planning Panel adheres to the recommendation and refuses this proposal when it meets on Thursday,” said CEN Executive Member, Mr Gary Chestnut. “The application was referred to the Planning Panel because of the high number of submissions received – an indicator that the proposal does not have community support.
“The proposed subdivision would be contrary to zone objectives, the character of the site and surrounding area. It would not provide a sufficient buffer for the critically endangered Rhodamnia rubescens species and would require clearing of the buffer zone protecting the Ecologically Endangered Community (EEC) of rainforest. The South-Western portion of the land is also flood prone,” Mr Chestnut said.
“In fact, the five reasons given to the Planning Panel to refuse the application are self-explanatory and irrefutable,” he said. “The proponent has submitted inaccurate information about the contours of the land. They have provided inadequate information on the turning heads required by the Rural Fire Service. Their Arboricultural Impact Assessment Report gave inadequate information on the proposal’s impact on trees.
“The Arborist report detailed that of the 157 trees surveyed, all were recommended for removal with the exception of four palm trees,” he said. “Their suggested removal of a ‘dam’ known to, and loved by, locals as the Springfield Pond Wetland is simply unacceptable.”
Mr Chestnut said the Local Planning Panel’s refusal of this latest subdivision proposal should “put an end” to any plans to subdivide and develop the land which is one of the last remaining corridors between Rumbalara and the Erina Creek Wetlands.
“The best outcome for biodiversity, for sustainability and for the community, would be for this land to be added to the Coastal Open Space System (COSS),” Mr Chestnut said.
“Every development proposal put forward since 2016 has failed to provide adequate protection to this ecologically valuable land which is home to two species of vulnerable microbats, Latham’s Snipe, the critically endangered Rhodamnia rubescens and a rainforest community,” he said.
This latest proposal was submitted to Council in November 2018, Mr Chestnut said. “The proponent has been given more than adequate time to provide Council with additional and accurate information and has failed to do so. The panel must refuse this proposal.”
The Central Coast Council's report recommending the refusal of the proposal can be found here.
For more information about Springfield Ponds Wetlands visit their website.
CEN has ranked the operational assets that Central Coast Council has put forward as potentially for sale from most suitable to least. Read here for the full story.
The Community Environment Network (CEN) has thanked Central Coast Council Administrator, Mr Rik Hart, for making it clear that he will not be reclassifying Community Land as part of Council’s asset sales program “unless absolutely necessary”.
“Those were Mr Hart’s words and CEN will do our best to hold him to them now that the community consultation for assets sales has closed,” said Executive Member of the Community Environment Network, Mr Gary Chestnut.
Mr Chestnut said representatives from CEN, the Central Coast branch of the Australian Conservation Foundation and Save Central Coast Reserves met with Mr Hart on May 25 to discuss community concerns about the asset sale.
“Mr Hart explained that Central Coast Council had considered a $90 million ‘basket’ of assets with sale potential from which it needed to sell $60 million worth of assets,” Mr Chestnut said. “It was a relief to hear Mr Hart clarify that only operational land that had not received a great deal of public opposition would be considered for sale at this time,” Mr Chestnut said.
“We also look forward to learning more about the options Mr Hart said Council was exploring with the Norah Head community in relation to their community hall and playground,” he said.
“At the conclusion of our meeting, Mr Hart undertook to provide answers to six questions and we look forward to receiving his response in the not-too-distant future.”
The questions were:
Mr Chestnut said CEN recommended that the following Operational assets should not be sold by Council because of their environmental value or contribution to the amenity and liveability of this region:
Environmental: 200 Thompson Vale Road Doyalson 2262 (Lot 762 DP 746526), 740 Thompson Vale Road Doyalson 2262 (Lot 32 DP 586913), 740 Thompson Vale Road Doyalson 2262 (Lot 78 DP 755245), 1550 Thompson Vale Road Doyalson 2262 (Lot 31 DP 586913), 11-20 Wyong Road, Tuggerah (Lots 15-21 DP 25373).
