Gippsland News & Views

More East Gippy Shire Climate Actions and submission ideas

Changeover to Electric Vehicles (No.7)

The East Gippsland Shire Council has just called for public comment on their proposed Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2022-2032. Here are more suggestions that were part of a submission to the East Gippsland Shire Council in 2015. They are rated according to immediacy, then cost, then ease of implementation. Suggest H(igh) M(edium) and L(ow) priorities. Recent comments are in brackets. Suggestions are as follows:

1. Community energy projects. Coordinate & promote. (M) Low cost and may help invigorate some local communities. See the example of Waubra.

2. Sea-level Rise (L) make appropriate planning for worst case – that is a 2m rise by 2100 and makes changes accordingly

3. Plan long term retreat from coast (L)

4. Encourage the development of Geothermal Energy through the relevant companies and state government departments (M) (incorporate in Aquatic Centres)

5. To examine the possibility of large wind farm developments, possibly offshore? (M)

6. To purchase a fully electric vehicle with solar charging as part of fleet (H) (plan changeover of whole fleet, including garbage trucks, and other ICE vehicles)

7. To co-ordinate with education bodies various means of improving knowledge of students and citizens awareness of climate change and to implement identified approaches where practical. (H)

8. To expand shire gardening and nursery activities including a substantial increase in planting and maintaining trees and shrubs in towns. (H) (greenery helps reduce the “heat island effect”)

9. Tree removal should only be permitted under strict circumstances eg fire hazard. (H) The removal of each tree should be offset either by the remover planting a specific number of replacements or paying the shire to do so. The removed tree should be used for bio-energy (by pyrolysis) if possible. Root systems of dead trees should be left undisturbed if possible. Offsetting should only be used against tree plantations or shire plantings –not against established or natural bush.

10. To remove combustible material near towns as a continuing process by physical removal, heavy grazing, summer green crops, burning and other suitable methods. (H)

East Gippy Shire Climate Actions – some submission ideas

The East Gippsland Shire Council (EGSC) has just called for public comment on their proposed Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2022-2032 . The following suggestions were part of a submission to the EGSC in 2015. They are rated according to immediacy, then cost, then ease of implementation. Suggest H(igh) M(edium) and L(ow) priorities. Recent comments are in brackets. Suggestions are as follows:

1. Climate Emergency Planning Committee (H) Easy to implement and low cost.

2. Carbon accounting. Appoint a full time Carbon Accounting Officer whose role includes creating carbon budgets for all projects and activities (H) and use as a guide for shire decisions. (part of my platform when I stood for council in 2008)

3. Say no to CSG projects. (H) Easy to implement and no cost. An international carbon budget is necessary to prevent low level runaway global warming. This will mean a substantial proportion of all fossil fuels must be left undisturbed. (now prohibited by State government legislation)

4. Forget about Gas – about to be replaced by renewable energy in the next 10 years (M) Easy to implement at no cost. (and replace gas heating in aquatic centres with geothermal)

5. Various changes to planning to permit suitable developments & changes to housing (H)

6. Vary fees to a) encourage favourable activities and b) discourage others

7. Establish local roadside committees for creating carbon sinks, plantations, bio-energy feed sources on shire lands and roadsides. These management committees should be comprised of interested parties including local landholders and maximize fire protection by grazing, burning, pruning, thinning, establishing plantations for bioenergy or carbon offsets. Management guidelines should include tree planting, tree protection, tree pruning, grazing, mowing, ecological burns, property protection burns, weed control etc. where appropriate. (H)

8. Education a) of council b) of wider public (H) on a) basics of climate change and b) what it means to each and every one of us (immediate & continuing threats including practical responses, for instance where to go in heatwaves when the power system fails).

9. Speed up process of establishing a bio-energy plant at the Bairnsdale waste facility. (M) Councillors and council workers to visit functioning plants.

10. Plan for the establishment of micro-grids including co-operating & co-ordinating local communities and electricity suppliers. (M)(Expand on the excellent example of Mallacoota)

Voices for Monash makes Candidate Call

Media Release 7.1.22

Voices for Monash (V4M) makes an urgent Call to Action as election looms.

