2017 Council elections: Where the candidates stand on climate change and water

The Bathurst region is gearing up for Council elections (for nine positions) to be held on September 9, 2017.

BCCAN has written to all 40 candidates asking them for their views on two important issues: climate change and policy regarding Macquarie/Wambool river water.

As the responses come in, we will publish them verbatim here. Closer to the election, we will also summarise responses into one shorter document and release this to the local media.

Megan Jackson (Ind. Graeme Hanger Group)

1. Management of water in the Macquarie
Thank you for the link to BCAN's response on the Regis Resources effluent diversion project. It was a thoughtful and comprehensive submission, which I am broadly in agreement with. The outcome of the McPhillamy mine proposal, where the re-use of recycled mine water is now being investigated, shows that if we stand up for our water resources then better solutions can indeed be found. Water has always been a precious resource in this dry continent, and is only becoming more so as we see weather effects arising from climate change, and I believe it is important that Bathurst think globally as well as locally in protecting and managing our water sources, and our river systems.
 
2. Cities Power Partnership
The CPP is an interesting project, with much food for thought. I'm very supportive of the general principal that local councils should be prepared to act locally on improving energy efficiency, and Bathurst council is already acting on this in a number of ways. I would want to see a deeper analysis of the costs and benefits to council before committing, but it is certainly something I would encourage council to investigate.

Cr Bobby Bourke (and team)

Team Bourke is a YES.
Look forward to progressing.
 
Also supporter of Energy security for Bathurst regional council.

Gordon Crisp

Gordon Crisp phoned BCCAN President Tracy Sorensen and said that he had been a champion of the river since the beginning. He said he had referred corrupt Murray-Darling water usage to ICAC. On climate change action, he said he was in complete agreement with the science of climate change and the need to respond. 

Cr Monica Morse

Thank you for your request for my position on Council signing up to the Cities Power Partnership.

I have had a good read of the website – thank you for the link.   I personally think it is a good idea and one that I would be very happy to pursue.  However, my knowledge of Council processes is that, if the proposal to sign up to the Partnership was put to Council, it would have to be thoroughly researched, particularly with a view to finding out the benefits to Council and the cost to Council.  This would result in a report coming to Council and a decision on whether to sign up would be made by Council.  Whether it would be approved or not would depend on the opinions of the Councillors and the value to Council.

John Fry team (Greens)

On Cities Power Partnership

On behalf of the Bathurst Council Greens team John Fry will advocate for the Climate Councils Cities Power Partnership. John has met with Tim Flannery and Prof. Will Steffen both Councillors with the climate council in Canberra, who both said John’s work with energy, water and landscapes was “on the right track” and last month met with Prof. Mark Howden from the Climate Institute to discuss the issues of climate, landscapes and energy we all face.

The Greens will contribute to the five key actions which build on the Bathurst region energy planning work done by John Fry and many others since 2000.

John Fry has been working with energy professionals and energy suppliers to look at ways the Bathurst region can become an energy generator locally and sell to the grid. We propose a mix of large 50mw solar plants down to house top systems, including using the methane at the Bathurst Waste Disposal depot to generate power.  We will ask that any new developments in Bathurst region are off set by renewable power.

On River water

I’ve worked for more than two decades with many residents of the Bathurst region including most of our environment groups such as Greening Bathurst, Bathurst Climate Action Network, landcare groups, government departments, mayors, councillors and local MPs. I want to continue this work restoring urban creeks and wetlands including Hawthornden Creek, Jordan Creek, Raglan Creek and the Kelso flood plains.

I will also continue to fight for our trees which add value to our properties, cool our climate and conserve water. Council is planting a lot of trees but they are also threatening to remove our healthy, iconic street trees without any good reasons. I want to back the wishes of residents and visitors for trees throughout our city and villages.

The Rural Fire Service will declare a total fire ban tomorrow – September 1 - one month early and the Bureau of Meteorology has declared Bathurst to be at its driest in recorded history. The dry soils and climate conditions government scientists told us about ten years ago have arrived in the Bathurst region. Farmers in our region tell us it is getting much drier, farm dams are low and they are carrying less stock even after record grass growth last winter.

These water problems are not going to be solved by big pipelines and bigger dams – we need to restore our wetlands, creeks and rivers starting on the edges of Bathurst Water catchment at Tarana, Yetholme, Newbridge and Rockley. If we save our rivers and wetlands now we will have a strong economy in the future – secure water means jobs and sustainable growth in the Bathurst region.

Bathurst is part of the Murray Darling Basin which produces forty percent of Australia’s food and fibre but it is in very poor condition and government funding for landcare and environment is decreasing every year. But education programs by all levels of government have helped Bathurst and other big cities use less water, recycle and harvest storm water, even when we hear reports of big irrigators ripping us off.

With bushfires just around the corner Bathurst Regional Council needs to take urgent preventative action – including working with State and Federal MPs and Senators to secure more emergency funding. Council needs to be working also – right now – with the Rural Fire Services and the State Emergency Services, training more rural fire fighters and planning for grass and bush fires this summer. Last year we saw disastrous fires in Dunedoo and we can learn a lot from how that was managed – and what actions are needed now for the Bathurst region.  

