Wednesday, February 13, 2013

ethical paper unpledged

report from the roundtable – 12 feb

At last night’s council meeting I moved a rescission motion in an attempt to convince councillors to maintain council’s support of the Ethical Paper Pledge. I was concerned that the complexities of the issue weren’t fully understood by my colleagues at our meeting of 11 December, 2012 where councillors voted to unsign the pledge and wanted an opportunity to present facts on the issue to my colleagues.

Yarra Ranges past Young Environmental Achiever of the Year, Jordan Crook, presented to council on the motion. He talked about the facts and the science and urged councillors to reinstate the support of the pledge. He spoke passionately about the science that shows clearfelling is not sustainable and how important it was to support workers and wildlife. He ended his presentation by urging councillors to “be leaders, don’t be led”.

In speaking to the rescission motion I talked about the significant role local government has to play as advocates, such an important role, that it is enshrined in the Local Government Act. I went on to talk about the expectation that we show leadership and signing the pledge is a public way to demonstrate that. I reiterated that when council first supported the pledge we received 56 emails in support in 2 days, unprecedented for local government, who generally don’t receive many letters of support.

Leadership is about doing what’s right and it was my view that the campaign around the controversy of signing the pledge was orchestrated by only a handful people. I also posed the question, how many jobs have been lost because we signed the pledge? None. I reminded councillors of our Vision, how strong environmental values featured in the vision because it’s important to our community.

In relation to VicForests I highlighted to councillors that it is my understanding that VicForests don’t want to move to Yarra Ranges and asked councillors what efforts they’d undertaken to ascertain if VicForests wanted to move. The VicForests move would see 30 city based people relocated, it’s not about new job creation, it’s about making those city based people commute out to Yarra Ranges. As a ‘government business enterprise’ it is the VicForests Board who makes decisions about where they move, not the Minister, they are not a government department, they are supposed to be autonomous from government.

I highlighted my concerns about state government interference, referring to the letter written to council by Minister Walsh. Council’s relationship is not in jeopardy from this. The community wants local government to make decisions in their own right, not with pressure from state government. It’s not necessary to play this political game of football and kowtowing to state government does not strengthen our relationship.

In relation to the last part of my argument around Forest Stewardship Council certification, I advised councillors that Australian Paper, makers of Reflex, lost their FSC certification because they source woodchip from high conservation forest, they log high conservation forest and I looked forward to a time when Australian made FSC certified paper will be available.

Cr Jason Callanan in speaking against the motion said he hasn’t changed his view and hasn’t seen any resounding facts to change his mind.

Cr Len Cox in speaking for the motion talked about the extraordinary overreaction from one small element of the community and state government over signing the Ethical Paper Pledge. He highlighted the ongoing losses sustained by VicForests with the bill footed by taxpayers. He talked about the forest before and after clearfelling and the importance of tourism as one of our biggest employers. He also talked about the importance of council being an independent thinker.

Cr Terry Avery spoke in support of the motion. He highlighted we are charged with protecting and enhancing the environment and unsigning the pledge made a mockery of that.

Cr Andy Witlox spoke against the motion. He said that he will continue to support local industry, a small industry with a long history, and wont boycott but support this local product.

Cr Fiona McAllister spoke against the motion, she reiterated she’d made her views clear in a letter to the paper, talked about a degree of confusion, and how the issue is dividing “her” community. She assured the meeting she was committed to looking after endangered species, however thought it was only appropriate for individuals and non government organisations to sign the pledge. She said she was astounded by valuable council time being used on this issue.

Cr Maria McCarthy said she supported Cr McAllister’s comments.