V4M is calling for all residents of the Monash electorate who believe there is an urgent need for stronger, community-driven representation in Federal Parliament, to get on board and join the movement. Residents are invited to play a key part in selecting an independent candidate, who will be supported by V4M members, to stand in the upcoming Federal election.

V4M was formed in May 2021 by a core group of locals dissatisfied with the current representation in the electorate. Foundation member, Farhat Firdous said, “I felt driven to take action last year after witnessing the apparent breakdown in responsible, ethical government in Canberra, and the lack of a representative voice in our community when MPs owe their allegiance to a major political party. I felt we needed a fresh approach to critical issues that affect our community, including climate change, accountability and transparency among our leadership.”

V4M was inspired by the success of other community independents groups, such as our neighbors in Indi, and Zali Steggall’s success in Warringah, ‘Voices’ cross-benchers are committed to working in the interests of their communities and to bringing critical issues and accountability to Parliament. “In Monash, we want what Indi and Warringah have – committed, community-driven representation in Canberra,” Farhat Firdous said. “They achieved success on the back of successful grass-roots campaigns in the local communities of Indi. We aim to do this too.”

Farhat went on to say that although the group had seen a strong growth in supporters over the course of last year, more community engagement from across all parts of the Monash electorate would strengthen the process of electing a suitable candidate to represent residents at the ballot box. She encourages anyone interested to get in touch.

Nominations for prospective candidates are also still welcome but will close on Friday 21 January. V4M members will then be invited to attend a deliberative forum to hear from each prospective candidate before voting to select their preferred representative.

Further information about joining V4M, its values and the criteria for potential candidates can be found at the website and the Facebook page.

Media contact.

2014 Speech at the Declaration of the Polls in Gippsland East Part 2

(artwork Deirdre Jack)

Bairnsdale 8.12.2014

So what are some of the worst-case scenarios? 2014 is shaping up as the hottest year on Earth since measurements began. We can expect another long hot summer. This means another torrid fire season. Every time there is a fire or threat of fire in Gippsland the tourist traffic drops. Every time the fire rating reaches code red travel comes to a standstill. The tourist industry is threatened now. Heatwaves and bushfires threaten our power supplies and life itself. The very young, sick and elderly are our first victims of global warming. Make no mistake your family and your family’s future are under threat. As we dally and procrastinate and listen to the climate criminals in the Murdoch media we are moving towards the abyss of low level runaway warming.

And who talks of low level runaway warming? None other than James Hansen, director of Goddard Institute of Space Studies at NASA until his recent retirement – an employee of the organization that put man on the moon and one of the most reputable climate scientists. Low level runaway warming means that whatever actions mankind takes the warming will continue producing a barely recognizable, sizzling world with wars over limited resources, far fewer humans, the extinction of many species, not much ice and no penguins, not much coral and no more clown fish, few forests – an unrecognizable world.

The more slowly we act the more severe the consequences of climate change and the more radical the required action. Urgent action now could possibly avoid the need for a wartime style emergency government bringing with it a loss of freedom and many of the things we take for granted – perhaps even the right to vote. We face stark choices now – principally whether we fully support renewable energy or continue with the old fossil fuel industry. There are many other stark choices related to jobs, food production, clean air, and water.

True leadership in politics is doing something first and then hopefully bringing the people with you. Sometimes this requires great courage and sometimes the leader is isolated. I often quote the maxim of English divine Thomas Norton “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” My hope is for true leadership and courage to come to the fore at all levels of politics. Then we can work hard preparing for the worst of global warming.

2014 Speech at Declaration of the Polls in Gippsland East Part 1

Bairnsdale 8.12.2014

In this election I have been careful not to run a scare campaign. Perhaps I should have. Ten years ago (i.e. 2004) I wrote the following:

“Several things about global warming are already certain. Firstly the “greenhouse effect” exists for without the presence of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere there could be no life on earth as we know it whatsoever. The planet would be too cold with low CO2 in the atmosphere. Secondly Carbon Dioxide is a prominent Greenhouse gas (though not the only one) and the amount of this gas in the atmosphere has been steadily increasing over the last 150 years. This increase is a result of human activities – in particular the burning of fossil fuels. Finally computer models have been predicting for more than 30 years that this increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will lead to increased average global temperatures commonly referred to as ‘global warming’.”

