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A Critique and Vision for Armidale

by
Dr Marty Branagan,
Centre for Peace Studies,
Centre for Research into Aboriginal and Multicultural Studies,
University of New England.
ua.ude.enu|naganarb.ytram#ua.ude.enu|naganarb.ytram

with additional material by
Dr Dorothy Robinson
Solar Armidale Project &
Armidale Air Quality Group
and Mark Cooper

Recommendations in Brief

Rather than just fast-tracking conventional business, fast-track environmental repair and ethical and sustainable businesses. Attempt to reduce the region’s ecological footprint, and increase biodiversity. All decisions should take into account whether they increase or decrease climate change and biodiversity.

Waste Management
To avoid the masses of advertising materials distributed weekly, issue ‘No Junk Mail’ stickers freely. Or issue stickers that indicate people who actually want this material (so the emphasis is on people to show they want it).
More encouragement for recycling.
Reduce landfill through (rates) incentives, user pays; find more appropriate site, away from World Heritage Area and scenic tourist route.
Support Waste into Art, but make it more prestigious, with bigger prize money and an annual exhibition at NERAM and NEAS
Recycle fluoro globes.
All food scraps from local restaurants, cafes, hotels should be composted via worm farms.
All council-sponsored events should avoid adding to landfill through the use of over-packaged tea and coffee, plastic plates and cutlery etc

Development
More emphasis on environmentally-friendly design: Raise (in steps) BASIX targets to 100%, as in other countries like UK. More policing of BASIX to insure for example that buildings are insulated, solar-passive etc.
Apply BASIX to all new buildings large and small, and retrofit pre-existing buildings.
Minimise tree removals: Any tree clearing must be offset by (at least) ten-to-one tree planting elsewhere to prevent further climate change and loss of biodiversity.

City of the Arts?
Install on public walls mosaics with nature and sustainability themes, such as those at Nambucca Heads and Scotts Head.
More sculpture, for example at the entrances to Armidale (based on the Walcha model)
Encourage more murals, especially those by youth at risk and indigenous youth
Bring back the position of officer for Third City of the Arts: Cathy Ovenden was bringing more money into the community than it was spending on her wage, and was responsible for cultural enrichment and all its attendant benefits: tourism, employment etc

Native trees, conserve local ecology
Establish a Botanical Gardens for endemic native plants and fauna (eg at the corner of Crest Road and Erskine St)

Discourage any further tree clearing for roads or road widening

Plant more native trees along creeklands and bikepath, north of bridge on Marsh St, around swimming poo, Civic Park, sportsfields, Faulkner nr Donnelly St, Jeffrey St
We should emulate the entrance to Canberra, or the streets of Willoughby, which are teeming with natives. Promote the uniqueness of local flora and fauna, and their importance for local ecosystems.

Widen nature strips.
Plant trees in middle of wide roads, as in the picturesque main street of Sawtell.

Education
Sustainability radio shows on all stations (like Adam Blakester’s superb one on 2ARM on Wednesdaty evenings)
Permaculture in schools
Involve all senior and higher junior school students in Clean up Australia day

Air Pollution
No woodstoves in new homes
If woodfires must be used, access only Certified Sustainable Firewood by an organisation such as the Firewood Association of Australia
www.firewood.asn.au
Better policing of woodsmoke infringements, and widespread illegal clearing for firewood

Government
Investment of public money should be in local (eg New England Credit Union) and ethical companies such as the Australian Ethical Investment or Maleny Credit Union. Avoid unethical or environmentally-destructive companies such as Coke, Bunnings (old growth forest logging in Western Australia), or companies with links to arms manufacturing, tobacco, alcohol, or sweatshop labour.
Support locally-owned companies over multinationals or large chains (the opposite of Centro’s policy)
Encourage to the area sustainable industries and research: solar, wind, mudbrick, rammed earth, permaculture, biodynamics. Organic agriculture sequesters carbon dioxide in the soil, as opposed to much of conventional agriculture. Encourage chicken, kangaroo, pig for meat, rather than beef.
Strengthen planning regulations : does the community benefit or does a large foreign-owned corporation? (see UNE article attached at end).

Funding
Local: Implement an optional Green levy (like in Willoughby, or Brisbane bushland levy)
Federal and state: Divert to social needs and sustainability subsidies currently given to mining, cars, fossil fuels
(Automotive industry subsidies $1600 million
Company cars tax concessions $1100 million
Aeroplane fuel tax concessions $800 million
Mining and oil refinery subsidies $800 million
Public transport $100 million
Solar energy $200 million
Wind energy negligible
Energy efficiency $100 million
(www.getup.org.au/campaign/AustraliasBiscuitBudget&id=322)
military spending ($60 million a day in Australia, and rising: forty times as much as we spend on the real threat of climate change).
Raise environment to equal priority from bottom of heap

Youth
The Youth Performance Café (which Cathy Ovenden attempted so hard to initiate) is still needed.
Expedite the new skatepark.

