PBCA's submission on how Noosa should tackle Climate Change
Updated: May 26, 2021
The Peregian Beach Community Association (PBCA) applauds Noosa Council for producing its Draft Noosa Climate Change Response Plan.
The Draft identifies the current ‘climate emergency’ (p.5) and proposes ‘strategies and actions’ to make ‘positive progress’ towards a ‘better future’ (p.7).
PBCA applauds in particular two pervasive features of Council’s approach:
(i) Council’s commitment to ‘transitioning beyond business as usual’ (p.7) – acknowledging that thinking ‘outside the box’ and acting innovatively and creatively will be essential;
(ii) Council’s aim to ‘engage and empower everyone in our community’ (p.8) – highlighting that the entire Noosa population – individually, in groups and as local communities - must step up and play its part, rather than passively waiting for Council to create that ‘better future’.
Those laudable intentions reappear throughout the Plan, for example:
‘Commit to being innovative, flexible and adaptive in responding to climate change’ (p.10)
‘Actively communicate and partner with the broader community to improve awareness and build capacity around environment issues, climate risks and emissions reduction’ (p.10)
PBCA encourages Council to keep those commitments front of mind as the Plan is put into practice in the vital years ahead.
It is in that spirit of innovation, creativity and community engagement that PBCA makes this submission.
PBCA appreciates the breadth and depth of the Plan, and commends Council for its comprehensive, visionary and soundly based analysis and consequent strategies. PBCA finds no significant fault in the Plan.
Rather than comment on every aspect of the Plan, PBCA is choosing to focus on aspects that – directly or as part of the ‘big picture’ – are of particular significance for the Peregian Beach environment, community and economy.
The following comments are organised around the eight ‘Themes’ of the Plan. For each, PBCA is making a brief general comment before framing one or more proposals in the spirit of ‘innovative’ thinking and ‘community engagement’.
THEME 1: Strong leadership and governance
PBCA supports council’s aims to ‘advocate to levels of government’ and ‘to mobilise the community’ (p.44).
· PBCA is making specific recommendations about this aim of ‘advocacy’ and ‘mobilisation’ in some of the following ‘Themes’.
THEME 2: Energy efficiency and renewable energy
PBCA supports Council’s ambitious aim that ‘by 2026 Noosa Shire is powered by 100% renewable energy/net zero emissions energy’ (p.29).
· PBCA recommends that Council take steps to encourage the establishment of community-based, social enterprise energy companies that support locally generated, stored and distributed energy. See for example Enova Energy, set up in northern NSW communities - https://www.enovaenergy.com.au. This recommendation relates to the Plan’s observation that ‘over $30 million per year leaves the shire to pay for electricity generated elsewhere’ (p.28)
· Given the significant number of permanent and short-term rental properties in Peregian Beach, PBCA encourages Council to prioritise steps to enable ‘renters … who are often locked out of the transition to renewable energy’ (p.28) to participate in that transition. Energy-efficient lighting and appliances should be mandated for rental properties in the shire. Owners of rental properties and, where appropriate, bodies corporate should be encouraged to install solar hot water systems and solar PVC panels.
· As a social justice/equity initiative, Noosa Council should explore strategies for making solar power installations, solar hot water systems and energy-efficient lighting and appliances more affordable for low-income home owners. This could involve liaison with and lobbying of state and federal governments regarding grants and subsidies.
THEME 3: Clean low emissions industries
PBCA supports Council’s aim to ‘attract and drive investment in clean low emissions industries and to showcase best practice sustainability and climate solutions’ (p.30).
· PBCA encourages Council to explore the possibility of establishing a ‘micro-factory’ on the Council’s landfill site to turn diverse landfill waste into both valuable products and an energy source. A prototype built in Cootamundra was demonstrated on ABCTV’s ‘Australian Story’ on 22 February 2021, and is viewable at https://iview.abc.net.au/show/australian-story/series/2021. The estimated establishment cost for a micro-factory is in the range $500K-$1M. For such a project, Council might demonstrate further ‘innovative’ thinking by exploring whether Noosa citizens could be invited to contribute to the project through ‘crowd-funding’. This proposal relates also to Theme 8: Zero waste and circular economy.
