Sustainability: It’s not just about peeling the stickers off fruit

The term “sustainable” and “sustainability” are used a lot these days; without meaning all that much.

There is an awful lot of greenwash out there, which can be hard to interpret. So often, the term is co-opted to simply mean ‘economically sustainable’, with no regard to the social nor ecological impacts of a particular series of actions that an instrumentality or business sees as beneficial to its bottom line.

Every one of us can do something to limit our impact on the planet and restore it to a better state than that in which we found it.

This does not have to mean living off the grid in a hemp and strawbale house, only wearing clothes woven from the wool off your sheep’s back and never eating meat. (but if that’s what you want to do, then you’re helping a lot more than many)

Yes, it is annoying that, for example, the stickers on much of our fruit are not made from biodegradable or compostable material, however, it is not up to us as individuals to change this, but government legislation. Such legislation to reduce single use items that are hard to recycle, compost or reuse must also come with assistance to businesses in order for them to change their business model.

Local government & councils are limited in what they can implement, but do have a role in advocacy and as an example of reducing carbon emissions and other waste to the public and business.

I have been privileged in my role as a councillor in the last 4 years to be appointed by the State Government as Chair of the Loddon Mallee Waste and Resource Recovery Group board. In this role I have learnt from others more experienced than myself about the waste and resource recovery industry: the barriers and drivers to effect change.

I have put forward motions on funding reduction in waste and increase in recycling initiatives for business innovation, as well as improving product labeling, particularly to do with plastics and compostable materials.

I successfully put forward the idea of Council belonging to the national Tyre Stewardship Program.

I have supported Macedon Ranges employing a sustainable design officer, who has worked with Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group to help people learn more about sustainable house designs. Many of the resources are still available on council’s website. This is a prime area where we can reduce our everyday impact on the world, saving energy, staying warm in winter and cool in summer, and saving lots of money, without consuming unnecessary Mj and KWh, and creating localised smog events in the process.

In my first term on Council I was part of the subcommittee overseeing the review of our Natural Environment Strategy, and put forward the motion that it must report annually about how we have progressed, & the report brought to a council meeting.

From this strategy, Council has developed our climate change action plan and biodiversity strategies, and we now have a biodiversity officer on staff.

Through the biodiversity strategy, Council was successfully awarded a Commonwealth Government National Landcare Program grant, to employ a Private Land Conservation Officer to work with private landholders. This helps those that wish to re-vegetate the native species on their land, control weeds, stop erosion and increase fertility, without the major use of fertilisers and pesticides

I have also strongly advocated for increased funding in each budget for roadside pest and weed management, as well as advocating to State and Federal government to provide an increased budget allocation to the reduction and enforcement of weed and pest management on both public and private land,

In my first term on council I successfully put forward the motion to only invest in funds that did not support fossil fuel exploration nor extraction, and have continued to look for ways to improve our procurement policy to ensure that better environmental outcomes are considered in all tenders for works and services.

I am  a strong supporter of reducing single-use plastics and I am proud to say that Council has worked on how to do this internally, and will now progress to investigating phasing out single use plastic at council-sponsored community events.

Loddon Mallee Waste and Resource Recovery Group work is also working on how to reduce waste at public events.

I have supported Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group’s pursuit of a ‘Wash against Waste’ van, which is now kitted out and ready to be used at events once Covid restrictions have eased.

I am a proud member of Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group and Woodend Landcare, and love shopping at our markets and supporting our local food producers and locally owned and run businesses, ahead of larger corporations.

I advocated early on to transfer our streetlights over to LED as this not only reduces carbon emissions but also saves up to 80% on running and replacement costs. It took a few years before it was included in the budget, but this has now successfully occurred in the majority of our streets.

Land use planning of our towns and surrounds is also strongly tied to sustainability. They must be designed to encourage walking and cycling, with services and shops located in appropriate locations. The provision of street trees and use of recycled material in construction are also improvements I support.

Council is a member of CASBE and is part of a trial for more sustainable subdivisions:

I hope that the newly-elected Council will continue to support these and many more environmental initiatives, to assist Council, businesses and the community to lower their carbon emissions and be more environmentally sustainable. It also helps to save money in the long term: as well as the diversity of life on our bit of the earth, and in a very small way, the planet in general.