Aboriginal Social Justice and Reconciliation
Use for new street names some of the names that the Council has had supplied to it by local Aboriginal Elders years ago, but has never used.
Central and Civic Park, for example, could have much more interesting Aboriginal names, that would add a unique, local flavour.

Transport
Improved bike-paths and lanes.
Plan new subdivisions to be more pedestrian friendly (like Davis, California)
Long-term: Fleet of minibuses for public transport, with more extensive (and perhaps flexible) routes (between a conventional bus and a taxi).
State: Cheaper trains: so a family of four finds it cheaper to travel to Sydney by train than to drive
Encourage electric bikes, electric cars
Better signposting on roads for fauna eg turtles on Walcha Rd. When I raised this issue, I was buck-passed between Council and Department of Roads, and neither followed it up

Aesthetics
Maintain character of city: Discourage ugly monoliths like a number of new developments
No Bunnings at end/beginning of Waterfall Way (where road past World Heritage parks enters heritage town): it degrades both. At the very least, it needs to be heavily screened with trees (and a certain number of jobs for the local Aboriginal community should be mandatory, if as Richard Torbay asserts, it is to benefit it).
Fines for companies whose trolleys are found in the creeks.

Discourage demolition of homes, to reduce landfill and wasting of resources. At very least, all materials should be recycled.

Ban the growing of Genetically modified crops in the region, to avoid contamination of organic and conventional crops. The council is supposedly considering this, but has been very quiet on the issue.
Ban plastic bags in supermarkets, as has communities in Tasmania.
Ban use of rainforest timber (on human rights as well as environmental grounds), and old growth timber, in all publicly-funded projects, and preferably ban sale of such timber. I have seen children in Borneo starving, sick, substance abusing to the point of death, and forced into slums because of this trade.

At Federal level, reinstate Community Waster Grants programme (axed by the Rudd government) to supply funds for water efficient projects by schools and community organizations.

Noise Pollution
Armidale could market itself as a quiet town through stronger restrictions on leafblowers, chainsaws etc in residential areas eg Noise-Free Sundays, to start with.

Reduce grass areas that require mowing, through native plantings and mulching. This would reduce CO2 emissions, fuel consumption, water consumption. When replacing mowers, buy electric ones.

Scientists and conservationists warned about climate change 25 years ago, and tried to reduce plastic bags 15 years ago. They have been vindicated. It is now time for all three tiers of government, and for corporations to recognise the seriousness of environmental problems, and to act to reduce them (not just commission new reports).
Seek out, pay for and implement advice from sustainability, landcare, and conservation communities

More Detailed Critique

Recommendations are marked in bold typeface

1. Native tree plantings

Council should be congratulated for recent tree plantings. However, it is disappointing that, with the exception of some areas (Dumaresq Creek – which I discuss later – and the Cemetery) many of these involve exotics (non-natives). Indeed, many of our native trees on the streets and in backyards have been removed recently for developments or (presumably) for public liability reasons. Despite the best efforts of some Council employees, if removed trees are replanted, it is often by non-native trees. Some areas, such as the bike path, Civic Park and McDonald Park, would presumably be ideal for plantings of native trees.

The recent preservation of bushland near highway on north side of town is a positive step. Many citizens, Council employees and Councillors show they appreciate the local environment, but they are battling against a development ethos which show little evidence of appreciation of the ecological importance of maintaining native trees endemic to the region. These trees are intrinsically valuable, as well as being vital for many species of fauna, birds (and their song) and insects, and to maintain the balance of the local biosphere.

More could be done from all three tiers of government to enforce maintenance of native vegetation (particularly endangered ecological communities), and develop appreciation of the role native trees can play in drought relief through recycling rain, in reducing climate change, in reducing dust, air and noise pollution, in producing oxygen, giving shade, adding character to areas, being aesthetically pleasing , and raising the property values of areas. It is the leafy suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, after all, that are the most desired ones. The streets of Willoughby, for example, are filled with native trees, with significant areas of remnant bushland as well (see http://wepa.org.au/ or http://www.willoughby.nsw.gov.au/Environment.html).

Climate change is now widely accepted as scientific fact. It is an issue that affects all of us, through unpredictable weather, droughts and flood, impacts on farmers and food prices (with bananas a recent example), and increased insurance premiums. Biodiversity decline is another issue that affects global and local ecosystems, and we are, according to Dr Norman Myers (former NASA scientist), in the middle of a decline of catastrophic proportions, far greater than the “Great Dying” of 50 million years ago, when the dinosaurs and associated kin died out forever.

