Response to the draft Maroondah Sustainability Strategy May 2022

                            

               Response to the draft Maroondah Sustainability Strategy May 2022

In the introduction to what sustainability means it mentions that it’s “all encompassing” and then talks about individuals, institutions, businesses and systems. While these are all very important to our long-term survivability; the one that stands out most predominantly to us is environmental sustainability, without which, none of those other things can continue to exist. We should all be very aware of the severe weather impacts that are happening right now in terms of climate change. In our opinion, it’s remiss of Council to ignore the one overarching fact. To ignore the environment sustainability is to ignore reality. It’s crucial to address this effectively.  The Strategy demonstrates little vision for future actions to enhance environmental sustainability of our municipality.

Lack of clarity

In this draft document, we really need clarification of the term “environment”. It reads as though ‘the environment’ relates to people’s ability to thrive in their living environment, particularly when it then references their ability to be resilient to living in that environment.  Throughout this strategy, there is a very confusing use of the word ‘environment’.  We strongly recommend that this confusion is rectified, by using the term “living environment” to mean urban context and ‘environment’ to mean the land and natural systems that allow us to live.

Our position

CCS has our own clear understanding of Environment, and this is our “natural environment” which is a necessity that underpins the rest of the Strategy to be built on. We believe that this has been poorly addressed, given it is a Sustainability Strategy. We prioritise environmental sustainability as our number one focus.  This is based on catastrophic weather events that are changing our world forever and making it in an inhospitable place for humans to live and function, let alone thrive. We are living in a mass extinction for some species.

First Nations People

Over time, we have come to appreciate the depth and meaning of Aboriginal respect, towards earth, water, fire and the natural environment. For example, there’s growing recognition of their good burning practices. The majority of CCS members believe that we are temporary inhabitants on this land. We don’t necessarily believe that ownership of a piece of land should dominate respect for the environment that was there before. Temporary ownership does not necessarily trump everything pertaining to nature; trees, bushes, grasses, wildlife, insects, the availability of water to the land and more.

While it is great to acknowledge the First Nations people, we also need to address the newly acquired cultures that have come to live within Maroondah, many of whom also have their own relationship to the natural environment.

Resilience

The Strategy focusses predominantly on the word ‘resilience’. If resilience is such an important concept maybe it should have been looked at as a consequential component of the Sustainability strategy. 

CCS still believes in the triple bottom line of environmental, social and economic pillars truly representing sustainability and we would agree therefore that a resilient community relies on the strength of all of those three pillars. It’s not a stand-alone concept. In fact, it cannot exist alone. If our natural environment is seriously degraded, resilience cannot be achieved.

Clean, Green and Leafy

Maroondah continually promotes itself as being known for its leafy green suburbs with a higher proportion of vegetation cover when compared to many other local government areas. Croydon has worked hard to be in the privileged position of enjoying large numbers of mature trees, the “liveable city”. Unfortunately, in a recent study by Dr Greg Moore, our 30% shade cover is at serious risk as that figure has recently been re-assessed at 25%. It continues to plummet as we watch.

No doubt this deterioration is a consequence of so-called progress that moves on relentlessly and unabated. This unfortunate reality is just focusing on one part of the degradation (shade) but also subsequently follows onto to biodiversity of flora and fauna. Unfortunately, all have been in serious decline, over the past twenty years, as detailed in the Report from Dr Graeme Lorimer as part of the recent Vegetation Strategy.

Reference: Biodiversity in Maroondah 2022, Volumes 1 &2 by  Dr Graeme Lorimer, supported by Daniel Flaim, Council’s own Biodiversity Officer, who recently addressed the May MEAC meeting.

CCS is concerned that the new and current Sustainability Strategy, has not really addressed the losses of the past twenty years, nor has it suggested how Council intends to maintain what remains and reverse these losses. Council must plan to mitigate the effects of Climate Change on our Environment and the many species threatened as a result. The draft document quotes, “Looking Beyond Sustainability Strategy”. This is difficult to comprehend when we are not yet convinced of the efficacy of what is recommended, to reverse or halt the degradation. How can we look beyond Environmental sustainability when we haven’t achieved it?

For example, In point 9… It’s suggested that the “overarching governance principles and supporting principles are as follows” 

It is our understanding that none of these things can occur independently of a reduction in our tree canopy cover and our provision of habitat for the creatures of Maroondah and indeed for human health.

Climate Change Act (2017)

In the Climate Change Act (2017) natural resources, ecosystems and biodiversity ranks third.

In the document in Maroondah 2040, the clean green and sustainable community ranks at point 4; which causes us to question, “How do you have a safe healthy and active community without it being clean green and sustainable?”. The order in which those things are mentioned may seem trivial, but it is not!

Right now, when Australia has been in the grip of severe floods after destructive fires it would seem obvious that an increase in annual temperatures by up to 2.4°, double the number of very hot days with extreme heat waves, and increased intensity in the frequency of extreme weather, that these are all serious risks to human health and mortality. We already know from various studies that the difference in ground temperature is up to 10 degrees different between shaded and unshaded areas. It’s obvious the threat this poses to plant and animal biodiversity, and to humanity. Ref. Dr Greg Moore.

