Gippsland Climate News

Wind Power for Bass Coast

Murra Warra II wind farm on sheep and wheat country near Horsham

Bass Coast Shire Council media release, December 2022 republished from The Bass Coast Post

Bass Coast Shire Council has saved almost $30,000 and almost 2000 tonnes of CO2 emissions in the past 12 months by powering its municipal offices, streetlights and community buildings with 100 per cent renewable energy. Bass Coast is one of 51 local governments to have switched council buildings and facilities to renewable electricity through the Victorian Energy Collaboration (VECO).

The renewable energy is provided by two wind farms – the 80-turbine Dundonnell wind farm near Mortlake, which started exporting power to the grid in March 2020, and the 99-turbine Murra Warra II wind farm near Horsham, which has just come into operation. VECO is the largest ever emissions reduction project by local governments in Australia. Since launching in 2021, it has grown from 46 to 51 participating councils in Victoria to now be the biggest renewable energy buyers’ group in the country.

25% cheaper electricity has already been delivered in the first 12 months, thanks to VECO’s collective investment in Victorian renewables. These savings are being re-directed to critical community services. This landmark collaboration demonstrates the value of local governments working together to tackle climate change. Approximately 172,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions have been saved by councils in the first 12 months, equivalent to powering up to 35,000 homes or taking 66,000 cars off the road each year. Savings are expected to increase to 220,000 tonnes per year.

Through the collective buying of renewable energy we have supported investment in renewables in Victoria, increasing energy stability and reducing retail energy prices. It also supports the delivery of Bass Coast’s commitment to achieve net zero council emissions by 2030.

A Climate Review by Nola Kelly  

Anika Molesworth Our Sunburnt Country, Macmillan, 2021*

Anika first became aware of a changing climate at a young age on her family’s farm as she watched the Al Gore film “An Inconvenient Truth” and slowly she comes to realise the climate crisis that we face. Her journey takes her to gain a PhD as she studies, reads, and speaks to many knowledgeable people around the globe, her focus on food and farming as both offender and victim in the Climate Change scenario.

The book explores the need for us to have courage, to not shy away from reality but to know it, and act accordingly. To also recognise the losses as our biodiversity is changing with sometimes huge consequences and impact on the world as we know it. Anika raises the concept of “the shifting baseline” where over generations species become lessened and disappear and we forget what abundance there once was. Hugely depleted fish stocks are a prime example of this. We are devouring our planet and Climate Change affects what we eat and what we eat affects Climate Change, so we must accept responsibility, learn from the past, and realise the need for urgent action now.

Life is seen as fragile and precious, and food is seen as the staple of life. For thousands of years First Nations peoples have sustained themselves from the land and it is by acknowledging our relationship with the land around us that we become aware of our responsibility to look after it. Degradation of the land leads to more people abandoning country life and results in a disconnection from nature as well as the processes of food production. The global average age of farmers is now 60 years.

A big part of the problem facing our food production is seen as the public demand for cheap food which leads to land degradation, deforestation, poor animal husbandry, and destruction of diverse eco systems. As the food becomes less nutritious due to these intense farming methods our health deteriorates and disease increases. The gulf between people and nature widens. Anika suggests that we can all take more responsibility for our food systems by paying attention to where our food comes from, what it takes to produce it, as well as the nutritional value for our bodies.

Anika laments the unfairness that the people most vulnerable and at risk of the repercussions of Climate Change are those who have contributed least to it’s creation. It is seen as social injustice with most of the problems stemming from a wealthy minority. In the developed world we are all part of the problem and must accept responsibility for being part of the solution, recognising and addressing the problems however hard this may be. New and creative thinking is required to alleviate social, environmental, and economic problems.