Council should be complimented for its successful application for a $55,000 Commonwealth grant for a regional climate change study, which will be augmented by NESAC funds to bring the total to near $90K. Work on that project will kick off in 2008-2009. There is also a smaller NSW grant to Council to do a sustainability plan for its operations, with maybe more to come.

More importantly, however, if Council is to address global warming and biodiversity decline, it needs to adopt a stronger policy of minimising native flora and fauna loss, such as through clearing land, and removing trees and shrubs and other habitat. Where this is absolutely unavoidable, council or developers need to replace each plant with at least ten elsewhere, preferably within the urban environment, but elsewhere if unavoidable (eg Malpas Dam is greatly in need of revegetating). They need to be far more diligent in replanting than they are at present in removing vegetation. Information should be freely available as to how many trees are removed annually, how many are planted, what proportion of these are native to the region, and how many survive. We need a global effort to address climate change issues, and council policy can be an important step.

The "Sustainable Councils, Schools & Communities" project is worthwhile, but needs personnel, such as Environmental Education Officers, to make it more effective. The bushland in the state’s 600,000 ha of Travelling Stock Routes, which are in danger of being sold off, should be preserved as wildlife corridors and public rights-of-way.

Creekland restoration

Water is essential to rural life, and the Armidale region, where major rivers begin, is significantly situated. Dumaresq Creek should be recognised as a vitally-important natural feature in the town. Armidale Urban Rivercare Group and Council should be complimented for their years of hard work in removing exotic vegetation from the creek and replanting with natives. However, given the urgency of climate change and species extinction, this work needs to be greatly accelerated, with much greater funding (for full-time employees), support and publicity (to attract volunteers), from all three tiers of government. There is also a need for personnel to co-ordinate the work of the various governmental and community groups involved in environmental restoration, as specified in the Armidale Greening Plan.

The rubbish in the creek should be removed regularly. Supermarkets should be fined for each trolley that is found in the creek. Attention could be drawn to the creek through building footbridges across it, and placing more benches and sculpture along the banks, so people can rest and appreciate it. A footbridge between the two parks near the Visitor Information Centre would prevent the dangerous practice of children clambering across rocks in the creek.

2. Sustainable food production and ethical employment

Similarly, efforts to introduce permaculture into town yards should be encouraged. At present, some yards with productive fruit and nut trees – on basalt soils or soils built up over years of fertilising, mulching etc - are being swallowed up by developments (eg one just near Tillbrooks shop). Council should endeavour to recognise the importance of permaculture in reducing food transport costs, both environmental (petrol production, air pollution etc) and financial. Such recognition could include information about permaculture, bio-dynamic farming and organic gardening in local papers, and an annual prize for organic gardening. This would tie in with what is clearly a growth area in the region, where there are now at least two functioning organic food cooperatives. We could be a leading centre for sustainable food production and research, particularly if we were to work with academics in this issue at the University of New England, such as Professor David Brunkhorst and Dr Paul Christiansen.

Where Council and MPs are encouraging industry into the region, it should ensure that the companies involved are ethical, using for example the guidelines of Australian Ethical Investment, which do not support companies involved in uranium mining, old growth forest logging, third world sweatshops, arms dealing or similar practices. Locally-owned rather than multinational corporations should be given preference, to ensure that decisions are made in the community, and that profits remain here. Under such guidelines, Coca Cola, with its poor social and environmental history and its monopolistic practices (see www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=34604), would not be permitted to turn our precious water into unhealthy and addictive products. Similarly, Bunnings is a company which has contributed to the unsustainable logging of old growth forests (see www.lexicon.net/peterc/Letters/buypassb.htm. or http://www.geco.org.au/boycott.htm). Council should encourage industry involved with renewable energy (eg solar, wind power, biogas) and environmental or cultural innovation. Council should also encourage local initiatives such as the Solar Armidale Project, set up to stimulate a local industry to manufacture solar air heaters and retrofit them into existing buildings in conjunction with ceiling and wall insulation to replace excessively polluting woodheaters (http://www.3sc.net/solarm/sshdemo.htm). In this post-industrial society, employment creation should also involve permanent part-time employment as well as full-time employment.

3. A cap on population growth

There needs to be a cap on population growth and development. The current trend is to maximise subdivision rather than sprawl into grazing country. Both have their problems. Maximising medium density housing (often involving poor architecture to increase profits for absentee landlords) can lead to serious social dysfunction. It is no coincidence that areas such as Girraween, where many lower-income people are crowded into flats – with little provision for children’s or youth recreation - are those areas with most domestic violence and abuse.

