Friday, May 16, 2008

from the round table - 13th May

It was a busy night at council this week with a lot of late items up for discussion, sometimes that’s just how it falls. "Late items through the chair" is always on the agenda and enables councillors to bring up any matters not listed on the agenda. Below is a short summary of some the issues raised this time round…

Wood and Water Project
"The Wood and Water Project - Harvesting in State forests supplying water to Melbourne" was set up as a flow from the 21st Century Melbourne: a WaterSmart City report and the Water White Paper. The project is to provide information for the Government to make decisions about the sustainable management of the State Forests that supply water to Melbourne. I sit on the Sustainability Assessment Stakeholder Reference Group and was very concerned to hear that of all the forestry management options being considered for assessment, ceasing logging immediately (2009/10) was not even on the table for consideration. I am concerned as to how government can make a fully informed decision if a full range of options including ceasing logging are not considered. As a result of my concerns I moved the following motion to see if council shared my concerns. I’m pleased to report that council unanimously supported me and my concerns.

Resolved on the motion of Crs Dunn and McRae
That Council writes to:
The Premier, John Brumby, the Minister for Water, Tim Holding, the Minister for Environment, Gavin Jennings, Ms Nina Cullen, Director, Public Land Policy, Department of Environment and Sustainability, Ms Mary Crooks, Chair Wood and Water Sustainability Assessment Project, Ms Joanne Wallace, Senior Policy Officer, Department of Sustainability and Environment and Ms Jodi Newcombe, Economist, URS Pty Ltd before the next Stakeholder Reference Group Meeting on the 2nd June, 2008, detailing the case for including as part of the assessments for the Wood and Water Project the option of ceasing logging in Melbourne's water catchments by 2009/10 and including reference to the 8 councils who have recently opposed logging in Melbourne's water catchments.
A Division was called.
For: Crs Heenan, Warren, Smith, Dunn, Avery, Keane, McRae, Cliff and Cox
Against: Nil

Sugarloaf Interconnector Pipeline Project
This project continues to move ahead in spite of a groundswell of opposition and a lack of information supporting the claimed water savings. Council requested that information on the claimed water savings be provided, to date we’re still waiting. In the latest turn of events seismic testing has been taking place in the Toolangi State Forest, there is a great deal of uncertainty as to whether this type of activity is allowed under a “controlled action”, our community needs to know so we hope the Federal Minister for Environment responds swiftly to our request.

Resolved on the motion of Crs McRae and Dunn
That Council writes to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett:
1. Requesting that compliance auditing be undertaken under the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in regards to the seismic surveys currently being undertaken, in respect of the proposed Sugarloaf Interconnector Pipeline project, in the vicinity of the Toolangi State Forest.
2. Seeking advice as to the legality of the blasting actions so that our community can be informed.
That this letter be faxed through to the Minister on Wednesday, 14 May, 2008.

That a copy of this letter be provided to the State Minister for Planning and Community Development, Justin Madden.

GM Free Municipality
It was with some concern that our last request to the state government via the Premier to declare our municipality a GM free zone with powers available under section 21 of the Commonwealth Gene Technology Act 2000 was dismissed with the government response being: “With regard to your suggestion that the Government establish GM and Gm-free areas, the Review Panel considered the issue of segregation and concluded that the market is well placed to ensure segregation of GM and non-GM crops should there be sufficient market demand, and that there is no need for Government involvement”. I’m not sure the government understood our request so I thought it was important that we re-request our municipality be declared a GM free zone.

Resolved on the motion of Crs Dunn and Keane
That Council writes to the Premier, John Brumby, to request that the state government use its powers under the policy principle in Section 21 of the Commonwealth Gene Technology Act 2000, to declare the Shire of Yarra Ranges a GM free municipality.

Feed in Tariff Scheme
I was disappointed to hear that the recent Feed in Tariff Scheme announced would only pay out on excess energy fed into the grid. A system like this does little to stimulate the solar energy sector and discriminates against those who are at home during the daytime. Our community wants to do its bit to generate renewable energy <> but with policy like this in place it makes it very difficult for anyone to calculate their payback period or be enthusiastic about the change over to solar power generation.

Resolved on the motion of Crs Dunn and Keane
That Council write to the Premier, John Brumby and the Minister for Energy, Peter Batchelor, expressing disappointment with the recently announced Feed in Tariff Scheme that will only provide financial return on excess energy fed into the grid, that such a scheme provides minimal and uncertain financial return and does little for the development of the solar industry in Victoria.

Further to that Council supports a Feed in Tariff Scheme that is based on Gross Production Metering Systems, which has a mandated price over a guaranteed time period to provide certainty for investment and provides fair financial returns to solar panel owners and does not discriminate against families, the elderly and those at home during the daytime (home businesses) who consume electricity during the day.

Federal Government Funding
I was very angry to learn of the axing of funding for the Burrinja Performing Arts Centre Project. This project was due to get funding from the Regional Partnerships Program. On Tuesday night the Rudd Government axed this program and with it funding for Burrinja (see blog entry 14/05). It is important to do all we can as a council to retain this federal funding and I for one will be working hard to ensure we keep the Burrinja project alive.

Resolved on the motion of Crs Cliff and Dunn
That Council support a campaign to retain the Federal Government funding for all projects subject to current funding requests including those within the Regional Partnership Program as well as seeking other sources of funding.

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