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CLEAN, GREEN AND LOCAL NSW 2021

Priorities for nature and climate in the 2021 local government elections  



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BUSHLAND, GREEN SPACE AND TREES

Set ambitious targets for bushland and urban tree canopy cover

  • Set targets for urban trees and urban tree canopy cover. If a target already exists, review it.[1] Develop a plan to achieve the target.
  • Set a target for bushland cover. If a target already exists, review it. Develop a plan to achieve the target. Protect and restore remnant bushland, revegetate, protect significant trees
  • Enhance protections for remnant bushland and trees through Local Environment Plans and

Development Control Plans.

  • Invest more in bushland restoration through the control of weeds and feral animals.
  • Oppose removal of bushland and significant trees to enable development.[2]
  • When planning and executing bushfire hazard reduction measures, use the latest scientific advice to minimise environmental impacts.

Ensure a koala-friendly council

  • Pass the Nature Conservation Council’s Koala Friendly Council motion (available at https://www.nature.org.au/koala_friendly_councils)

Create wildlife corridors

  • Identify potential wildlife corridors to link significant wildlife habitat remnants.
  • Invest in tree planting, revegetation and ongoing maintenance for these corridors.

Encourage use of native plants

  • Use more native plants in council parks and gardens.
  • Provide free native plants to home gardeners.

 

CLIMATE AND ENERGY

Clean up council operations

Set a target of net-zero emissions for all council operations by 2025 by:

  • Using 100% clean electricity for all council operations.
  • Making all council vehicles, including garbage trucks, electric.

Clean up local transport

  • Accelerate the installation of rapid charge electric vehicle stations by working with the local community, businesses and state governments.
  • Enhance active transport infrastructure by building and maintaining more and higher quality bike paths and footpaths.

Help locals, businesses and organisations slash their emissions

  • Create and implement a local-emissions reductions plans with clear targets.
  • Set ambitious energy performance standards for all new developments.

Support national and international movements to reduce emissions

  • Adopt the Climate Emergency Declaration, which is already supported by more than 2000 councils across 34 countries.[3]
  • Sign up to the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership, Australia’s largest local government climate network, made up of over 145 councils from across the country, representing over half of the Australian population.[4]

 

WATER CONSERVATION

Ensure a diverse and drought-resilient water system

  • Oppose the construction of new dams or other rainfall dependent water sources.
  • Invest in system-wide water efficiency.
  • Investigate stormwater harvesting and recycling.
  • Investigate the use of purified recycled water.

Reduce water waste

  • Encourage water saving in households with education and water saving devices.
  • Investigate current water wastage across the LGA and implement ways to reduce waste.
  • Subsidise rainwater tanks for residential use across the LGA.

Restore our rivers and waterways

  • Restore natural wetlands for benefits including stormwater management.
  • Set ambitious targets to improve the health of all rivers within the LGA.
  • Invest in the active restoration of riparian zone vegetation.

 

Sign up to campaign in your local area!

 

FOOTNOTES

[1] The NSW Government has pledged to plant 1 million trees in Greater Sydney by 2022 and 5 million by 2030. It also wants to increase tree canopy cover in Greater Sydney from 16% to 40% by 2030. See Total Environment Centre and NSW Government.

[2] If a project is considered critical infrastructure, apply best-practice approaches to offsetting. First, try to avoid impacts entirely. Second, if impacts are unavoidable, minimise them by modifying the proposal. Third, as a last resort, offset the impacts by restoring and permanently protecting similar habitat nearby.

[3] https://climateemergencydeclaration.org/climate-emergency-declarations-cover-15-million-citizens/

[4] https://citiespowerpartnership.org.au/


Updates on water court case

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW has commenced a world-first legal action to protect rivers and wetlands.

The case being brought in the NSW Land & Environment Court seeks to ensure that future climate change is taken into account when decisions about water sharing plans are being made. 

To keep up to date on the progress of this court case, please fill in the form.

Visit the main page on the water & climate court case.

 

Help fund this important court case

 

 

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Water & Climate Court Case

The Nature Conservation Council has commenced a world-first legal action to protect rivers and wetlands.

The case being brought in the NSW Land & Environment Court seeks to ensure future climate change is taken into account when decisions about water sharing plans are being made.