Town planning for sustainability and social cohesion requires a knowledge of what size population to plan for. There is much evidence that a steady state population is more desirable than boom-and-bust development. Scientists have for some decades now rejected unlimited growth as impossible on a finite planet. Many regions are already reaching their carrying capacity, with water in particular becoming scarce. Becoming smarter environmentally would increase our carrying capacity in Armidale, but there is little evidence of this occurring in Armidale. Rather, much of the development seems inappropriate. Coastal towns which have gone along this path have lost many of the reasons for their initial attractiveness.

We can already see in Armidale increases in traffic (a friend, recently returned to Armidale from years away, believes the town is already much less people-friendly). As population grows, this will further increase, bringing more frustration as well as accidents, noise and air pollution, and parking problems. Greater population also puts immense pressure on regional recreation areas. Some once-quiet areas now echo to the sound of dirt bikes on weekends, while at Mt Yarrowick four-wheel drives plough straight through picnic areas and across the creek.

Firewood is also becoming scarce, with some suppliers ringbarking forests to continue supplies. If all new houses are required to have adequate insulation and are designed on passive solar principles, heating costs should be less than half the cost of existing houses. Council should therefore require that all new houses use non-polluting heating to protect our health and reduce the environmental impact of firewood collection.

The practice of demolishing houses to build units is also highly unsustainable. It wastes precious resources and contributes significantly to landfill (see http://www.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/abs@.nsf/39433889d406eeb9ca2570610019e9a5/82D6EAD861A050C9CA2573C600103EA1?opendocument).

Council should resist further population and housing growth in Armidale, but should support rural towns which are declining in population.

4. Sustainable energy and materials

Council should be congratulated for offering financial incentives for wood stoves to be replaced. For most people, however, this is not enough to purchase a solar system for electricity and hot water. Council supporting the solar industry would help bring the cost of solar power down. All new developments and council buildings, such as the proposed library, should be designed for maximum environmental sustainability, using solar passive design so that they don’t need woodheaters (which should not be permitted because of the health impacts of the air pollution and the impact of firewood collection on the environment). Council should also encourage solar power, and environmentally friendly materials, such as plantation timbers, rammed earth, mudbrick or strawbale. The new Oorala Centre at UNE, and houses on the Steiner Sustainable Housing tour are good examples, with the latter tour drawing visitors nationally and internationally. The state-wide BASIX regulations is a good initiative, but must apply equally to large companies as it does to individual builders – perhaps more so, given that larger companies are generally more able to afford to build sustainably.
Such initiatives could be a niche market for Armidale, and should be encouraged and supported by council. Environmental sustainability and education could be a focus for council, and this would draw researchers, tourists, individuals and councillors from around the world, just as occurs with the eco-town of Davis in California, or with the various councils that embraced waste recycling early. Making an early and committed stand would be the key to drawing such attention.

Rainforest and old-growth timbers should be banned for environmental and social justice reasons (I have seen rainforest dwellers in Borneo starving because of inappropriate logging). In older Council buildings, Council should switch to Green Power. Council should reduce grassed areas through native plantings, and when replacing lawnmowers should buy electric mowers. Council could also run ads in the papers and on radio that condemn littering, exhort people to refuse plastic bags at supermarkets and to turn off lights, and
With Peak Oil causing prices to rise fast (to $200 a barrel and perhaps to $500 by 2020), and climate change evident, authorities need to encourage use of transport alternatives to cars. The recent roadworks have been extensive and useful, but public bodies now need to adapt towards alternatives such as buses and bicycles rather than individual cars – whose needs have been over-subsidised for many years (see http://www.getup.org.au/campaign/AustraliasBiscuitBudget&id=322). Bike paths should be maintained better, and extended to encourage this most efficient method of transport. Bicycling should also be encouraged by providing for bicycles on local roads, e.g. by painting bicycle symbols on the roads to indicate the best place for cyclists to ride (such as in the middle of the lane on single-lane roundabouts). In the US, these symbols are known as “Sharrows” – see http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0831/p14s02-ussc.html. In 2005, San Francisco decided to stencil 2,500 'sharrow' symbols on its streets. The Queensland equivalent is known as the ‘yellow bike’ symbol (see
http://www.yeatesit.biz/transfiles/someexamplesofyellowbike111203.htm).

5. Aboriginal Heritage

Council is to be congratulated for establishing sculptures and seats in the creeklands recently, and for the Judith Wright Memorial park. A similar park acknowledging the sustainable custodianship of this region for millennia by the traditional owners would aid both sustainability and race relations. This could occur in Civic Park, and include native vegetation and a sculpture made by indigenous and non-indigenous artists. Both Central and Civic Parks could be renamed with suitable local Aboriginal names, as could any new streets. A list of suitable Aboriginal names has been available to Council for some years, but the Council’s Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer believes few, if any, have been used.