THEME 4: Sustainable Transport
‘Transport’ seems an almost intractable challenge to a sustainable future for Noosa. The Plan makes some commendable statements in relation to transport, but PBCA is concerned that some aspirations will be very difficult to realise – for example: ‘encouraging a modal shift from private car use’; ‘increasing public transport use’ (p.32). Unless these two aims can be achieved, the associated plans for ‘replacement of diesel buses’ and ‘improved (bus) services’ will have limited effect. PBCA believes that considerable flexibility about public transport will be a vital step.
· PBCA recommends that Council produce greater flexibility and variability in its provision of bus services, to create a match between bus services and people’s expectations and practices. For example, bus services should target specific situations. People dining out or going to movies/the ‘J’ on popular Friday and Saturday nights are probably dissuaded from going by bus when – between 7.55pm and 11.55pm - key bus services operate only once per hour.
· Similarly, additional services taking patrons to and from popular places (Peregian Originals; Peregian Markets; Noosa Farmers’ Markets) would reduce emissions and relieve congestion/parking problems. An example already exists in the additional Wednesday and Saturday 630 bus services to and from Eumundi Markets.
· PBCA recommends the trial of frequent ‘free buses’ on Saturdays and Sundays, servicing the ‘holiday route’ from South Peregian to Tewantin via Noosa Junction and Noosa Main Beach. This would target both residents and tourists, reducing private cars on major roads, reducing parking problems and reducing emissions, and helping young people move to sporting, cultural, leisure and employment destinations without the need to be driven in cars.
Traffic congestion around the shire’s schools is a major problem. It reflects the increasing practice of school students (both primary and secondary) being driven to school in cars and ‘dropped off’ … and ‘picked up’ at the day’s end. The usual political response is a promise of road widening. PBCA thinks that an ‘outside the box’ solution could be introduced – the ‘crocodile’. The ‘crocodile system’ involves groups of students walking to school in an orderly, supervised way – with students attaching themselves at pick-up points along the way and detaching themselves on the way home in the afternoon. The system has been used widely, particularly in Europe and the USA. For example, see the report about the Bristol tech group that won a 50,000GBP prize for designing an app to facilitate/coordinate ‘crocodile’ groups. https://www.techspark.co/blog/2015/04/27/bristols-crocodile-school-walking-train-app-scoops-50k-green-capital-prize/
· PBCA recommends that Noosa Council consult with interested parties (schools, parents, students, residents, volunteers, police, state government) with a view to trialling one or more ‘crocodile’ walking systems for school students. And that Council research the practice in overseas (and domestic?) contexts for ideas and inspiration.
One serious major problem around transport and emissions has its origins outside the Shire, and demands solutions that embrace the ‘advocate to levels of government’ goal in Theme 1. On most, if not all days of the year, the M1 highway from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast is marked by choked traffic, inordinate delays and consequent frustration.
The situation reaches farcical levels on Friday and Sunday afternoons. It seems a fair comment to say that Noosa Shire’s active encouragement of Brisbane-origin tourism, including day-trippers and weekenders, is a major cause of this situation which produces harmful effects including massive automobile emissions. PBCA believes that Noosa Council – and in a sense the Noosa community – bears some moral responsibility for encouraging and profiting from this ecologically damaging phenomenon, and consequently for working to remedy it. More pragmatically, the M1 situation, if it persists, could ‘kill the golden goose’ by dissuading people from traveling to Noosa.
· PBCA urges Noosa Council to take all steps possible to bring about a system of sustainable, convenient, affordable and acceptable travel between Brisbane and Noosa. That system should minimise fossil-fuel-based forms of transport, and should adopt, where feasible, such forms as high-speed rail, e-coaches for the M1 route, and a network of local e-buses for distribution of people from major hubs. Such a solution would - for jurisdictional, capability and financial reasons – need to involve collaboration at all three levels of government.
THEME 5: Healthy and resilient natural systems and carbon sequestration
PBCA has particular interest in this theme, given the key features of the Peregian Beach environment.
· PBCA encourages Council to pursue and, where appropriate, intensify the various strategies in the Plan to ‘improve vegetation and bushfire management’ and for ‘maximising carbon drawdown through tree planting’, ‘increasing revegetation and ecosystems restoration’, ‘enhancing canopy tree cover in urban areas’ and ‘converting gardens to more drought tolerant native gardens’ (p.34). In particular, dune restoration, stabilisation and revegetation are urgent issues in Peregian Beach.