Green community space: 82 Yarram Road Bensville, 84 Yarram Road Bensville, 23 Memorial Avenue Blackwall, 23A Memorial Avenue Blackwall, 6 Tyrrell Place, Bateau Bay (Lot 478 DP 704452), 10 Lakeside Parade, The Entrance.
Important community uses: 219 Albany Street North Gosford 2250 (Lot 201 DP 840680), comprising Henry Wheeler Place (formerly Lots 7 & 10 DP 238231), 219b Albany Street North Gosford 2250 (Lot 203 DP840680), 219c Albany Street North Gosford 2250 (Lot 204 DP840680), 4 Tyrrell Place Killarney Vale, 126 Georgiana Terrace, Gosford (Lot 454 DP 727721).
Future cultural requirement: 53 Mann Street Gosford 2250 (Lot 3 DP 129268), 55-57 Mann Street Gosford (Lot 2 DP 129268), 59-71 Mann Street Gosford (Lot 1 DP 129268), 73 Mann Street Gosford (Lot B in DP 321076), 75 Mann Street Gosford (Lot 2 in DP 543135), 126 Georgiana Terrace, Gosford (Lot 454 in DP 727721)
CEN considers protection of the natural environment paramount. However, the liveability of Gosford and its position as a social and cultural hub for the Central Coast region is also a critical part of our commitment to sustainable development in the built environment. Consequently, and in an attempt to be balanced and respect Council’s need to reach $60 million of asset sales, CEN would be prepared to accept the conditional sale of the Thompson Vale Road land at Doyalson in exchange for the withdrawal of lots from 49 to 71 Mann Street, Gosford. The Mann Street properties were earmarked for the long-promised Regional Performing Arts Centre in Gosford.
CEN requested that Council consider the following assets for sale instead of some of the properties currently listed for consideration:
“The combined market value of 4 and 10 Warren Road and 140 Sparks Road would surely have made up a significant portion of the required $60 million asset sales target,” Mr Chestnut said. “CEN believes Central Coast Council should remove itself from the commercial risks involved in pursuing the development of a general aviation hub at Warnervale. It is not the core business of a local government. The airport could be sold as a going concern or as land for development.”
“We have urged Council to review all non-commercial arrangements and legacy relationships to put them on a commercial footing instead of providing ratepayer assistance to fundamentally lucrative operations and commercial assets.”
“It is CEN’s understanding that Council has work depots that are surplus to needs. We understand the need to keep some locations, such as Woy Woy, which has bore water infrastructure, but we question the need to hang on to other under-utilised operational land.
“If Council’s public face in its regional capital (Gosford) can be via a library, why does Central Coast Council need to retain either the Gosford or Wyong purpose-built premises?
“Mr Hart mentioned that the $90 million asset basket represented less than 1% of Council’s total land portfolio so perhaps employees could be relocated across other sites so that both the former Council buildings could be sold.
“Council meetings could be held in alternate venues such as the Erina Centre and the Art House. The sale of the Wyong building would provide an excellent site for infill development of affordable housing close to services and public transport,” Mr Chestnut said.
CEN also ranked Council’s Operational land sales list from most suitable for sale to least suitable for sale. The list, available here, was collated from Council agenda papers.
CEN did not rank any assets classified as Community Land although it will do so if Community Land needs to be reclassified and sold.
Saturday, June 5, is World Environment Day and the Community Environment Network (CEN) is inviting all Central Coast residents to do something positive for the environment by planting a tree.
It may shock the community to learn that each month locals make applications to Council to remove around 40 trees from their gardens, most of them natives.
That means hundreds of trees are being removed from local gardens every year in addition to the bushland being cleared to build new houses and other developments across the region.
The good news is that CEN harvests seeds and propagates trees that are natives and endemic to this region,” he said. “On the first Saturday of every month we open our Ourimbah nursery to the public so they can purchase endemic species for their gardens.
Our next wildplant nursery sale is this Saturday, June 5, which happens to be World Environment Day. CEN believes this is a great opportunity for Central Coast residents who are interested in growing endemic native species in their gardens to mark World Environment Day by coming along to our plant sale.