6. Visual environment

Although Council goes to considerable lengths, within their legal powers, to try to preserve Armidale's identity and heritage, more consideration of aesthetics should go into development proposals. For example, the main highway through the town should be picturesque and unique (such as in Sawtell). It has some beautiful cathedrals, hotels and Central Park, but is marred with fast food joints, service stations, a supermarket (corporations which are far from sustainable) and neon signs, all of which could be enhanced by native trees. A major part of it is unimpressive, and could be anywhere on Earth.

The decision to allow the ‘Heights on Erskine’ development was unfortunate. As in Burley-Griffin’s design for Canberra, hilltops should remain as undeveloped natural areas for public enjoyment and aesthetic appeal. As such, the bushland on the corner of Erskine and Crest Rd should be preserved for its visual importance, as well as because it is an endangered ecological community.

Architectural Aesthetics (by Mark Cooper)

The council seems to be currently approving the building of townhouses by developers purchasing and demolishing groups of houses in very good condition in streets where there is a consistent streetscape with the result that the streetscape is being radically changed. From three house sights comes 6 to 8 townhouses. This will in turn no doubt affect the aesthetic of the town overall and with the continuation of this type of development, Armidale must eventually lose its current strong connection to its past and become less of an attraction for tourists as well as people wishing to move to a town with “character”.

Arguably a town’s “character” comes from the style of its buildings and materials used in their construction as well as their size and where they are situated in relation to their use and other buildings, and all these make up the aesthetics of any building. New buildings in Armidale seem to suggest that there is no overall plan for the city in the CBD and its suburbs which takes into account the history, streetscapes or building style of those buildings that we all say have “character”. I do not advocate stopping developments altogether, but rather that there be strong and consistent guidelines for any development in Armidale and that these would be developed from robust debate within the community taking into account the needs of the people who live here as well those wishing to build here and that these guidelines include a strong focus on maintaining whatever it is that people feel contributes to the style and therefore “character” of Armidale.

In my opinion, the CBD has already taken on the look of many towns and I am particularly disappointed that the architecture of newer buildings such as the Wicklow extensions, Cole complex, most of the Kmart complex, and now Centro, has little or no connection with where these buildings are situated; their lack of a sense of place is obviously missing. They are the same structures you would see in any bigger city and have again radically changed the streetscape into one of sheer walls, some reflective, some black, some painted concrete in colours and textures that do not show an understanding of nor connect with the New England environment. This must in turn affect the way people relate to these buildings.

I know some people love Centro because it feels like they’re in a big city; while others do not go there because of the same reason. For those people who like the feeling, I can’t help wonder why they continue to live here; perhaps it’s because they are students who miss home, or others who wish Armidale were more like a big city. I thought that people were here because it’s not a big city. I have a very strong intuition that the same shops could have been built in a style much more sympathetic to their surroundings, with a much lower roof-line with more solar passivity for less cost and more people would go there.

This trend of unsympathetic buildings does not have to be and is thankfully not followed by all. Take for instance the new NECU building; Armidale blue brick or like, sympathetic façade and windows with an internal floor sculpture produced by a local artist. The people who designed and built it understand that buildings have aesthetic and social responsibilities to the surrounding buildings and the street they are in, as well as the people who work in them and also to those who use and/or visit them. A building is not just four walls and a roof, and every building should take into account these important elements. I would suggest that the NECU is a popular building society in this community because they understand the need for their business to appeal to their customers and part of that appeal is the building they trade from, and I think they have succeeded in achieving a strong connection with the public on these two fronts.

Similarly, there have been some new dwellings built in a style that in my opinion compliments the look of Armidale. That these are popular retirement homes and units seems to indicate that these developers know what that age group is seeking for their accommodation needs and they also have been sympathetic to the style of houses around them. They don’t look out of place. The new dwellings being built on Link Road are of a particular style and are similar to each other, but they suffer from the heaviness of low, tiled roofs that are in some cases the colour black. This is in a semi-rural area on the outskirts of a country town!! What a welcome to the city – a building estate which looks like any in bigger cities. I understand that the current BASIX guidelines dictate certain aspects of home design and colours, but if this trend continues the entrance to Armidale will lose its potential to attract rather than disinterest or even repel potential short and long-term visitors.

If Armidale is to retain enough of the style of its older houses and buildings for it to maintain its character and to appeal to tourists and those wishing to move to such a place as well as continue to acknowledge those who already live here, we need to make up our minds about what future developments should look like. The internal structure of any building could remain as a developer desires, but externally there needs to be a recognition of where the building is reflected in its size, the materials and colours used in its construction and most importantly how and where it fits in any overall vision of Armidale.