THEME 6: Sustainable agriculture and food systems
Though agriculture has little presence in Peregian Beach, PBCA endorses Council’s stated plans to promote and enhance ‘sustainable and regenerative food systems’ and to promote the production and consumption of sustainable local food (p.37)
However, PBCA notes that this Theme focuses mainly on ‘production’. PBCA thinks that Council should also focus on consumption practices and patterns in the Shire, to promote practices that have less environmental impact.
· PBCA recommends that Noosa Council adopt a publicity strategy to encourage citizens to embrace food consumption practices that are more ecologically sustainable and less environmentally harmful – for example, consciously reducing ‘food miles’ by consuming food and drink produced locally and regionally; reducing emissions by limiting the purchase of highly-processed food and frozen food; choosing foods which have minimal packaging and/or recyclable/compostable packaging; avoiding products whose entire ‘life-cycle is environmentally problematic, for example bottled water; using one’s own reusable bags/containers to carry purchased food; choosing ‘fair trade’ food where practicable. In combination, these practices produce worthwhile ecological, economic and social outcomes – reflecting an expansive notion of the ‘sustainability’ of ‘food systems’.
THEME 7: Resilient and adaptive communities and built environments
PBCA supports Council’s plan to ‘support the community to increase resilience to climate change through building, infrastructure and landscape design that is responsive to the subtropical climate, and that is resource efficient for energy and water, and minimises emissions’ (p.38). Currently, much new construction in Noosa appears at odds with environmental imperatives. Research has indicated the negative effects on urban temperatures of building materials with a high thermal capacity (brick and concrete) coupled with a high degree of ‘surface sealing’ (roadways, footpaths, driveways; reduction in lawns and gardens) and the positive effects on urban temperatures of enhanced vegetation cover and the use of less conventional building materials/practices (straw bale construction; rammed earth construction; rooftop gardens. Studies of Western Sydney have indicated substantial temperature increases because of large-scale vegetation clearance to produce tightly-packed houses. For some initial reports on such matters, see https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/urban-vegetation
· PBCA recommends that, along with its current initiatives, Council adopt a more innovative, exploratory stance in its policies and approvals related to urban planning, precinct ‘development’ and house design. This stance could include examination of less conventional building materials, ‘green’ design features and issues related to residential ‘hard surfaces’, ‘plot ratios’ and ‘vegetation cover’.
THEME 8: Zero waste and circular economy
PBCA endorses Council’s identification of the adverse effects of the ‘linear economic model of take-make-waste’ (p.41) and Council’s resolve to address this. In the Theme 2’ section above PBCA proposed that Council explore the possibility of a ‘micro-factory’ as a sustainable way of dealing with the issue of ‘landfill’.
In recent years, publicity on a nationwide scale resulted from some nations refusing to take Australia’s purportedly ‘recyclable’ waste, on the basis that it was highly cross-contaminated and not differentially separated. It is not clear whether Noosa’s recyclable waste has a similar problem.
· PBCA recommends that Council undertake an audit of its three-bin domestic waste system to evaluate its effectiveness and in consequence make any changes deemed necessary to make it more effective.
The waste involved in food (scraps and otherwise) being put in the domestic rubbish bin is lamentable. Those who are capable of composting at home or work should be encouraged. For those unable to do so, suitable strategies need to be developed.
· PBCA recommends that Council initiate a two-pronged publicity campaign aimed at stopping food waste going into landfill by (1) encouraging households, workplaces and businesses to adopt composting, where practicable and (2) exploring strategies for those unable to undertake their own composting.
Coffee culture is strong in Noosa. It’s likely that a large number of the estimated one billion disposable coffee cups used in Australia each year are discarded in Noosa Shire. Most – having a plastic liner - are not easily recyclable or compostable. Many become litter. Most end up in landfill.
· PBCA recommends that Noosa Council initiate a study of the challenge of disposable, single-use coffee cups, with a view to (i) eliminating the sale of non-recyclable/non-compostable cups and (ii) initiating a system for collection/recovery/processing of recyclable/compostable cups (for example, dedicated bins in popular, high-traffic locations). Initial ideas can be seen at https://www.cleanup.org.au/single-use-coffee-cups.
PBCA is pleased to have had the opportunity to respond to this important Draft Climate Change Plan.
In conclusion, PBCA notes the Plan’s proposal to establish a ‘climate change community reference forum … to guide and provide advice on the implementation of the Climate Change Response Plan’ (p.26). PBCA would welcome the opportunity to participate in that forum.
END OF SUBMISSION