Other considerations

In no way does this reflect that we do not believe that engagement, diversity, social inclusion, neighbourhood friendliness, healthy lifestyles and liveability are not important: they most certainly are. However, these can only occur when the natural environment which is a unique feature of the World, is in balance. Expectations of how we move forward on the planet, while it protects us, shelter us, feeds us and ensures that we have safe potable drinking water, clean air and a healthy environment to live in are fully dependent on getting the foundations right first.

Reconciliation Action Plan

Croydon Conservation Society fully supports the reconciliation action plan. We believe there is an enormous amount of knowledge yet to glean from the indigenous way of caring for the environment. This knowledge should underpin any environmental sustainability strategy. Acknowledge the knowledge of the indigenous community, involve them and actively encourage participation in looking after the Country. Embracing indigenous values, particularly towards our natural world, is a very high priority if we expect the land to continue to provide for us going forward.

It is not surprising to see that the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals recognise mitigating climate change, deforestation and preventing biodiversity loss as being central to sustainability.

Urban deforestation is in total contradiction to this goal.

What are the challenges Maroondah faces?

The draft strategy states that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals recognise the interlinked nature of many of the environmental, social and economic issues we face globally then goes on to say that the sustainability strategy has been developed with all of the 17 goals in mind. This is good to see and we support all 17 goals recommended by the United Nations.

The draft document asks, what are the sustainability challenges that Maroondah currently faces.

It mentions many, from Covid travel restrictions, vaccinations, mortality, negativity, to ongoing impacts that are likely to affect us for years to come. It is good to note that climate change is the next significant threat to our way of life. Our ability to adapt to new conditions, including extreme weather events, is of the highest priority in our opinion, followed closely by the strategy’s second challenge which is biodiversity decline. 
Ref: Daniel Flaim predictions MEAC presentation

Population growth and housing affordability.

Unfortunately, population growth and housing affordability puts our environment and biodiversity under immense pressure. CCS believes that under this pressure, legal and illegal tree removal is a significant factor negatively affecting climate change abatement. The dramatic reduction in dense canopy cover over the last 10 years is obvious to residents. This is in direct conflict with mitigating climate change and retention of biodiversity.

We call out these practices and label this trend Urban Deforestation. It’s not a sustainable practice in any way. In addition to this overdevelopment interferes with water tables, reduces permeable surfaces feeding ground water, and in some cases where very deep foundations are cut and filled, pile driven and dug out to construct sub-basements, is likely to interfere with the natural underground water flow systems.

What the community has told us

Residents wish to support a reduction in carbon emissions and to reduce the impact of climate change, adopt environmentally sensible design principles and recognise the mental health impacts of climate change. CCS agrees with this synopsis, making the environment the highest of our priorities. Trees are great for carbon sequestration and for human mental health. Unless the natural environment is healthy, the people will not be healthy.

75% of Victorians feeling some level of frustration about climate change. Up to 1/3 of respondents have negative emotions, distress and feelings of being overwhelmed about their inability to positively influence climate change, again making our vegetation and environment our highest priority. In our opinion improving climate change education across Council staff and community is almost too late. We would prefer to see immediate action, which in itself will help educate as we implement good environmental practices.

To reiterate, for us to have access to good quality food, grown with respect to the land, clean water, education and economic prosperity all hinges on our ability not just to adapt and be resilient to climate change, but to reverse it and reverse biodiversity loss.

20-minute neighbourhoods

We completely agree with the ‘concept’ of 20 minute neighbourhoods. This may be one of the key components to reducing pollution by reducing the need for travelling great distances to work, making life more liveable and more community based so we fully support this concept in theory however, we need to acknowledge there is changing behaviour in the way that people access materials, goods and household needs. Covid has caused behaviour to be very different. Increases in the use of delivery services to the door making this vaunted reduction on dependence on cars a bit of a furphy. Cars off the road may well equal deliveries on the road.  Vehicles used in door-to-door delivery, potentially use fuel, the consumption of which is not good for climate change.

Neither is the new environmental problem of waste clothing, a consequence of “bracketing” when purchasing clothes and other apparel, in three sizes to get one that fits. The return of the unwanted items often becomes landfill either here or abroad, after the fuel consumption is long forgotten. Covid effects are not yet fully comprehended environmentally. We need to go forward carefully and with deep thought and an inquisitive mind. This is an area, where collaboration with the community may produce innovative ideas.

While the 20 minute neighbourhoods is aspirational, Covid has taught us that for some people this is more easily achieved by working from home. This this has both positive and negative features to it for example where a building would be heated for the benefit of 400 workers; there are now 400 individual homes requiring heating; same issue for cooling.