CEN nursery staff and volunteers provide information about each species and can give you planting tips. The nursery sale is also an opportunity to find out more about CEN’s programs and projects including Friends of COSS and COSS Connections, Land for Wildlife, Habitat for Wildlife and Waterwatch.
The public’s attention is often concentrated on the big environmental issues such as climate change, illegal clearing and endangered species which can be overwhelming and that is why we are asking Central Coast residents to embrace this year’s theme for United Nation’s World Environment Day by joining #GENERATIONRESTORATION.
As the United Nation’s has said in relation to World Environment Day 2021:
“This is our moment. We cannot turn back time. But we can grow trees, green our cities, rewild our gardens, change our diets and clean up rivers and coasts. We are the generation that can make peace with nature. Let’s get active, not anxious. Let’s be bold, not timid. Join #GenerationRestoration”
One tiny way to make a start is to spend $3, $5 or $7 on an endemic plant and give it a home in your garden. Another is to join CEN and get involved in local environmental issues. We encourage you to do both at Ourimbah (off Brush Rd, follow the signs) this Saturday from 9am to 12pm.
Join Central Coast Waterwatch on Friday, 4 June 2021 at 10am to celebrate World Environment Day.
Come on a guided walk along the Berkeley Vale foreshore and learn about your local waterway and wetland ecosystems with Central Coast Council’s Estuary Management Officer.
Learn about the work being done by Council to combat degradation and restore saltmarsh communities within the Tuggerah Lake system.
Find out how you can make a difference and help protect these important ecosystems.
Morning tea will be provided, just let us know of any dietary requirements in the comments section when you register to attend.
Venue: Blue Bell Park, Berkeley Vale Foreshore, 10am-12pm
Registrations are still open via our website
For more information Contact Central Coast Waterwatch Coordinator Rachael
Phone: 4349 4757
Register for this event via our website.
This event is supported by Central Coast Council through a Communtiy Development Grant.
Proposed amendments to the State Significant Development (SSD) at 89 John Whiteway Drive, Gosford, although welcome, will not address the excessive bulk and scale of the proposal or the substantial loss of vegetation, according to the Community Environment Network (CEN).
“The developer has argued the former quarry on the site has left parts of it ‘denuded and unsightly’ but the loss of 606 trees will have a massive impact on the Gosford ridgeline,” said CEN Executive Member, Mr Gary Chestnut.
“CEN welcomes the key amendments made to the proposal including the reduction in the building height, from between six and 12 storeys back to between five and nine storeys, and the reduction in the number of apartments from 260 to 204,” Mr Chestnut said. “We cannot agree, however, that the impact on vegetation and habitat, let alone amenity, is necessary or desirable.”
“The sheer scale of this development means too many trees need to be sacrificed to make way for the construction footprint (385) and meet the requirements of Planning for Bushfire Protection (221),” he said.
“Of the 830 trees surveyed within the site only 224 trees will be retained.
“A total of 606 trees will be removed, including six trees on neighbouring land at 80 John Whiteway Drive, for the bushfire Asset Protection Zone (APZ) and to accommodate the proposed building layout.”
Of the trees proposed for removal, 86 are medium or large size endemic (native to this area) trees and another 200 are endemic small-size trees. The remainder to be removed are native species not endemic to the site (243), exotic species (74) and three dead trees.
“It is positive that the trees which have been given the highest priority for retention are the large and medium size trees which contribute most to the visual and biodiversity values of the site,” Mr Chestnut said.
“The proposed vegetation management plan and landscaping proposals are also welcome but will not mitigate the loss of 15 Black Wattles, 21 Hickory Wattles, 42 Forest Oaks, 64 Rough-Barked Apples, 12 Grey Ironbarks, 105 Blackbutt, 16 Sydney Blue Gums, nine Cheese Trees, 237 non-endemic Swamp Oak and various other natives,” he said.