There are so many great ideas and initiatives out there, and I learn more from attending seminars and listening to the community every day.

I hope to be re-elected to help keep this impetus for sustainability initiatives rolling.


Agriculture in the Macedon Ranges

Although agriculture may not be our biggest industry nor our most valuable direct income-generator, this industry remains extremely important to us and those who visit and work in the shire.

With the seasons getting dryer and hotter throughout Australia, the Macedon Ranges remains in a relatively protected micro-climate that still experiences good rainfall and reasonably good growing seasons.

Macedon Ranges is well known for its local produce, for example: wine; food; fibre (vegetable and animal); flowers; beer, cider and gin. These productions support our local restaurants, and growers and makers transport their produce short distances to Melbourne diners, and also export to overseas markets.

We have weekend fresh produce markets in nearly all our towns now, and many producers work with others to create combinations that you can not achieve elsewhere.

Our agricultural landscapes are also an important part of tourism, and our own mental health.

Watching 4corners on the ABC tonight, on Charles Massy, reminded me of how many of our farmers are embracing regenerative agriculture: restoring the land to make it more productive and better for biodiversity and the planet.

Macedon Ranges Shire Council was successful in obtaining a grant to employ a staff member for 2 years to assist farmers to learn more about the interactions of their work & practices with the natural environment, and how they can modify their approach to reduce costs and improve soil quality. They also often learn about traditional owner practices at the same time.

It has been shown that this form of farming creates better mental health for farmers, and makes them more resilient in times of stress.

I have supported the biodiversity strategy of Council, that required significant budget input. It is now helping us to create better environmental outcomes for all: our farmers, visitors, local residents, local businesses and most of all our rare and special native species.

Weeds and Pests

Only 11 percent of the shire is in public ownership. Much of the public land within the shire is under State government control, but Council either owns or manages many of our bush reserves, all of which require vigilant checking for pests and weeds. Our roadsides are also extensive and we only have limited funds each year to attend to weeds growing there.

I have successfully advocated for increased funds in Council’s budget for roadside weed management at your request. I have also continued to put the issue in front of the State and Federal government and peak organizations such as the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) to get increased funds from other sources, as it is such a big task.

Feral animals, particularly deer, are becoming an increasing problem in our Shire: damaging not only our precious native vegetation but also agricultural crops. I have continued to advocate to have a sensible Deer management strategy instituted at State level, so as to obtain adequate funding to try to eradicate deer from our shire, and have them classed as a pest animal. They also cause accidents on our roads.

I will, if re-elected, continue to advocate for State government to manage pest animals better, and for increased funding to be made available to both private and public land owners to control weeds.

It is not fair that some owners do the right thing, only to have neighbors, particularly absentee landowners, not clear up their weeds, allowing infestations to recur.

Increasing available recurrent funding from State government to support our ‘Friends of ~’ and Landcare groups, who assist council on the ground to improve native plantings and remove weeds, will also continue to be a strong focus of advocacy.

Council could still do with extra manpower on the ground in our bush reserves to assist our one current staff member to assist our volunteer groups.

Most of our bush reserves now have management plans, which have had significant input from our friends of groups. i learnt quickly that it is best to talk to those helping out on the ground to see what the priority issues are to ensure these plans are achievable, and to prioritize what can be done.

In West ward we have: Malmsbury Common, Black Hill Reserve, Bald Hill Reserve, and the Woodland Grasslands.

Through the hard work of our staff and volunteers most have greatly reduced weeds and the native vegetation has an increased chance of survival.

I encourage people,once Covid restrictions lift, to enroll in one of our many guided walks to learn more about them.

They are very popular and often book out quickly. I’ve been on quite a few they are usually free and I learn so much and meet new people.

Protecting our built heritage

In my 8 years on Macedon Ranges Shire Council, I have advocated for protecting and preserving our built heritage, as you have told me how important this is, and is something that I believe in also.

Many of the buildings in central Kyneton were built during the Gold Rush era (1850-1890) and their continuing presence is a feature that attracts residents and visitors alike to our towns.