Change can occur when we focus on building the new and this can happen quickly when policy change is part of the mix. As people demand better leadership, and with mass mobilisation, the goals to heal the planet can be reached. Anika has a vivid vision for the future, one that involves justice, equality, respect, and abundance. All of it achievable if only we have the will to do so. This is an inspiring chapter and outlines just what is possible if we all take action. The last chapter gives ideas and guidance of what we can all do, today, this week, and this month. We can all make a start to do this by sitting in nature and contemplating our role in caring for the planet and the future of humanity.

*copy in the East  Gippsland Shire Library

Electric vehicle charging stations in East Gippsland

Francis St Station (Tony Peck)

Republished from Environment Connect Summer 22-23

The East Gippsland Shire Council has installed the first stage of the planned public electric vehicle (EV) charging station network in East Gippsland. Contractors are working hard to have them ready before Christmas. Stage one is funded by the Australian Government’s Local Roads and Community Infrastructure (LRCI) Program and is seeing a 50kw fast charger installed in the following sites:

121 Nicholson Street carpark, Bairnsdale

Tongio Road, Omeo

Wolseley Street carpark & toilet block, Orbost

Ward Street, Cann River

The fees and charges were set at an unscheduled Council meeting on 29 November 2022. The cost for the public to charge will be 40 cents per kWh, and the customers will need to set up an account with ChargeFox. For more information and to stay up to date visit Council’s Electric Vehicle Your Say page, where information on the new electric vehicle network is updated regularly – including sites being planned for next year in Buchan, Mallacoota and Lakes Entrance.The EV chargers will supply 100% renewable electricity from Council’s energy retailer via a ten year power purchase agreement, called VECO.

Evie networks are also installing EV chargers for the public. They will be installed in the following towns:

Francis Street, Bairnsdale (image above)*

Visitor Information Centre, Lakes Entrance

Raymond Street, Paynesville

Visitor Information Centre, Bruthen

Evie Networks will also be installing 50kW DC charging stations, using their own software platform. The units for Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance are likely to be installed and ready for use over the summer holidays. Electrical supply upgrades are required at Bruthen and Paynesville, delaying the roll out until 2023 at these two sites.

More information: Rebecca Lamble, Sustainability Officer

*This station was built in just 3 days.

Voices of the East: Kitchen Table Conversations

Extracts from a 13 page VotE document: Climate Change is mentioned 10 times. The document is mostly in a ‘brainstorming’ format.

What do you think are the major issues and your concerns? Fairly sure the future is not uncertain – certainly we are all going down the gurgler due to climate change ∙ Climate change and subsequent episodic events such as fires droughts floods and hail etc. – we are not well set up to handle these on a repeated basis ∙ Forest issues – burning and logging (against this) ∙ Lack of infrastructure such as hospitals and vets etc. with all the new housing and population growth ∙ Also need the workforce to operate these services ∙ Facing an energy crisis – nationally.

 Climate Change ∙ Bushfires ∙ Loss of native forests ∙ That people learn how to have difficult conversations and listen to people they have a reaction to ∙ That people learn the difference between reacting and responding, and learn the skills to respond appropriately.

 A clean, healthy, and balanced environment ∙ Information overload and lack of time to address all the issues ∙ Effective and urgent action on climate change, inequity, racism, violence, treatment of asylum seekers ∙ That there is too much emphasis on cars and trucks ∙ That there is a genuine lack of knowledge on some of the basics of life ∙ Provision of facilities like libraries we need to identify common interests and mutual goals ∙ promote respect for all ages and different walks of life ∙ climate change ∙ climate impacts on agriculture ∙ fires, floods ∙ hierarchy of basic needs: safety ∙ emotional safety – feeling secure, significant, accepted…

Infrastructure, housing, education, telecommunication, resource management, and recycling all ranked as concerning issues. Health services, particularly staffing was raised by many people. Support for ongoing tourism and greater action on climate change were also raised as ongoing concerning issues. Some people raised ongoing inequality and ineffective and inefficient support services for drug and crime rehabilitation. People felt unprepared to handle continuous climate change induced events such as fires, droughts, floods, and significant weather events. There was concern that the destruction of the environment was contributing to climate change. A Just transition out of extractive and fossil fuel industries and into jobs that are sustainable such as eco-tourism was raised. The declining economy coupled with an aging demographic, retraction of services and collapsing roads were also raised.