“CEN has strong reservations whether it is acceptable that the overall remaining canopy just exceeds the Draft Greener Places Guidelines for 15% canopy in Central Business District (CBD) localities or 25% in medium-to-high-density sites. This site is located on the ridge that connects to Rumbulara Reserve and is key to visual character of the city. We do not believe the unique vegetated landscape of the Gosford City should be measured against CBD or medium-to-high-density sites. This is the Gosford CBD not Chatswood or Hong Kong”.
“Additional trees may be removed where they present an unacceptable safety risk (even though this must be agreed by a qualified Geotechnical Engineer and Ecologist) so the overall number of trees to be lost may be even greater than 606.
“A total of 21 hollows in seven trees are proposed to be removed and will need to be replaced with nest boxes suitable for large possums or gliders, small gliders or parrots and micro bats. So even though no species were found to be impacted by the removal of vegetation these creatures obviously depend on hollows on the site as habitat.
“The APZ will require the management of canopy trees on the site in perpetuity including future tree removal, pruning and planting works.
“It remains to be seen whether or not the retention of selected trees, rocky habitats and managed understorey vegetation within the northern areas of the site or replanting works will result in some connectivity remaining for species with nearby Coastal Open Space System (COSS) reserves,” Mr Chestnut said.
“The proposal still exceeds the maximum building height under the Gosford City Centre SEPP 2018. In fact, the over-reach of this development reinforces CEN’s worst fears about how the Gosford City SEPP will destroy the unique character of Gosford City.
“CEN simply cannot accept that compliance with the height limit is unnecessary or unreasonable or that the revised design delivers an appropriate built form on the site or adequately reduces the visual impacts on the broader area.”
The Community Environment Network (CEN) has called for audits and penalties to stop excessive development variations through over-use of Clause 4.6 of the Standard Instrument LEP (NSW’s uniform planning tool).
In its submission to the Review of Clause 4.6 of the Standard Instrument LEP, CEN said the use (and abuse) of clause 4.6 to vary development standards had been contentious on the Central Coast for the past seven years.
“The development of residential flat buildings and multi-dwelling housing in the R1 Residential zone has been contentious because clause 4.6 has been widely used to vary the minimum lot size,” said CEN Executive Member, Mr Michael Conroy.
Mr Conroy said members had made many submissions because multi-unit developments that failed to meet the minimum lot size were also unlikely to meet development controls for side setbacks, private open space, solar access and overshadowing.
“Notwithstanding the well-argued submissions concerning the adverse impacts of developments that fail to meet the development standards, most such developments have been approved using clause 4.6,” Mr Conroy said.
A lack of accountability and transparency in the approval process resulted in the excessive use of clause 4.6, according to CEN.
“There is no evidence that the Department of Planning Industry and Environment (DPIE) reviews or analyses variations in development standards that are being approved,” Mr Conroy said. “How many Councils should have had their use of clause 4.6 reviewed before ICAC investigators discovered rorts at the former Canterbury Council?
“Variations in development standards that have been approved by Council officers under delegation should be reviewed to ensure they are not excessive or effecting a de-facto rezoning,” he said. “If Council officers have delegations to approve variations over 10 per cent, such approvals should be reviewed by the Local Planning Panel (LPP).”
Mr Conroy said CEN agreed in principle that a monitoring and auditing framework should be implemented by DPIE to monitor variations, review reasons for, the extent and nature of variations, audit those variations, publish the audit findings, and investigate larger, more frequent or unusual variations.
Councils could face penalties if misuse was established.
Mr Conroy said DPIE had previously required Councils to provide quarterly reports on DAs (approved under SEPP No 1) but “the Department did not have the resources needed to properly review all the variation decisions.
“The proposal to monitor variation decisions through the NSW Planning Portal has similar potential problems to the historic system if the Department is required to do all the regular auditing and investigation,” he said.
“An alternative arrangement would be for each LPP to monitor and audit the variation decisions of its Council. The Department could then monitor the decisions of the LPPs and investigate any Council where the LPP had reported larger or more frequent variations.”
CEN expressed its support for DPIE to require a developer to demonstrate that a variation would be consistent with the objectives of the standard, the zone and would result in an improved planning outcome.