Help fund this important court case

Receive updates on the court case

Scientific modelling suggests rain and runoff in the Murray-Darling Basin will declined, that patterns of rainfall will change, and droughts will become more severe. The last severe drought, which followed soon after the Millennium Drought, saw record low inflows into many dams. 

Making decisions on water without taking future climate change into account is foolhardy and has serious consequences for environmental health and water sharing within the catchment and for floodplains and downstream rivers, wetlands and communities. 

It results in too much water being given to irrigators and too little being left for the environment and communities. Dams will empty too fast, dangerously depleting vital drought reserves. 

If our legal action succeeds, decision makers will have to start taking climate change into account when setting catchment-wide extraction limits and environmental flow rules. 

This is the first time in the world a catchment-wide water sharing instrument has been challenged on the grounds that fails to address the future impacts of climate change. 

This could mean more water for fragile ecosystems across the Murray-Darling Basin and in turn healthier river systems and greater water security for downstream communities.

Our children and future generations deserve to enjoy and benefit from a healthy, functioning river systems.

We will argue in court the NSW Water Minister breached the Water Management Act 2000 by failing to take climate change impacts into account in relation to the Border Rivers Water Sharing Plan. We will also argue the Environment Minister breached the Act by giving his concurrence to that plan. 

The Nature Conservation Council is represented by the Environmental Defenders Office and Brett Walker SC. 

Climate change is not some abstract phenomenon that may occur in the distant future. River communities in NSW are bearing the brunt of that change every day, right now. 

Just 18 months ago, many towns in western NSW were entirely dependent of bores or truck deliveries for their water supplies. 

The Menindee Lakes until recently were a dustbowl and the Macquarie Marshes and other wetlands across the state are on the brink of ecological collapse. 

This is a challenge for public administrators right now, and we believe the NSW Government has failed in its duty to meet that challenge. 

Healthy rivers must be our top priority because they are the lifeblood of communities and ecosystems everywhere, especially in the Murray-Darling Basin. 

It is not just prudent for governments to factor in the impacts of climate change, it is a legal requirement that we are seeking to uphold by taking this action. 

We wish it was not necessary, but when public officials fail to uphold our environmental laws, we have no choice but to act. 

Help fund this important court case

Receive updates on the court case

Read the media release from the Environmental Defenders Office.

Read the Guardian story about the court case.

 


Climate-based legal challenge to NSW water-sharing plan

The Nature Conservation Council has launched legal proceedings to have the Border Rivers Water Sharing Plan 2021 ruled invalid, alleging it was made without properly considering the future impacts of climate change. [1] 

It is the first time in Australia — and possibly the world — that a catchment-wide water sharing instrument has been challenged on climate-related grounds. 

The Nature Conservation Council is represented by the Environmental Defenders Office and Brett Walker SC.  

Proceedings are being taken against the Water Minister, who made the Border Rivers WSP, and the Environment Minister, who provided concurrence. 

“We are alleging that the Border Rivers Water Sharing Plan is unlawful because the ministers responsible failed to properly consider the impact climate change is likely to have on the volume of water available to share,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“As a consequence, too much water has been allocated for extraction and too little for the environment and downstream communities on the Barwon and Darling-Barka Rivers. 

“Our rivers and the ecosystems they support are in crisis. Whole sections of the river system have completely dried up.  

“The Menindee Lakes until recently were a dustbowl and the Macquarie Marshes and other wetlands across the state are on the brink of ecological collapse.  
  
“This is a challenge for public administrators right now, and we believe the NSW Government has failed in its duty to meet that challenge. 

“Healthy rivers must be our top priority because they are the lifeblood of communities and ecosystems everywhere, especially in the Murray-Darling Basin.    

“If we fail to keep our rivers alive as a first priority, it doesn’t really matter what our second priority is. We will have lost the fight.  

“Climate change is not some abstract phenomenon that may occur in the distant future. River communities in NSW are bearing the brunt of that change every day, right now. 

“Just 18 months ago, many towns in western NSW were entirely dependent of bores or truck deliveries for their water supplies. 

“It is not just prudent for governments to factor in the impacts of climate change. It is a legal requirement that we are seeking to uphold by taking this action. 

“Climate models used to predict climate change and its impacts are sufficiently robust and we claim they must be taken into account in determining the allocation of water.      