Cr Jim Child said he wouldn’t speak on the matter

Cr Noel Cliff spoke in support of the motion. He challenged Cr McAllister’s comments in relation to taking up “valuable council time” and said the importance of the issue meant we should take as much time as we need. He highlighted how critical the environment is, we live in it and it sustains us. If it takes up twice as much time to debate then he’s happy to take the time and we should take the time. He talked about children and their future and how he thought people with children would have thought looking after the environment was one of the most important issues into the future. He highlighted the dire state of the Leadbeaters Possum which we are succeeding in wiping off the planet. He’s not against the timber industry but against pulping and once again raised the issue of the loss of taxpayers’ dollars by VicForests and how important tourism is for our local economy.

In summing up I raised the issue of political agendas as it has been a recurrent theme in local media and social networking sites that the pledge has been a political and personal agenda of mine.

The original vote to sign the pledge was 8 councillors for and 1 against. Those councillors are from all persuasions, they’re certainly not Greens councillors.

I posed the question, If I’m running a personal or political agenda then why do I keep getting re-elected, an election is a good test of whether you are representing the community and as the councillor with the highest primary vote at the last election I’m clearly not running personal or political agendas.

What we have seen is a well orchestrated campaign by the Liberal/National party run through our local media and social networking sites.

At that point I referred to slides that had been presented by Cr McCarthy at the last meeting with some additional commentary added by me.

I reminded Cr Callanan of his election commitments to support a ‘great and beautiful environment’, I reminded Cr Wiltox of his statements about “protecting our environment”.

I held up a copy of The Age – A state of extinction. Our Leadbeaters Possum is at a critical point, before long it will be extinct.

I asked councillors if they care about
Climate change
Water security
Food security
Intergenerational inheritance

It is our children, and Jordan (our submitter) who will be dealing with this mess, I urged councillors to be leaders, our community expects nothing less.

The motion was lost 4 votes for, 5 votes against.

For: Crs Samantha Dunn, Noel Cliff, Len Cox and Terry Avery
Against: Crs Fiona McAllister, Jason Callanan, Andy Witlox, Maria McCarthy and Jim Child.

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At 1:17 PM, Anonymous Janet Rice said...

good on you for your fantastic efforts Sam

At 8:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Samantha for your thorough blog commentary of last night's Council meeting. It is very clear that the 5 Councillors who voted against this rescinding motion stand for NO leadership, NO environmental stewardship, NO ability to listen to a well documented and rationale dialogue, NO articulation of an equally well-argued evidence-based opposing view, NO independence of local government decision-making, and NO representation of our community. And they talk about wasting valuable council time? Look in the mirror... (Claire from Upwey)

At 12:15 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you Samantha for the summary of the discussion at Council - unfortunately I was not able to attend this time.
Let's just hope with the upcoming Appeal in the Supreme Court, that this rejection of the Ethical Paper Pledge will be shown to be a very stupid decision by the 5 new councillors.
It is rather scary now we have our own Band of Brothers who are ready to uphold the values of the Liberal/NP regardless of the consequences to the environment.
When is the next Council election????

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Marcel Theunissen said...

I was flabbergasted to see that (besides doing the right thing) some of our leaders can't even see the signals that come from these pledges. The problem is not only Reflex. There are many bad reflexes in this world.

Saying NO to this Ethical Paper Pledge by
- Cr Fiona McAllister
- Cr Maria McCarthy
- Cr Jason Callanan
- Cr Jim Child
- Cr Andy Witlox

simply shows that they are not against the council using paper that comes from high conservation forest. Yes, I had to repeat that again as well "not against the council using paper that comes from high conservation forest". Cr Fiona McAllister even took her vote against the motion one step further and thought it was a waste of time to even discuss these matters in a council meeting. After that I had to climb back on my chair to hear the rest of the arguments.

Let's just say that the above mentioned five Councillors who voted against this motion still don't understand the real problems this world is facing and/or believe that economy is more important than our natural environment. An economy (logging native forests) that is losing tax payers money by the way.

A big thank you for the four Councillors below who showed real leadership and were not afraid to stand for what they believe in.
- Cr Terry Avery
- Cr Noel Cliff
- Cr Len Cox
- Cr Samantha Dunn


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