Baw Baw Shire Council has endorsed the draft 2019/20 Budget and invited the community to have their say. This is our response.
Dear Baw Baw Shire council,
Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission to this process - it is an important part of a functioning democracy.
The overarching point of our submission is that all council activities should be planned and
performed with these questions in mind:
Will this project/ expenditure reduce our contribution to pollution that is causing the
Will this project/ expenditure help our community to cope with the results of the climate
emergency ie fire, flood, storm damage, health impacts of extreme weather?
Will our grandchildren thank us for this decision?
Scientists have raised the alarm that we are heading to “hot house earth” with mean global
temperature rising to levels that are incompatible with life for many species, including our own.
Without urgent and transformative action in the next few years we may see the end of
civilisation before the end of this century as tipping points like loss of arctic sea ice cover,
melting ice caps and glaciers, widespread release of methane from permafrost and changing
ocean currents are passed.
This is the defining issue for all of humanity this century and all levels of government ought to be leading and acting for positive change while we still have time to do so.
We are prompted to make this submission as the proposed council plan and budget does not at all give the impression that the climate emergency is acknowledged, nor planned or budgeted for.
Comments on budget allocation
Although approximately 27% of the $96 million budget is allocated to the Safe and Sustainable Environments services area, in our mind this could easily be deceptively reassuring to the casual observer. We can only see approximately $1 million allocated to programs in the environmental sustainability area, a sizeable chunk of which we presume are staff wages, leaving very little for program delivery. That means less than 1% of the council budget is allocated to the biggest problem humanity has ever faced. Compare today’s response to past expenditure responses by Australia to war in the following graph:
Clearly we can respond with urgency when our lives are threatened, so why not now?
Increasing the allocation of funds for the environment team to just 5% of the budget would allow the implementation of projects such as:
Completion of the street light LED replacement program
Solar farm on the Trafalgar landfill site
Solar PV on the Leisure centre and replacement of gas systems with biomass or
Commence a rollout of electric car charging stations in the shire
Tree planting to help reduce heat island effects in urban centres
Establish climate safe spaces for communities for days of extreme heat
Massive expansion of the Environmental Upgrade Agreement program for businesses to
help transform the business and industrial sector to renewables
Complete energy audits and retrofits for all council owned buildings.
Implementation of the Ecologically Sustainable Design framework for all new housing
Some of these projects would result in ongoing savings for future budgets. Others will show
leadership and help the transition to a zero carbon society eg electric vehicle charging stations and others will help protect people from heat stress and make Baw Baw a more attractive place to live and work. Adding $4 million to the environment team budget will still mean the overall budget remains in surplus. It also means all the other identified priorities can be fully funded as well.
Service Performance Outcome Indicators
We would like to see additional indicators in all departments that ensure staff are working with our questions noted in the summary in mind. For example, the leisure centre could report on GJ of gas used with a target of zero. Staff responsible for public amenity could report on urban temperatures and steps taken to reduce them. Buildings services could report on energy imported and exported with a goal of net energy export. There will be relevant indicators in every area.
Declaration of a climate emergency
We are in agreement with the goals of the global movement called Extinction Rebellion who call on governments to tell the truth about the climate emergency, to declare the climate emergency and to call for a citizens’ assembly to guide the response to the climate emergency. Baw Baw Shire could easily follow the lead of many other local, state and national governments who are doing exactly that.
Signed by the BBSN committee,
Malcolm McKelvie President
Bernie Rowley Vice President
Carol Rowley Treasurer