“We wish it was not necessary, but when public officials fail to uphold our environmental laws, we have no choice but to act.” 

VIDEO NEWS GRABS 

Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian.  

REFERENCES 

[1] NSW government faces crucial court challenge to Murray-Darling water plan, The Guardian Australia, 6-10-21 

MEDIA CONTACT: James Tremain | 0419 272 254 


Illegal floodplain harvesting works should be removed within 12 months

The NSW Government should audit all floodplain harvesting structures and order the removal of any that lack planning approval within 12 months.   

The audit and the compliance blitz are two of the key recommendation the Nature Conservation Council has made to the NSW Legislative Council Select Committee on Floodplain Harvesting.

Read more

Opening statement to the floodplain harvesting inquiry

Opening Statement to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Floodplain Harvesting

By Chris Gambian, Chief Executive Nature Conservation Council of NSW

Thank you, Chair, and thank you to the Committee for the opportunity to say a few words to you this morning.
 

 First, may I acknowledge that I am coming to you from Bidgegal country on the northern banks of the Georges River, and I pay my respects to ancestors and elders.  I also pay my respects to the ancestors and elders of the Barkinji nation and all the first nations whose country we will discuss today. 

In the searing heat of December 2019 I walked where the Darling Baarka should have been flowing. 

I remember the eery silence. I remember the stillness of that lifeless place. 

The river bank high on either side of me, I could have walked for miles and not seen a drop of water.  

I’ve walked through rows and rows of rotting citrus orchards. A once viable farm now no longer capable of earning a living for the farmer, nor feeding the rest of us.  

When the pipeline from the Murray was built to service Broken Hill because the Menindee Lakes could no longer be relied upon for town water – or so the story goes – emus could be found dead along its route.  They could smell the water but not access it. 

When I was back in the far west in November 2020, even after rain had come you could still smell the stench of dead fish rotting in the water in Wilcannia.

In the town of Menindee, so central to the story Australia tells itself about the outback, the water stinks. The water we ask our fellow Australians to shower in and brush teeth with and drink, stinks.  

The conservation movement of NSW does not support flood plain harvesting.  

It is a practise so contradictory to the principles of water sharing, so antagonistic to the common good, and so profoundly harmful to the sustainability of the ecosystems on which we all depend, that it should be considered not merely illegal, but anti-social and loathsome. 

The assertion made by some that floodplain harvesting must be licenced before it can be regulated or limited is an obtuse one. 

Imagine if this were the government’s approach in other policy areas? 

We oppose floodplain harvesting but we acknowledge that it is a common practice, and we see merit in creating a realistic regulatory framework for it that gives everyone more certainty. 

NCC has participated in the FPH Review Committee in good faith. However, our representative has been gagged through a Deed of Confidentiality. 

Our organisation has had far less access to agency staff and less direct consultation on FPH than the irrigation industry. 

We have lodged several dissenting reports on the assessment and review process with Mr Jim Bentley, the Deputy Secretary. 

Water policy, perhaps more than most policy areas, is extremely complex.  

You’ll hear that often repeated and will know that from your own experience.  

Indeed, too many people stay away from the important debates in water policy because of this complexity, and the details of the history, data and law have been weaponised to bamboozle and confuse politicians, regulators, stakeholders and the public at large to avoid proper scrutiny. 

For my own part, I have tried to understand the complexity through a simple framework which, if you indulge me, I will share with you.  The three ‘Ms’: 

  1. Measurement. This is probably the area where there is the most consensus. We need accurate information about how much water exists in the system, how much is being taken out, by whom, and how much is left. I applaud the government for its efforts to get metres installed across the basin. We need even more measurement. It is critical. 
     
  2. Modelling. Once we know how much water is in the system, how much is being taken and from where it is being taken, we can start to create realistic models for allocations. Critically, climate change must be factored into the models.
  3. And finally, management. Creating a management regime that ensures the proper priority of use is applied. In this case, end of system flow targets that ensure sufficient water is made available for river health and communities, will create a frame work that is both sustainable and predictable. 

Any regulatory framework needs to be realistic. And that realism needs to start with two acknowledgments: 

First, that this is an incredibly dry continent that is getting drier because of climate change. 

And second, that there is not likely to ever be enough water available to do all the things we may want to do with it. We may have ample land, but we do not have ample water. 

It seems to me that this second reality is the hardest one for many people to swallow.  