This is what is happening and is measured by the CSIRO, BOM and other reputable agencies around the world. My 2004 words continued:

“Some of the predictions made 20 years ago are already occurring: the average earth temperature is at its hottest since measurements began; the summer of 2003 was the hottest in the northern hemisphere for 500 years; many glaciers and ice caps are in retreat or thinning. Thus we are living in the middle of a global experiment. The debate between scientists is over. Will the changes be on the conservative side and manageable or on the high side and disastrous? The relationship between lung cancer and smoking is a classic, and forbidding, example. The vested interests pursued a strong campaign of misinformation, significantly delaying the general acceptance of scientific evidence on the dangers of smoking – a rear guard action, and it was many years before the obvious became accepted fact.

“The political power of the oil and coal industries is far, far greater than that of the tobacco lobby. Currently they have the most senior politician of the most powerful country (on earth) in their pocket (George Bush). And they no doubt fund many organisations to search for so called “scientific” information favourable to their cause. They have the power to delay ameliorating changes almost indefinitely, thus eventually exaggerating the effects of global warming. Perhaps we all should be preparing for a worst-case scenario.” (to be continued)

Brown Hydrogen, the Valley and Westernport

Part of a large crowd protesting against plans to export liquid hydrogen from the Port of Hastings (July 2018)

A recent media release from Westernport and Peninsula Protection Council (WPPC) and the Save Westernport group was on the threat to the marine environment from the increase in shipping due to the Kawasaki brown coal to hydrogen project in the Latrobe Valley (see MR here). The good news is that shallow vessels will be exporting the hydrogen as “the trial (pilot) project involves ships with shallow draughts entering Westernport to pick up” the hydrogen. Thus, the immediate threat to the marine environment of Westernport Bay is limited.

The bad news is that the whole process is energy intensive and that the hydrogen “has [to be] trucked to Hastings and converted to liquid, by freezing to -250 degrees centigrade. The hydrogen must be kept at this temperature as it’s shipped to Japan” – energy that is still mainly supplied by our dirty, greenhouse gas generating, brown coal power. The hydrogen process will only be carbon neutral or ‘green’ when all the steps of production and distribution are supplied by renewables. I have blogged on this on a number of occasions (see here and here).

The media release noted this “project has involved $50 million dollars each by State and Federal Government and $400 million from Japan. This does not include government spending on carbon capture and storage which is going ahead in parallel. It is not part of the trial but is proposed to be part of a commercial stage if it goes ahead. Environment groups including Ninety Mile against Carbon Storage are vehemently opposed to this associated Carbon Capture and Storage. So-called ‘blue hydrogen’* projects, that rely on unproven CCS technology, would entrench the unnecessary use of fossil fuels in energy production.”

Julia Stockigt, Secretary of Save Westernport noted the “$500 million project to convert brown coal to hydrogen is by no means a green energy project. $100 million towards the trial is funded by Australian taxpayers – there’s no future in brown hydrogen, and it is putting Westernport Bay at risk”, and “It’s money that would be far better invested in truly valuable “green energy” projects that protect our future, and that global energy markets increasingly demand.”

I have long been of the opinion that market forces would mean that projects such as this would not proceed. However, the direct funding of the project by both State and Federal governments and indirect funding via the carbon capture and storage distorts the normal economic process. This is another fossil fuel subsidy making our ability to help control the climate emergency more difficult. The time has come to phase out all direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies as soon as possible – starting with this increasingly absurd brown coal to hydrogen project.

*blue hydrogen usually refers to hydrogen made with fossil fuel gas.

Update on Gippsland Offshore Wind

(Image Flotation Energy)

Following the passing of offshore wind legislation in Federal Parliament* the boom in this industry in Gippsland is taking off. There are now four companies with coal fired generator scale projects off the Gippsland coast – a location with the advantages of some of the best wind speeds in Australia and a close proximity to infrastructure. Just before Xmas Bluefloat Energy became the latest company to announce a 1300 MW offshore wind project in Gippsland although its exact location is not known.

Renew Economy noted Bluefloat’s “first project will be the Greater Gippsland Offshore wind project located within the Bass Strait. The project will seek to serve as a renewable energy replacement for the region’s brown coal power stations slated to close and take advantage of the established electricity network infrastructure in the region.”