Mark Cooper

« UNE’s key role in national plans for counselling education Symposium to boost innovation in primary industries »

Call for ’strong regulation’ on retail sites
Recommendations in a report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) could lead to more “shop cemeteries” in the main streets of towns, according to two academics at the University of New England.
The report – on the competitiveness of grocery retail prices – was released in July after being commissioned by the Federal Government at the beginning of the year. Among the measures it recommends is a further deregulation of retail sites as part of an attempt to increase competition.
Associate Professor Robert Baker and Dr Stephen Wood from UNE’s discipline of Geography and Planning say this recommendation could lead to a proliferation of “greenfield” retail development on the outskirts of towns. “Such a policy would further exacerbate the problems facing struggling main streets,” Dr Baker said, “and see the increasing invasion of pawnbrokers, $2 shops, tattooists, op shops, local MPs, and ‘adult’ shops into what is becoming the ‘dead heart’ of towns. The ACCC seems intent on creating retail deserts in town centres in the name of competition.”
“What Australia needs is strong regulation, not motherhood statements on competition,” he continued. “Competition policies like this are based on the economic ideology that ‘the market always gets it right’, but in fact the market usually gets it wrong. The ACCC needs to take on the hard decisions against the big players.”
It is those “big players”, the academics say, who could exploit any further deregulation of retail development by building more out-of-town supermarkets – still classified as “general stores” in out-dated government regulations.
Dr Baker and Dr Wood advocate a system similar to that in the UK, where the emphasis in supermarket development is on “what’s good for the community” and not “what’s good for the supermarket company”. “In Britain, priority is given to developments in town centres,” Dr Wood said, “and developments have to be sustainable in terms of the town’s population.”
“In Australia we’re continuing to operate in a policy vacuum in terms of retail planning, and it’s undermining main-street viability and vitality. What we need is a retail policy that has definitions, guidelines, and enforceability.”

by adamblakesteradamblakester, 11 Apr 2009 06:43
wanderer_gcwanderer_gc 13 Oct 2008 05:02
in discussion Hidden / Per page discussions » Governance

Why do we keep focusing on local government for models of governance?

Effective Community Governance (ECG) - http://www.resultsthatmatter.net

Urban Governance and Community Governance - http://www.gdrc.org

by wanderer_gcwanderer_gc, 13 Oct 2008 05:02

Why is it that everytime there is a discussion about the viability of a community (be it local, state or country - and for that matter the world), is the focus on growth to solve the problem. Growth of business (usually in numbers of businesses and people employed) and therefore growth of the population.

Whay can't we look at stability (or gorwing through natural increase) as focus for a sustainable future???

Is there are ways to improve the econmic capacity (and lets focus on that here due to the topic) without increase in the number of people in the area or our towns???

What impact would this have on our decisions and the influences on other areas such as social, political and environmental areas?

Challenge for the thinking by wanderer_gcwanderer_gc, 13 Oct 2008 04:21

Wouldn't an "Open Space" style process allow for more free flow of discussion around the topics. This takes out the restriction of the silos that have been created through the topics and the way they were discussed.

Silo thinking is a trap that many organisations fall into and is one of the major problems with Government responses to issues such as regional development. Because everything is so interconnected and influenced, there needs to be "holistic" view used to work on the issues that face our community.

The "business capacity" of our towns is influenced by the economic capacity of the people. If there is a significant social issues around gambling and say health, then the econmic capacity of the people is reduced and less $ are spent in the town.

Linkages analysis needs to be done to look at these types of issues.

Re: Economic or business? by wanderer_gcwanderer_gc, 13 Oct 2008 04:15

And this raises for me (Adam B) that the make up of the working groups, and the subject topics for the working groups, for Phase II of the strategic planning need to be considered thoughtfully.

How can we structure this process in a way that also gets this organic cross fertilisation of ideas and connections? Paradoxical I know, however this is in many respects an era of paradox, a time of paradigm storms and great change - hopefully more better than worse.

the knee bone conected to the hip bone
everything connects to everything so if we have skewed economic policies they will affect our social and environmental policies - lets get real about complex systems and stop compartmentalising everyhting - divide and conquer - unite and survive

NESS ExecutiveNESS Executive 27 Sep 2008 11:18
in discussion Hidden / Per page discussions » Global Forum

hi, just want to clarify something about bio diesel - why not look at using waste to create bio dielsel , not food crops then everybody is in a win win situation

by NESS ExecutiveNESS Executive, 27 Sep 2008 11:18

Joining the Economic Group in the Sustainability Forum at NERAM on the 22 September I sensed that the conversation tended to return to discussions of business development, including the hoary old chestnut of attracting multinationals, business investment, and potential in selling off our common entitlements. So it was more business development than economic considerations. Near the end of the session the topic of growth from within the community was raised. Had there been more time - and perhaps a broader spread interests present - perhaps the discussion might have turned to more creative ways to discuss economics from the ground up. Its funny how commerce, industry, and other politically powerful interests tend to quarantine "the economic". I raised gambling as an economic issue, but was told it belonged in the social. Where are the unemployed and family voices that really have to deal with economic development, its consequences, and who are in the strongest position to make economic change at the micro-level? Let's not pretend that the neo-liberal consumer society is going to be sustainable, its already crashing. The bail-out of the US Financial sector by the Fed, suggests there is now a born-again Marxist (well at least a materialist) in the White House! So perhaps we need to think further on what we mean by sustainable economy for New England, and how we go about developing one.