The case study of Living Maroondah Symposium

The symposium attracted 130 people, specifically talked about the value placed on vegetation and the natural environment. As mentioned, Croydon Conservation Society is very concerned about urban deforestation which is in complete contradiction to community expectations. One of the ways in which deforestation is happening is illegal tree removal. This is being factored in as a cost by developers and although the state law that exists to penalise those who carry out environmental destruction such as tree removal and which allows fines between $2000-$20,000 the effect is being watered down by Council’s inability for whatever reason, to prosecute through the Magistrates courts.

Due to this, the public perception is that Council is not seriously concerned about loss of tree cover and it reinforces their perception there is no serious deterrent. Publicity about significant fines imposed should be made clear on the basis that this is consistently detrimental towards maintaining our 30% tree cover deemed necessary for us to live comfortably in our corner of the World.

Industrial and Commercial incentives

We totally agree with Maroondah‘s greenhouse gas emission reductions which arise from industrial and commercial activities and agree that Council should identify and assist to expand the green economy and reduce emissions. Building the circular economy, reducing waste, increasing efficiency, particular with energy and water are all things that underpin sustainability and are to be embraced. It is good to see that Council is committed to supporting Maroondah businesses through environmental upgrades, and that financing these upgrades will improve energy, water, and building efficiency. Sustainability or climate change adaption will help us achieve the ultimate goal.

Can we be assured that Council purchases 100% renewable energy for its own use?

Outcome Five: Green infrastructure

Referring to the urban environment providing environmental social and economic benefits including trees, nature strips, parks, public and private gardens, swales and rain gardens, wetlands, creeks, rivers, green roofs and walls. The Conservation Society is particularly concerned about the retention of trees and vegetation on private land. We have seen more losses than we can expect to make up for with the replanting of small trees shrubs and other vegetation which may grow on walls and roof tops, and which also may take another 40 to 50 years to give us the same climatic benefits. Community and consumer expectations have been acknowledged as one of the key drivers in the move towards a green economy.

Reference: Brennan 2012

Our Society believes that spatial planning data collection and GIS must be used to identify priority areas. Yet again, the loss of trees from private land can in no way be matched by the replanting of smaller species along roadsides. As a matter of urgency, Council must look closely at its finances and human resources to discover why full fines of between $2000 and $20,000 are not used for illegal tree removal by landowners or developers. If this gap is not closed, we stand very little chance of keeping a canopy cover above 25% when it really needs to be at 30% or above. The lack of Council direction and commitment to truly sustainable new development is perceived to be acquiescence to progress at all costs. Benefits to developers who aim for good sustainable design, should be implemented as good incentives.

Waterways and passive recreational space

The reimagining of Tarralla Creek seems to have been a huge success so far. It appears there is still much to do in the way of replanting large areas. It is also important to look at the floatable litter situation that still occurs in the overflow drain.

We look forward to more projects that help connect residents with quality open space, not just for sport, but for passively reinvigorating a tired mind and body. Relaxation in the open space that is not close to traffic, transport or sporting noise is of great importance and will become even more valuable to the community with increased density and no access to open space on the ground around their living environment.

In conclusion

It is heartening to know that the Maroondah Environment Advisory Committee will continue to be engaged in identifying priorities and opportunities for implementing the Maroondah Sustainability Strategy.

We are interested to know, what is the concept behind the statement that Council wants to form partnerships “where needed”? Does this mean by invitation, only when Council needs input? We would hope that the community can always be actively involved with Council, as they believe they have something to offer.

Croydon Conservation Society continues to be a voice for the trees, habitat and the natural environment of Maroondah and hopes to continue to work with Council in achieving its aims with the Sustainability Strategy.

CCS must remain a vocal and independent group, able to point in the direction that we believe has the greatest urgency to maintaining what we have, while looking to see how the new inclusive well-being thrust for our socially diverse community can be moved forward in a way that is friendlier to the earth and the environment.

Sincerely,

Croydon Conservation Society Committee

May 16, 2022 · Liz Sanzaro · One Comment
Posted in: General

One Response

  1. Ingrid Crosser - May 16, 2022

    I fully support the Croydon Conservation Society’s response to the draft Maroondah Sustainability Strategy May 2022.

    I would like more clarity in the Stratgy regarding the meaning of the term “environment” and suggest the CCS changes be made.

    I would also like to add an observation that “hard waste” disposal has not been mentioned. I think this is of the utmost importance as part of any sustainability strategy. The amount of hard rubbish going to labs fill is alarming to say the least and it seems to me that local government should find ways to minimize waste as much as possible. Much of the hard rubbish could be, and should be recycled and repurposed. I find it distressing to see furniture, electrical goods and all sorts of stuff out on the nature strips that could be reused and should be collected, stored, repurposed if necessary and redistributed. There are many components, metals, woods, etc that can be rescued. We really must take better responsibility for waste and local council can play an important in partnership with state and federal government.
    I would also like to add that the fines for illegal removal of trees are not adequate to be a disincentive because developers simply cost them into their prices. The threat of climate change is so urgent and serious that perhaps $100,000 fine or more would be a more appropriate deterrent for developers – or jail even for frequent offenders.
    Thankyou for sharing your response. I hope that my suggestions can be of use.

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