Moreover, whilst I speak today to advocate for the health of the river and its ecosystems, the environment is not a stakeholder. 

The deal making and horse trading in water politics over the last 20 years has given rise to the fallacy that the environment somehow exists as some kind of interest group that needs to be balanced against other pursuits. 

Without a healthy river, communities die. Agriculture dies. Its survival is our survival. When it thrives, we thrive. 

Lake Menindee is full right now. Life is coming back. I’m dreaming of the joy of swimming in the river again. After lockdown I’m going to get back there. I want my daughters to experience that incredibly special place. Many of you have been. If you haven’t, I hope you go. I hope more people from the east coast go to visit. It changes you. We must protect it. 

Thank you. 


Floodplain harvesting inquiry is a chance to clear the air after government’s failed floodwater giveaway

23 June 2021 

The Nature Conservation Council looks forward to contributing to the NSW Upper House inquiry into floodplain harvesting announced today. 

“The inquiry follows the introduction earlier this year of poorly designed regulations that would have transferred billions of dollars’ worth of public water into private hands,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“Those floodplain harvesting regulations would also have denied water-dependent wildlife, ecosystems and downstream communities vital water resources just as climate change is really starting to bite in NSW, especially in the Far West. 

“Had they not been disallowed by the NSW Parliament, they would have constituted one of the greatest transfers of natural resources into private hands in Australia’s history. 

“Floodplain harvesting is killing our rivers. It needs to be reined in, not given a blanket exemption.” 

The NSW Legislative Council voted today to establish a select committee into: 

  1. the NSW Government’s management of floodplain harvesting, including: 
  2. The legality of floodplain harvesting practices;  
  3. The water regulations published on 30 April 2021; 
  4. How floodplain harvesting can be licensed, regulated, metered and monitored so that it is sustainable and meets the objectives of the Water Management Act 2000 and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan; and  
  5. Any other related matters. 

The committee will have three government MPs, three Opposition MPs and two crossbenchers. Greens MLC Cate Faerhman will be chairperson. Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MLC Mark Banaziak will be deputy chair. 


Senate must reject Nationals' attempts to further undermine the Basin Plan

The Nature Conservation Council calls on all Senators to defend the Murray-Darling River system and reject proposed National Party amendments to the Water Legislation Amendment (Inspector-General of Water Compliance and Other Measures) Bill 2021. 

“The proposed amendments will substantially hamper attempts to restore the Murray-Daring River system and are clearly not in the public interest,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“Water buybacks are a critical tool for reviving our dying Murray-Darling River system. Without them, we may never restore the basin’s rivers, lakes and billabongs, and we’ll leave a legacy of toxic algal blooms and dead and dying river red gum forests. 

“Any moves to outlaw buybacks as a legitimate management tool are extremely reckless. 

“We call on Senators to stop the Nationals further undermining the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and entrenching the wealth and power of the irrigator lobby.” 

The amendments would also scrap the return of 450 gigalitres of desperately needed water to the environment.  


Conservation movement ready to work with the new Labor leadership on koalas, climate, water and forestry

Statement by Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian 

“We welcome Chris Minns’ election as leader of NSW Labor and look forward to working with the new Labor leadership team to put climate action and the protection of nature at the top of the political agenda. 

“The people want an effective Opposition with a comprehensive set of policies to tackle our most urgent environmental issues and force the government to compete for votes in these vital areas of public policy.  

“We hope that the new Labor leadership team can start a race to the top against the Coalition in the critical areas of koala conservation, climate action and the reform of water and forestry management. 

“Labor has an opportunity and a responsibility to come up with a plan to end native forest logging in a way that supports workers into a sustainable plantation-based industry. 

“And Labor must take up the fight on land clearing, especially terrible proposals that would accelerate the extinction crisis for koalas. 

“The Coalition government is taking strong action on the energy transition and national parks, but is getting wrong on water, koalas, logging and land clearing. 

“The new leader must lead on climate action policies that go beyond a just energy sector transition and includes electric vehicles and agriculture. And end the false choice between jobs and a livable climate.  

“Labor must recommit to supporting a healthy Murray-Darling Basin through better water management and flow targets. 

“It must also show leadership on the pressing issue of native forest logging. Our forests and the wildlife they support are dying because of unsustainable logging.”