Economic or business? by ParartoPararto, 23 Sep 2008 10:37

By Kathryn Brooks

Four schools, compromising of Year 5 and 6 students were involved with the ideas generation of Ed Fest with the theme ‘From Little Things, Big Things Grow’ on Friday 19th of September 2008. Martin Gully, the Armidale School, Newlinging and Sandon were the primary schools that contributed their big ideas to the Youth Stream. The theme and aim of these workshops was not merely to get brainstorming, but to generate a sense of ownership and positive ways the students could positively contribute towards sustainability.

What are the positive aspects of Sustainability?
• Recycling- by reusing items besides being sustainable it is a cheaper option than purchasing new. Recycling can make something new, a present for instance.
• Turn off electrical, entertain yourself and play outside
• Care to the community
• Education programs advising people of what sustainability is and how to put sustainable practices in place
• Help the environment, earth, animals, plants and stops pollution
• Leading by setting an example to other regions and rest of the world
• Planting trees- this generates a habitat for animals, decreases carbon, creates oxygen
• Being aware of water sustainability, using water tanks.
• Transport issues
• New technologies
• New ideas, awareness for the future generations, we owe those generations a responsibility to act responsible now.
• Save electricity- generate your own somehow and save money

What are the Negatives?
• High use of paper, uses a lot of trees
• Costs of developing new technologies
• We still need to use electricity
• Some think you have to give up your comforts
• Changing the way you think and how others think about the issue of sustainability
• Difficult to convince people to change their habits
• Legal restrictions against sustainability, rather than promoting and assisting in the development of sustainable projects
• Difficulties in creating a balance between trying to act in sustainable ways and still not having to give up everything
• What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another, this is meant in several ways. Mainly this theory meant what sustainable practices and issues in one area may not be the same for another region. Eg, water issues are not as high a priority in Armidale as they are in Tamworth, hence the solutions to this issue must be different. Further, the sustainability solutions may not be effective, and need to be altered accordingly, like using bike riding or walking more, is realistic for people who live in town, compared to those who live outside of town.

What can be done?
• Recycling
• Reusing- donating unwanted toys and clothes to charity
• Involvement of schools, by using these measures turn off lights, fans and computers; composite and worm farms; water tanks; paper recycling and using reusable containers for lunches. (the students used these examples from practices currently employed)
• Composite
• Replacing industries and factories that cause a lot of pollution in producing electricity, with renewable energy or clean factories
• Limiting showers
• Education and expo’s, where the message must be conveyed clearly and correctly to the wider publicly at all levels.
• Transport- use less cars, public transport, use smaller cars, more bikes, and increase walking to places.
• Increased use of biodiesels
• Government rebates and incentives which should be aimed at recycling, planting trees, and implementation and economic access to renewable energy sources of electricity.
• Government and community action- letter writing and community campaigning to parliamentarians. Also the unity of a community can bring about change using their collective employment of methods which may draw government attention that the issue is valued and to do something about it.
• Sustainable farming
• Eat more non-artificial foods
• Grow your own produce
• Enhance and develop renewable energy- Solar, wind and hydro power
• Solar cars
• Simple changes like putting more clothes on instead of increasing the temperate of the heating
• Being aware of electricity use, this can be cut down by switching off lights, limit use of television and computers, turning off electrical goods when not in use and turning off and removing plugs from the power points (if not in use).
• Use of power saving light bulbs
• Energy efficiency electric goods, to let consumers be educated about the consumption of electricity and allow for choices when buying products
• Building sustainable houses, with awareness of the colours used (can generate and retain heat in rooms), skylights rather than electricity, solar panels and water tanks
• Cut down on packaging, this causes more pollution, waste and harm to the environment (also directly to animals)

Sustainability Strengths of Region
UNE as key part of Region
Water
Cooler climate (less cooling required in summer)
Well educated and informed population
Location - mid way between Sydney and Brisbane, height above sea level
Transport (rail and air)

Weaknesses
Reliance on UNE
Current water use practices (not used in sustainable way - like Tamworth)
Cold climate (need for heating)
No light industry
Domestic housing poorly designed (aspect, passive solar)
Lack of capitalisation (eg to do big development our way rather than needing to rely on developers capital - like Woolworths - and then development is done their way)
Lack of northern transport
Lack of public transport
Over reliance on cars

Sustainability Challenges
Enhance population control
Water becoming more challenging
Availability of land due to past degradation (eg. arsenic poisoning of orchards)
Lack of political power/influence
Long distance from major centres and need for transport

Sustainability Opportunities
Influence builders/developers to use ESD
Renewable energy production (wind)
Sunlight

What are the Region’s Strengths and Assets (past and present)?