CEN did not accept DPIE’s proposal to include an alternative test so ‘flexibility’ could be applied if an improved planning outcome couldn’t be demonstrated.
“If there are minor developments that cannot be designed to comply with the criteria, then the applicant should be advised to go back and re-consider their development proposal,” he said.
CEN rejected DPIE’s proposal that there should be no limit to the variation in a numeric standard.
“If a planning authority has gone through the process of including a development standard in an LEP or SEPP, the numeric standard should be based on analysis related to the objectives of that standard and should have been subject to public consultation,” he said.
“When SEPP No.1 was in force, it was the Department’s policy that large variations in development standards were tantamount to a de-facto rezoning and should be rejected.
“The Department used to advise Councils that they should consider preparing an LEP amendment (a planning proposal) if there were a number of DAs with significant variations in an area.
“A similar policy was recommended by ICAC when it reviewed the operation of Part 3A of the Act.
“ICAC concluded that the use of Part 3A to approve developments which exceeded development standards by more than 25% would potentially give the developer a windfall profit and thus increase the risk of corruption.”
The CEN submission agreed that development standards related to complying development and BASIX requirements should continue to be excluded from variation.
“The principle of complying development would become an oxymoron if a non-complying development could be certified as complying.”
The Community Environment Network (CEN) has urged the NSW Government to integrate National Pollution Inventory (NPI) data with known rates of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTI) on the Central Coast to measure the full impact of power station fallout on the local population.
CEN Executive member, Mr Mike Campbell OAM, said the Central Coast’s population is exposed to the pollution of power station fallout but there is no access to data on known public hospital admissions for URTIs for children or overall age groups.
“Documentation around problems of health and exposure have been notified to State Government bodies since as far back as the 1980s,” Mr Campbell said.
According to Mr Campbell, the NSW Government is currently considering submissions in response to its Draft Clean Air Strategy.
“It is a perfect opportunity for the Strategy to map the likely results of power station fallout by publishing material from our local hospitals,” Mr Campbell said.
“Seasonal influence via graphs would expose danger periods such as winter times and temperature inversion which normally exacerbate URTI reactions in the population.
“These steps would inform the public, health bodies and the Government to monitor impacts.”
“The National Pollution Inventory (NPI) maps the outputs of industry for the Australian Government.
“The huge tonnages of Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Oxide (NOX) and heavy metals recorded by local power stations to the NPI should indicate the impact upon health from that continuous exposure.
“The NSW Government needs to integrate NPI figures to extrapolate the likely influences on URTI admissions on local populations.
“The integration of all the data available to the NPI, EPA NSW, the Environment Ministerial office and the Health Ministerial office should be accessible to the public.
“Not informing the state’s health bodies and those suffering URTI issues is surely a dereliction of duty, and a serious one at that.
“The Draft Strategy falls short in considering the vast pollution outputs of the power station industry as well as coal extraction pollution.
“By playing down these major influences the credibility of the NSW Government is put in doubt.
“Our constituency is suffering from pollution overload and it is incumbent upon our own NSW Government, through its agencies, to plan to address the correlation between pollution and public health, and to make those regular statistics publicly available so that change will occur with public knowledge and input,” Mr Campbell said.
“Doctors for the Environment have widely published statistics relating to the number of deaths and serious health impacts that the burning of coal has upon populations of the Hunter, Central Coast and Sydney.
“These figures are alarming in the least and need to be fleshed out in the public space.
“EPA NSW and the Department of Health should open up formal public debate on these claims to help inform the wider populace.”
Mr Campbell said CEN called upon EPA NSW to reject outright the current application by Vales Point Power Station for a further five-year extension of its Exemption Licence beyond standard pollution limits.
“To allow Vales Point to continue to exceed even current NSW limits would be a slap in the face to constituents of the Central Coast. The exemption licence to pollute above the already high value for acceptable NOX emissions in NSW should not be renewed.”
CEN’S SUBMISSION ON THE NSW GOVERNMENT DRAFT CLEAN AIR STRATEGY
The following is CEN’s whole submission.