The Victorian government is also promoting offshore wind with grants to three of these companies. The most advanced is the Star of the South – awarded $19.5 million for “pre-construction development activities for the 2200 MW project” -situated off the Ninety Mile beach in South Gippsland. The Star of the South is the oldest and most advanced of these projects.

The Macquarie Group’s Great Southern Offshore Wind Farm is a recipient of $16.1 million for “Pre-feasibility works to investigate the potential for a 1000 MW offshore wind farm off the Bass Coast. If constructed the project could result in a total investment of approximately $4.0 billion and the creation of over 1,500 jobs.

Flotation Energy’s Seadragon Offshore Wind Farm is a recipient of $2.3 million. Interestingly the grant is to complete “scoping studies and surveys for a 1500 MW offshore wind farm off the Gippsland coast (Seaspray), including working with oil and gas facility operators to assess the potential for onshore and offshore asset re-use”. The company noted the “Gippsland Offshore Wind Farm is a nationally significant energy transition project. It offers the potential for oil and gas asset re-use, re-purposing, and new employment for the capable local energy workforce. It will produce renewable baseload power to supply the grid and enable green hydrogen…projects to proceed.”

It estimated that there will be a total of over 7000 jobs during construction – not counting the latest Bluefloat Energy project. The projects take 6 years or more to come to fruition and there is a need for them to be fast tracked so that our brown coal fired generators can be retired much earlier than currently predicted. Unfortunately our local parliamentarians – both State and Federal – have been missing in action.

*this legislation was delayed for years by the Coalition government. See here.

Time is Running Out for our Coastal Communities

Inverloch Beach (BCP)

In an article ‘Time is running out’ by Philip Heath published in the Bass Coast Post the dire predicament of the Inverloch surf beach was examined in detail. Heath claims that the “next few months are critical in the fight to save the Inverloch surf beach” and “at the current rate, the dunes will be gone in four years. Once the dunes are gone, we will lose the beach, as the dunes are a reserve supply of sand for the beach.”

Philip noted “Our research indicates the main contributing factors for the rapid changes are increases in the frequency and intensity of erosion-inducing storms and bigger ocean swells, combined with rising sea levels. Storms are now occurring so frequently that the dunes don’t have time to recover, as may have occurred previously. In addition, sand eroded from the surf beach has been pushed into Andersons Inlet, where it cannot assist with surf beach replenishment.”

And “These factors are very likely linked to climate change, which we expect will be confirmed by the current Victorian Government Coastal Hazard Assessment, due to report in early 2022. The Assessment is important work that will form the basis of a long-term adaptation strategy for Inverloch and adjoining sections of coastline. However, the report will not be released until at least the end of March 2022. Meanwhile, the surf beach dunes have eroded a further 10 metres since the announcement.”

Philip Heath is calling for a number of short-term solutions including “proposing dune renourishment over the Wreck Creek and Flat Rocks sections of coastline, importing a total of around 17,500 tonnes of sand to restore the dune profile to what existed in 2018. The renourishment needs to be completed in early 2022, before the onset of the autumn and winter.

I have a lot of sympathy with these proposals but recognise the conflict between short and long-term solutions. Inertia in the climate system means sea levels will continue rising for many years (see here and here). The rapid collapse of the ‘Doomsday’ glacier in Antarctica is predicted to give up to 60cm of sea level rise in a relatively short time. This spells disaster for coastal communities such as Inverloch and the energy expended (and money spent) on short-term solutions is probably wasted.

Philip Heath is aware of this conundrum and noted that over “the past decade, up to 70 metres of the vegetated dunes that existed behind the 2-kilometre-long Inverloch Surf Beach in 2012 have been swept away. This is the most rapid change recorded along the Victorian coastline in European historical times.” This almost certainly will be a continuing and worsening battle along our coasts. In the long-term, it will involve a retreat from the coast and in the case of Inverloch substantial property and infrastructure loss. Time has already run out for us to counter our rising seas.