 

Jess Jennings (Better Bathurst)

The following is my Better Bathurst team response to your two questions:

  1. We respectfully request a copy of your policy position on the management of water in the Macquarie as part of your plan to lead Bathurst into the future as a sustainable and economically successful council; and
  2. We respectfully request that you indicate to us whether or not you will advocate for council to sign up to the CPP. Furthermore, it would be wonderful to know what your 5 key actions would be under the Cities Power Partnership (CPP).

Better Bathurst Response 1) – Macquarie River / water

Me and my team fundamentally believe in the value of science and the process of scientific investigation, research and results when assessing human impact on our natural environment. We believe in the role of science over and above blindly following any ideology.

Regarding the specific Regis water issue, the ability to make a logical assessment of a rational, science-based Environmental Impact Statement of the Regis request did not come to pass because Bathurst Council (Jess Jennings included) voted to defer the original request from Regis in order to get a science-based assessment, in the form of an EIS.

This appears in keeping with Greening Bathurst’s statement in its written submission to council, p12:

The Q&A document say that further studies would be done "if the project proceeds to Environmental Impact Statement"? Why not require Regis to do these studies before Councillors make their decision?

When it comes to other environmental issues like climate change, pollution, biodiversity, and natural resource management, the role of the scientific process is critical and indeed fundamental to both understanding the problems and finding workable solutions. This science-led approach will be applied by Better Bathurst candidates should they be elected to Bathurst Regional Council.

Better Bathurst Response 1) – Cities Power Partnership (CPP)

At the July meeting of Bathurst Regional Council, Jess Jennings personally lobbied during Public Question Time for Bathurst to become a member of CPP, particularly in light of Parkes Council having joined the first round.

It is true that Bathurst Council is following CPP with interest through CENTROC but this is not adequate, and Better Bathurst’s pro-active leadership would subscribe to CPP at the earliest opportunity (hopefully round two if not too late). Jess Jennings has recently spoken to Ms Amanda McKenzie (CEO, The Climate Council) and the CPP senior manager, and the Better Bathurst team is acutely aware that this project has the capacity to support Bathurst through the coming transition towards a low-emission economy, including our electricity network.

Of all the candidates on offer, only Better Bathurst has investigated what it would take to make the entire Bathurst economy (residents, business and government) self-sufficient in renewable energy. How can any council make progress if it doesn’t understand the problem that needs to be solved? Broadley speaking, Bathurst could likely be supplied by the equivalent of:

  • Two Nyngan solar farms,
  • Two SA-Tesla battery banks, and
  • 10% back-up generation from wind, pumped-hydro or gas.

In terms of top 5 actions once council had subscribed to CPP, they would of course be directly shaped by the content and learnings from being part of CPP. But regardless, we suggest that issues/idea that must be addressed include:

1)    Extensive discussions between council and local energy and network providers to assess options for transitioning Bathurst to a low-emissions economy in a manner that is affordable, secure, and reliable;

2)    Street lighting in Bathurst needs to be reviewed for potential energy-cost savings and safety, given new technologies are already on the market, eg Smart LEDs;

3)    The economic value of introducing battery storage to support council facilities, especially those with renewable energy/solar already in place;

4)    Investigate options for making Bathurst Council a zero-net emissions organisation, like Sunshine Coast Council recently did overnight by building its own solar farm; and

5)    Bathurst Council should publish the NSW Govt’s projections and impacts of a changing climate for all residents and businesses to use as a guide both adaptation and mitigation efforts and all investments into the future. For example, what impact will stronger storms and more intense rain events have on the annual council road maintenance budget over the next 50+ years?

 

Donald Alexander (Morse team)

thank you for the opportunity to comment on your BCAN request. Our No1 candidate is going to respond as well and here are my responses to your two questions:

 

Water:  A key point is that water is the communities’ most precious resource and requires careful management; future planning needs to take into account that the continent is getting drier and new technologies for collecting, conserving and delivering water are required. I will be asking the BRC to commit to a study into how the town can manage its water resources up and past 2025.

 

Climate change and electricity: I first heard of the community power concept at the recent Greening Bathurst forum and consider it a very worthwhile alternative. My only concern is that by committing to the partnership we would be infringing on individuals rights to decide how they want to receive power and gas services. If a very sound business case be made that ensure all ratepayers are guaranteed substantially lower power costs then it is worth investigating and a business case being presented to the community.

 

 

I trust this helps your members make up their minds, regards, Donald

Don Grant AM

Thanks for your mail. You ask for my policy on the management of water in the MacQuarie as part of my plan to lead Bathurst into the future as a sustainable and economically successful council. You also ask if I  will advocate for Council to sign up to the Cities Power Partnership. I do not state policy until I have considered as much information as is available. You would be well aware that to develop policy is not a trivial matter and requires some solid thinking and the exploring of the implications of that policy. It requires interaction and collaboration with groups such as yours. I will do that if I am successful in the Council Election. Naturally I have positive views about environmental matters. That is why I did a Master of Environmental Studies at the Adelaide University.

