Yarra Climate Action Now Submission to Yarra City Council

Below is YCAN’s submission to the Yarra City Council’s budget process for 2009-10. It is currently being considered by the council. If you have any feedback or would like to support the submission, we need to hear from you – email us at YarraCAN@gmail.com. We would also encourage you to write to the Yarra councillors to express your support for the submission.

YCAN Submission to the City of Yarra Council

Yarra Climate Action Now (YCAN) is a fast-growing community-based organisation committed to lobby all levels of government into taking immediate action to reduce Australia’s emissions. We currently have 180 plus members and are linked to an Australia-wide climate action network which consists of around 150 grassroots groups like ours.

We seek Council’s endorsement of our group.

Climate change is the biggest challenge facing our society. Scientists agree that without immediate and drastic action the devastating affects of a changing climate will be unstoppable. Federal and State governments are not doing enough. It’s up to local government to set the example.

The City of Yarra is a diverse municipality, with a mix of public and private housing, rental properties, as well as many restaurants, cafes, small businesses and light industrial facilities. There are opportunities to reduce the carbon footprint of all these sectors.

YCAN feels strongly that the City of Yarra Council should be a leader in sustainable local government, but instead Yarra is lagging behind other Victorian municipalities such as Moreland, Port Phillip, Manningham, Maribyrnong, and Mt Alexander shire in terms of actions. Council needs to set firm goals for 2020 with clear interim targets.

YCAN will act as an independent eye on Council, ensuring that councillors honour their election promises to make Yarra a sustainable city. Councillors have pledged to make all Council operations carbon neutral. YCAN wants to see that goal extended to the whole municipality. We are sure that residents of the City of Yarra will support this and work together for a Zero Carbon Yarra by 2020. The time for endless strategy documents is past. It is time for action.

The move towards a Zero Carbon Yarra requires a partnership between Council and residents. We believe that communication between Council and residents must be improved to effectively inform and engage the whole community in the process. YCAN wants to participate in this partnership and is ready to assist in the communication process.

YCAN calls on the Yarra Council to implement the following list of urgent actions and include funding in the 2009 budget:

1. Set up a community sustainable-action forum.
The City of Yarra needs an organisation, independent from Council, to help households, businesses and community groups reduce their emissions. Programs should include free energy and water audits for all houses (including rental properties); retrofit of energy saving light globes, shower heads and draft stoppers; advice on ways to further improve energy efficiency; bulk purchase programs for solar hot water and photovoltaic panels.

2. Harvest stormwater from street runoff for watering street trees and parklands.
Our trees are vitally important, but they are under stress and dying due to drought. At the same time urban waterways are under stress from the quantity of runoff from paved surfaces and buildings. We will continue to have less rainfall but more severe storm events. We call on Council to capture rainfall locally, build storage tanks, wetlands in parks, create permeable surfaces to carry stormwater directly to trees, and utilise technology for pumping up water from the Merri Creek and the Yarra River when they are in flood (such as the water-driven Hi-Ram pump, which requires no external power source).

3. Fast-track town planning processes for residential permits which demonstrate strong environmentally sustainable design features.
Most town planning applications in the City of Yarra take 8-12 months to be determined. YCAN calls on the Council to appoint an additional full-time town planner so that planning applications demonstrating strong environmentally sustainable design features receive priority (every second application handled by town planning staff could be an ESD application). Reducing the time taken in town planning applications would cost Council very little but offers huge savings to building owners. This would offset the expense of “green” features in the buildings. This method is being used successfully overseas in the US and Canada. City of Yarra could lead the way by being the first municipality in Australia to implement this strategy.

4. Establish one-stop recycling drop-off station(s) within the municipality for recyclables that cannot currently be put in yellow bins.
One of Council’s goals is to reduce the waste stream that goes to landfill. Many recyclable items are going into domestic waste bins because of a lack of local options for disposal. We need a Byteback-style depot for drop-off of e-waste for components to be recycled and reused. Depots could also have bins for batteries, mobile phones, fluorescent light globes, TV sets (for lead recycling), sports shoes, corks and a drop-off point for small quantities of green waste. A large amount of green waste goes into the domestic waste bins because many Yarra residents have small gardens that require regular pruning producing amounts of green waste which they feel are too small for curbside collection.

5. Encourage the use of sustainable transport and prioritise non-vehicular traffic.
Remove some curb-side car-parking spaces and replace them with multi-bike parking areas and additional street trees. Examples already exist outside Spensley St Primary School in Clifton Hill and Lygon Court in Carlton. There should be bike parks like this in every street and retail area. To make cycling and walking easy, pleasant and safe, there needs to be an audit of routes to identify and fix gaps, obstructions and lack of safe crossings. We need a clear map of cycling and walking routes in the municipality.

6. Establish a Community Environmental Advisory Committee to provide professional and community input to Council.
Council must seek advice from industry professionals and knowledgeable members of the community in order to develop sound environmental policy and strategy. To achieve our goals we need to investigate ground-breaking programs that are being used in communities around the world, such as community compost collection, local electricity generation, and a food plan to maximise local food production, such as using fruit trees as street trees and encouraging food production on public and private land.

7. Advocate for a safe climate future.
While local government is an important player in climate change action, other levels of government have their hands on crucial levers, such as the energy and tax system. Yarra City Council must pass resolutions expressing their support for science-based targets and robust policies from the State and Federal Governments. It must also actively advocate for the Municipal Association of Victoria and the Victorian Local Governance Association to do the same. A first step would be a motion condemning the Federal Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme as being wholly inadequate (as Newcastle City Council and Canada Bay City Council already have).