The Community Environment Network is the peak community environment body on the Central Coast established over 20 years ago representing a large membership and many affiliated groups.
The population of the Central Coast are largely exposed to much of the pollution of power station fallout and documentation around problems of health and exposure have notified State Government bodies as far back as the 1980’s.
CEN refers here to the work of Environmental Justice Australia in their submission for “the People’s Clean Air Action Plan for NSW”. EJA have been working with CEN for the last 5 years bringing to notice the need for tighter regulations around air pollution by interviewing and advising both EPA NSW, local and State Members of Parliament and health agencies.
EJA’s Clean Air Action Plan identifies the largest sources of controllable air pollution and the actions that the NSW Government must take to reduce it to best practice control standards. We urge the NSW Government to adopt the Plan and the actions it lists throughout. The submitted 29 page document is comprehensively referencing 125 documents and studies both from Australia and overseas.
THE POWER INDUSTRY AND PUBLIC HEALTH
On the Coast we have no public access to known public hospital admissions for Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTI) for either children or overall age groups. For instance there is a perfect opportunity for the Strategy to map the likely results of power station fallout by publishing material from, local hospitals (Wyong and Gosford) likely to be higher, compared with, say, Belmont Hospital as a general reference point for least exposure to fallout from power generation. Seasonal influence via graphs would expose danger periods such as winter times and temperature inversion which normally exacerbate URTI reactions in the population.
These steps would inform the public, health bodies, and Government itself to monitor impacts.
The new air quality monitor only recently installed by the Government at Lake Macquarie has already issued “alerts” for exceedances of PM 10 pollution on five occasions within about six weeks. Here is an indication of what presents a problem for residents in the region.
The National Pollution Inventory (NPI) maps the outputs of industry for the Australian Government. The huge tonnages of SO2, NOX and heavy metals recorded by local power stations to the NPI should indicate the impact upon health from that continuous exposure. The NSW Government needs to become serious about integrating NPI figures and extrapolating the likely influences on URTI admissions on local populations here on the Central Coast and in the Hunter. The integration of all the data available to the NPI, EPA NSW, the Environment Ministerial office and the Health Ministerial office should be public accessible. By not informing the State’s health professional bodies and those suffering URTI issues is surely a dereliction of duty, and a serious one at that.
The Draft Strategy falls short in considering the vast pollution outputs of the power station industry as well as coal extraction pollution. By playing down these major influences the credibility of the NSW Government is put in doubt. The overwhelming data and input from studies as outlined in the EJA material will not go away but will continue to be refined and distributed to wider populations as each year goes on.
CEN, having worked with EJA during those last 5 years, has to agree that reforms have not progressed as they should. Our constituency, we know, is suffering from pollution overload and it is incumbent upon our own NSW Government, through its agencies, to plan to address the correlation between pollution and public health, and to make those regular statistics publicly available so that change will occur with public knowledge and input.
Doctors for the Environment organisation have widely published, as you would be aware, statistics relating to the number of deaths and serious health impacts that the burning of coal, has upon populations of the Hunter, Central Coast and Sydney. These figures are alarming in the least and need to be fleshed out in the public space. EPA NSW and the Department of Health should open up formal public debate on these claims to help inform the wider populace. These claims should not just be dismissed by Government bodies in one-line statements in the media.
The current application by Vales Point Power Station for a further five-year extension of its Exemption Licence beyond standard pollution limits should be rejected outright by EPA NSW. No NSW power station has world standard technology to contain pollutants. To allow Vales Point to continue to exceed even current NSW limits would be a slap in the face to constituents of the Central Coast. The exemption licence to pollute above the already high value for acceptable NOX emissions in NSW should not be renewed.
Renewables, in all aspects of either power generation or in vehicle transport, have made great advance in the last 10 years. Hybrid vehicles continue to play a role towards fully electric transport and have been embraced by the domestic population without major problems.