However, let me claim that having worked in more than 20 countries in Europe, Africa and Asia in the provision of shelter and sustainable development, I have seen much of what should not be done. I am wary of quick fixes and slogans which mean little. In relation to your request for my policy let me say that I would encourage the Bathurst Regional Council to join the Cities Power Partnership, I would encourage an awareness of both staff and the elected members in the significance and value of this Partnership towards a sustainable, non-polluting energy future, I would support the identification of any reasonable and costed measures that would reduce the effects of climate change and I would work enthusiastically to reduce costs for the ratepayers through the acceleration of emission reduction and clean energy initiatives.

At the strategic level, and that is where Councillors should be, I was a joint author of the Bathurst Declaration on Sustainable Development (the output of about 40 or 50 international experts) and presented the Report to the Sustainable Development Committee at the United Nations in New York some years ago.

I am happy to work with you should I be successful and wish you well.

Stuart Driver (Group G)

In the first instance, being elected to the Bathurst Regional Council as Councillor is a position of representation.  With that in mind I firmly believe, and it is my intention where-ever possible, to consult with the Community of Bathurst and I believe that the policy direction of the Council should be set through consultation with its community. Therefore as a Councillor it matters more what the community thinks than what I personally think.

Personally I am concerned as to climate change and the extent that we in our industrialized society are causing it, and I certainly believe that we are a significant cause to this phenomenon.   Regardless however, it occurs to me quite obvious to reduce pollution and its emissions wherever possible for a better and more healthy environment. 

I have read the Cities Power Partnership (CPP) and note that while Bathurst Regional Council is not currently a partner, it is recognized for its efforts towards solar power generation on its Council buildings.

In reading the Partnership document I do see a number of difficulties that would face a regional centre like Bathurst in its endeavors to meet the criteria required, but just because it might be a challenge, is not reason not to endeavor.  At the same time there are some actions that would appear appropriate to implement and obvious, like the examples set by Denman Prospect ACT and Nedlands WA to require all new buildings to have a minimum solar capacity (and perhaps also to facilitate in a cost effective manner existing buildings to install solar).  I would be keen to see community support for such a policy.

Would I support Bathurst Regional Council becoming a CPP partner?  If it was the desire of the community, most certainly.  And I would be absolutely supportive of the efforts of the BCCAN to educate the community as to the benefits of that membership and thus gain that overall support to do so.  

With respect to management of the Macquarie River.  I believe that it is essential that we have as little impact on the river as possible, and absolutely respect Bathurst's opportune position of being located at essentially the headwaters of one of New South Wales great rivers.  While use of the resource is unavoidable, and thus our impact on it, we must ensure that impact is in proportion with development, and our development at all times is sustainable.

Any industry that proposes to utilize the resources of the river must demonstrate that there proposals are both sustainable and low impact.  Industrially polluting the river must be avoided at all costs.

Ian North JP

In relation to the questions you have asked all the candidates in the upcoming 2017 Local Government elections.
 
Firstly the Macquarie/Wambool is and always will be, very important to ALL residents in the Bathurst regional Council area for a variety of reasons, as well as those down stream.
 
In my time as a Councillor we had a number of approaches for our water, none of which have been successful. This has been due to the council of the day taking the matter seriously by listening to the public as well as doing its homework. 
 
If in the future we are again approached, we will once again work through the request by seeking community input and making sure that ALL questions and information requested is in hand BEFORE any decision is made. Whether you are an individual or a corporation ANYONE has the right to make such a request of a council, it is council and the Councillors responsibility to do its due diligence on the matter. 
 
Cities Power Partnership question. If re-elected to council and this is put before council I, as I have always done, will look closely into the matter and assess whether this is something that is best for the Bathurst region as a whole. 9 Councillors, 9 voices, 9 points of view, add this with details of the cities Power Partnership and community comment, the council of the day will be able to make an informed decision.
In relation to the questions you have asked all the candidates in the upcoming 2017 Local Government elections.
 
Firstly the Macquarie/Wambool is and always will be, very important to ALL residents in the Bathurst regional Council area for a variety of reasons, as well as those down stream.
 
In my time as a Councillor we had a number of approaches for our water, none of which have been successful. This has been due to the council of the day taking the matter seriously by listening to the public as well as doing its homework. 
 
If in the future we are again approached, we will once again work through the request by seeking community input and making sure that ALL questions and information requested is in hand BEFORE any decision is made. Whether you are an individual or a corporation ANYONE has the right to make such a request of a council, it is council and the Councillors responsibility to do its due diligence on the matter. 
 
Cities Power Partnership question. If re-elected to council and this is put before council I, as I have always done, will look closely into the matter and assess whether this is something that is best for the Bathurst region as a whole. 9 Councillors, 9 voices, 9 points of view, add this with details of the cities Power Partnership and community comment, the council of the day will be able to make an informed decision.
 
Cr Ian North JP