Our Second Bushfire Anniversary


Many of the myths (read propaganda) of the Murdoch media about our Black Summer bushfires can be ‘put to bed’. They were obvious to those on the ground. One is that the fires were all started by lightning and not by arsonists. In late November 2019, dry lightning storms ignited a number of bushfires in very dry, isolated, and inaccessible mountainous country. These quickly joined to form four major bushfires of about 10,000 hectares each with massive perimeters making them impossible to control and threatening a catastrophic fire season before the commencement of summer.

A recent study by CSIRO scientists has found a direct link between bushfires and climate change and “that these fires were far from normal. Our new analysis of Australian forest fire trends just published in Nature Communications confirms for the first time the Black Summer fires are part of a clear trend of worsening fire weather and ever-larger forest areas burned by fires.” They found that the “main driver for the growing areas burnt by fire is Australia’s increasingly severe fire weather, accounting for 75% of the variation observed in the total annual area of forest fires. This is consistent with predictions from climate change scenarios that severe fire weather conditions will intensify due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Another piece of Murdoch propaganda was that prescribed burning could have controlled the fires and that the authorities were negligent in this regard. Aside from noting the confusion in the media between ‘controlled’ or ‘prescribed burns’* (and debatable effectiveness of this anyway ) and back burning the CSIRO asked, “Could fuel loads or prescribed burning be to blame? No. We looked for trends in these factors, and found nothing to explain the rise in burnt areas.”

In a recent trip from Lakes to Eden, my first since the fires, I was able to observe the effects of the 2019/20 summer. After Orbost, the signs were quite clear – the Bellbird Hotel for instance, had been ringed by fire, but survived. After Wingan River signs of crowning were evident with numbers of completely dead trees, reminding me of how hot these fires were and of the New Years Day 2020 catastrophe at Mallacoota.

The CSIRO report concluded: “While many factors contribute to catastrophic fire events, our Black Summer was not an aberration. Rather, it was the continuation of fire trends beginning more than two decades ago. It is now clear that human-induced climate change is creating ever more dangerous conditions for fires in Australia. We need to be ready for more Black Summers – and worse.”

*burning off during the cool season to remove any build-up of inflammable materials whilst back burning is employed during a fire in an attempt to control its spread.

Some Xmas Climate Action Suggestions

Made in Bairnsdale

There are many easy things you can do to support climate action. Here are four that come to mind you can do during the festive season (except the last). First, wear a badge or t-shirt. I have a number of favourites with messages like ‘I want climate action’ and ‘I support climate action’. These badges, made in Bairnsdale on thin slivers of polished and lacquered waste wood, are attractive, and eye catching. They can be purchased at the Foundry in Bairnsdale but if they are not to your liking, there must be lots of others out there being pushed by your local climate group. Alternatively wear one of the climate action t-shirts that are floating about. I have a number of badges and t-shirts as small gifts and I try to wear one every day.   

Second, put up a poster. I have a corflute designed by Nola Kelly of Metung in the front window of our unit. I have noticed a number of these in town in front yards and on front fences. Further, afield the posters of climate independents in some of the coalition held electorates in Melbourne are going up everywhere – in particular the bayside suburbs of Melbourne Ports and South Yarra and Kooyong.

Third, usually over Xmas there is the opportunity to discuss climate change with your family and such discussions will probably arise naturally especially if you are wearing a badge. We assume, of course that you have done your homework, are well informed, and can answer all the standard questions and objections. We are probably well past the standard ‘Do you believe in climate change?’ question. As with most family discussions the main subject can often be diverted or head off at a tangent so it is wise to be aware of this and to persevere. If your family has a closet ‘denier’ at the very least you should try to sow some ‘doubt”.

Finally, in the near future everyone will have the opportunity to vote climate. With the federal election looming early next year the campaigning has already begun – as with the climate independents above. The state elections are in November. The option to vote climate in Gippsland is limited. There is a ‘Voices’ group in Monash but it is not clear whether they will nominate a candidate. In Gippsland it may mean a green or independent vote (make sure any of the latter candidates you might vote for is strong on climate) before Labor and the coalition. As a final gesture, I believe that you can write on your ballot paper and it will still be a valid vote. If you write the message ‘climate action’ on your ballot, make sure the paper is clearly marked with a number in every square. It won’t change the result in Gippsland but it may make you feel a bit better.