  • Large variety or environmental zones (ecological diversity) on either side of the Range.
  • Reserve of European and American species (e.g. elms isolated from threats of Dutch Elm Disease.
  • Good (artificial) water reserves.
  • High bio-mass density relative to Australia generally (especially pre-colonisation by Europeans)
  • High food production per capita
  • Attractive liveability attracting high financial capital per capita
  • Centralised institutions for knowledge transfer and research (university and TAFE)
  • Variety of cultural backgrounds including different examples of intentional communities.
  • Variety of religious beliefs as a source of ethics.

What are the Region’s Weaknesses and Liabilities (past and present)?

  • Over dependence on petroleum based fuel for transport.
  • Lost of forestation and fragility of some ecosystems (as with Eucalypt forest in the past)
  • Increasing inequity in distribution of wealth
  • Ghetto-isation of marginalised populations.
  • Impact of gambling and substance abuse, especially in ghetto populations.
  • Aging population
  • Aging public facilities, building stock, and transport infrastructure
  • Susceptibility to Australia’s declining wealth producing capacity relative to other countries – lack of capital and density of population.
  • Short growing season over most of the region.
  • Overwork in unproductive occupations (busy work)

What are the Region’s Opportunities (looking to the future – current and emerging)?

  • Potential for transport and energy infrastructure improvements e.g potential for electrification and expansion of rail networks, distributed co-generation of electricity from coal or wood, with other uses of heat energy.
  • Greater use of solar energy
  • Reafforestation and tree crops.
  • Expansion of artificial growing environments and range of products
  • A 20 hour working week.
  • More time to walk and use bicycles (especially in level communities)
  • Greater production of ephemeral products – education, and media.
  • What are the Region’s Challenges (looking to the future – current and emerging)?
  • Getting more equitable distribution of wealth, greater opportunities for currently ghettoised communities.
  • Transport and energy economics.
  • Prioritising real work from busy work and achieving the 20 hour week.
  • Improving health
  • Solving the dilemma between burning renewable resources (wood) and particulate retention in communities susceptible to atmospheric inversion layers.
  • Attachment to materialism and its attendant ideologies

What does a sustainable New England Region look and feel like? In what ways will it be different to how it is today?

  • I don’t know because I haven’t experienced one, perhaps:
  • It would have indigenous people able to participate in the community at all institutional levels, higher education, business, religion, and politics.
  • It would recycle its current housing stock into more efficient forms of dwelling.
  • It would have efficient non- petroleum fuelled public transport and goods delivery systems.
  • It would produce more local food, perhaps with greenhouse production heated and carbonated from co-generation of electricity.
  • It would be reforested, with diverse woodlands, ideally to dry rainforest with long fire cycles, not just eucalypts with short fire cycles as per the last million years or so.

What do you need to be able to better address sustainability?
An end to capitalism and the so-called “free-market” as we have come to know it.
Something more like a socialist market economy, perhaps, or better still intentional non materialistic communities.

Please list who you involved, including positions and organisations, where relevant.
No one else, other than previous work associates and authors who have influence my approach over 30 years.

by NESS ExecutiveNESS Executive, 18 Sep 2008 11:36

From an Economics / Business point of view, and in your opinion:

What are the Region's Strengths and Assets (past and present)?
Our strengths are our water supply; our climate; our cultural diversity; our education facilities; our natural beauty

What are the Region's Weaknesses and Liabilities (past and present)?
Our distance from markets; our distance from raw products; our topography in that every route into and out of Armidale has a steep mountain range making transport costs higher.

What are the Region's Opportunities (looking to the future – current and emerging)?
I believe our opportunities are in the retirement industry particularly for retired professional people that want to live and interact in an informed community. Niche industries such as Petals, EA systems, New Horizon, Aspen. Ecotourism i.e. Fleet Helicopters; walking tours; fishing and wildlife tours. Internet business'

What are the Region's Challenges (looking to the future – current and emerging)?
Fuel costs; Securing a natural gas supply; finding other niche industries suitable for Armidale

What does a sustainable New England Region looks and feel like? In what ways will it be different to how it is today?
It will have greater focus on sustainable living; more people using active and passive solar technology; More people growing their own food;

What do you need to be able to better address sustainability?
SLEX is a great start, but we need to sell our strategies better on waste (council has a good strategy). We need to do more to encourage developers to build homes to suit Armidale rather than just rely on basix

Bruce Whan

by NESS ExecutiveNESS Executive, 18 Sep 2008 10:03
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