Some heritage-value buildings are in Council ownership. Although these may have costs involved to maintain them, it is wonderful that they can remain in public ownership, to be appreciated and used by the community. Examples of these include the Bluestone Theatre (ex-Kyneton Methodist Church), Kyneton Town Hall and Kyneton Mechanics Institute, Kyneton Museum, the Malmsbury Town Hall and Mechanics Institute. Whilst these buildings have a well-used community purpose, it is worth maintaining them in community ownership. Some are owned by the State government and managed by Council, whilst others are owned by you all as the rate payers.

I have supported the investigation of the heritage of private property, to ensure we do not lose sites that form a valuable part of our history. I have supported funding over multiple budgets to perform heritage studies on both private and public sites, as well as funding for a trained heritage planner on council. There is still much work to do, but as more of our built history is acknowledged and recorded, we can apply appropriate planning scheme controls & overlays to ensure any future uses respect this historical significance. This doesn’t mean no change, but allows appreciation of the sites and guidance to current and future owners as to the forms of modification that do not destroy what makes the site significant.

Our bluestone heritage, particularly in Malmsbury and Kyneton, is an important feature of our towns. I have advocated for us to have a consistent approach to these assets when making assessments of them if they are in need of maintenance or repair.

For 8 years I have been Council’s delegate on the Macedon Ranges Heritage Council, where our volunteer heritage societies across the Shire meet with council staff and our heritage advisor to discuss current and potential future heritage concerns.

I thank the members of these heritage societies, who all give up their time voluntarily. These societies have carefully documented histories and produced books on particular topics. They also assist residents, businesses and visitors in looking into topics of interest, such as family histories. When they reopen, once the pandemic restrictions are relaxed, please go and say hello to them, and consider making a donation. Maybe even think of becoming a member yourself!

The photo on this page is the Malmsbury viaduct. It is neither a council owned nor managed asset (it is looked after by VicTrack, as part of the Bendigo railway line), but it illustrates one of my favorite heritage assets in our Shire: bluestone architecture.

Voting by Post in October 2020

Electoral rolls closed Friday the 28th of August for the Council elections.  You must submit your postal vote before October 23rd if you are eligible to vote. Ballot packs will start arriving at your nominated address from October the 5th, 2020 so you have two and a half weeks to make up your mind which three councillors you would like to represent you for the next 4 years. Look out for my flyer in your mail box around the same time. If you do not receive a ballot pack by October 16th then contact the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) for a replacement ballot pack.

Please see the official VEC website for more information on voting.

2020: same as 2016?

For the third time, I have decided to stand in the upcoming elections. I now have an even better idea about what is involved in work as a Councillor, and am well-practised in the ins and outs of how things work. Would I have done it eight years ago if I had known what was involved? That’s a hard question to answer, as it’s not a light workload if you do the work required to do the job well. However, it’s a worthwhile thing to work hard at, and has direct benefits in making where we live better than it might be were it just up to administrators and disinterested bureaucrats and politicians who are distant from local issues and concerns. I’ve been privileged to meet many interesting and public-spirited people intent on helping others to live well in their local area, and have been happy to aid and assist them in any way that I can in my time as a Councillor. I hope that I can continue to do this if you vote me in once more.

Preferences on the Ballot Paper

With the elections, not only does your first candidate supporting vote count, but so too do your preferences.

Most councillors are not elected outright, but get enough votes made up from both a primary vote, but also if you put them second or third. However, enough primary votes, a ‘quota’, will see a candidate elected.

You do not have to vote as per a candidate’s “How to vote card”, but are free to choose the order of the candidates you think would be best to be elected.

If you put a candidate last in your preferences, then they will receive no run on votes from other candidates, and are much less likely to be voted in.

Candidates will have their own reasons for choosing who they prefer to give their votes to, which may include supporting other female candidates, holding the same values, or feeling that the other person is a strong candidate, who if elected on votes before them will then be able to pass their excess votes on.

Preferences do count, so it is up to you to question your candidates about the reasons behind their preferences. Voting as per their preferences may not result in the candidates you want to be elected being elected.

This election, the Victorian Parliament have decided not to allow a list of candidate’s preferences to be distributed with the Ballot Pack, so you will have to see how the candidates recommend that you vote in their election material.