Public transport itself needs to expand and whilst the NSW Government has achieved advances in upgrading our rail network, once again embraced by the constituents of NSW, more is required to expand the bus networks throughout the state. Private operators often find it hard to deliver these services economically. State Government should look at greater incentives for private bus operators to expand services and to have those operators transition their fleet to either electric or hydrogen (which is emerging as a new and exciting resource) to enable greater economic use of public transport. This would be a genuine “win-win” for reducing road use and reducing pollution in a big way.
Fully electric private and public transport is beginning to impact upon the national fleet where we see, for instance, NRMA have advanced their own recharging station network. The NSW Government needs to ramp up this recharging system particularly in the Sydney metropolitan region, in Newcastle, Wollongong, and in larger regional rural centres. By advancing this system ahead of larger uptake of electric vehicles it will give greater incentive for people to choose to purchase this new age technology.
In both power generation and vehicle fleet moving forward to transition to new technologies, it is important to remember that new jobs quickly emerge in retrofitting as has been the case with installation of solar systems throughout NSW.
Whilst domestic battery/solar systems are currently expensive for the average household prices will continue to fall. Technicians talk of the idea of community-based batteries to gather solar generation. These batteries have been trialled overseas which see groups of households invest in a larger common roadside serviceable battery jointly owned and serviced by these households. This clearly spreads the economic outlay and servicing and reduces the dependence on poles and wires, seen by most people, as truly old infrastructure.
Natural disasters now impact upon communities more often and greater effort has to be given, at greater expense to the public purse, to repair public infrastructure effectively.
By people investing in independent battery systems the State Government is less likely to be called upon to spend large amounts for repair after a disaster.
CEN recommends the following:
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s recent announcement on the Central Coast that his government will spend a total of $539 million on five hydrogen hubs and carbon capture projects will not be sufficient to handle the climate emergency.
Climate Future Chair, Mr Richard Weller, said “We do need a hydrogen industry and other new green products and energy to stay relevant in the new carbon-free economy and we must support the idea of finding new employment for those currently working in the fossil fuel industry.
“But Mr Morrison's proposal won’t be sufficient to handle the climate emergency,” Mr Weller said.
“US President Joe Biden has set a target of 50% emission reductions by 2030,” he said. “The UK is even more ambitious at 78% below 1990 levels by 2035. Many countries have targets of net zero by 2050.
“The current policies of our Government are simply not enough. Since 1990, Australia’s emissions have risen from 425 MtCO2e/y to 555, up 25% (not including land use and forestry).
“Our emissions rank us 15th of all the world’s nations while per capita we are worse, emitting more per person than any other major developed country. These numbers do not include what we export, such as our coal which is burned overseas.”
Mr Weller said Australia produces more CO2 than the UK which has 2.5 times our population.
“They have reduced their emissions by 45% since 1990 (800 to 450 MtCO2e/y) while we stood by and claimed special treatment.
“If we don’t take urgent action this decade, we will be left behind by the rest of the world with a stranded economy and collapsing employment. We have the best solar resources in the world and could be the largest energy producer of renewables - a ‘powerhouse’ if you like – but this requires the right support by our government for the necessary investment.
“To keep up with the USA, we would need to replace our entire energy production system with renewables by 2030 and electrify our transport fleet as well,” Mr Weller said.
This is still feasible according to Climate Future, a committee of the Community Environment Network (CEN) formed to promote action on climate change.
“If we start immediately, we can minimise the disruption to our economy but we need the Federal Government to drive this change”, said Mr Weller. “Neither of the major parties currently have sufficient ambition for the change necessary and we as voters need to galvanise this ambition.
“The scientists are saying that time is running out. Urgency should be the call of the day. The world has a carbon budget and we are fast using it up. Each year we delay means the targets must be harsher.
“If we don’t start till 2025, the target for 2030 must be much tighter again. This is the legacy of our governments' decisions over the last 30 years.
“We must convince our representatives – our federal parliamentarians, Lucy Wicks, Emma McBride and Senator Deborah O’Neill - that even more action is needed.
“The consequences of not taking action are already with us and will escalate with each year. COVID will be nothing compared to the impacts of more than 2C of warming if we continue to fail to act.”