More focus on recycling ∙ Local decentralised power distribution – like community battery solar generation etc. – lot of people already have solar panels but putting surplus back into the grid – we could share it amongst ourselves or the wider community ∙ Places like Lakes Entrance Metung Paynesville Raymond Island – need to show these communities what it could be like in 10 – 40 years with impacts particularly regular flooding from climate change – provide more information to the community so they can make better personal decisions – not preparing community and individuals adequately for what the future will bring ∙ Identify industries that we can move to and how to develop these – not the destructive industries ∙ Adapting to climate change got to use less concrete and cement etc. – big demand for building timber – so plantation timber an option – but need to plant trees now.

Climate and Extinction Rally at Lakes Entrance by Tony Peck

In early November, nearly 100 people rallied in Lakes Entrance. The rally’s goal was to highlight the rising numbers of threatened species caused by logging, global warming, and other human actions against habitat: affecting our forests, swamps, lakes, oceans and plains. The rally expressed anger, fear, and frustration that even though we are in a climate emergency our governments are asleep at the wheel.

Local groups Extinction Rebellion Gippsland and East Gippsland Climate Action Network organised the rally. Fantastic support came from activists across Gippsland, Melbourne, Warrnambool, and elsewhere. Blinky, the giant fire-ravaged koala joined the rally after also being a feature in amazingly graphic climate actions in the Latrobe valley.

Blinky, 4-metres-tall and with smoke drifting from its fur and a blood-curdling cry of anguish delivered an unmissable message to onlookers, equally repelled, intrigued, and emotionally affected as they watched the rally pass. Blinky was led by a funeral director, complete with the mournful sounds of a bell tolling our disappearing native species, a walking tombstone, a greater glider, bogong moth, spotted quoll and the Sybil Disobedients representing the voices of Gippsland calling for real climate action. Signs read ‘Doing nothing risks everything’, ‘Protect native forests Stop Logging’, ‘There is No Planet B’, ‘Stand up for life on Earth’, ‘Logging fuels climate catastrophe’, ‘Climate change is a burning issue’ and ‘Albo Stop funding killer industries’.

Blinky was created in response to images of fire-affected animals, including koalas during the massive 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires that threatened the homes of many of the rally participants. More than a billion native animals as well as reptiles and birds are estimated to have died during these massive fires. As the rally travelled along the Lakes Entrance waterfront, many passers-by stopped, sharing the event via their phones. Many engaged with activists, listening to explanations of the rally and taking information sheets.

Large booming drums set the rhythm for the march, slogans called for climate action and these were interspersed with Blinky’s emotionally charged roar. The march was a truly poignant and emotional occasion, but participants came away with hope that we will still able to act as though we are in an emergency and limit warming and the existential threat.

Once the rally reached the foreshore by the footbridge there were short and powerful speeches following the acknowledgement of country. Species extinction, an end to logging, and the urgency of climate action were the key focus. A drumming workshop was the finale, with wonderful rhythmic sounds.

*the author is a member of EGCAN and XR Gippsland. Image provided by author.

Climate Protests in Cowes and Wonthaggi


Bass Coast CAN media release

During the first week of COP 27 in Cairo, School Strike for Climate and Bass Coast Climate Action Network with Move Beyond Coal took part in a week of action – one of 50 events across Australia – calling on NAB to end their relationship with coal expansionists Whitehaven coal. School students and locals gathered outside NAB’s Cowes and Wonthaggi branches to talk to NAB staff and customers about the campaign and call on NAB’s CEO Ross McEwan to publicly rule out finance for coal, starting with Whitehaven coal.

Joey Thompson, from School Strike for Climate said: “It seems dishonest that NAB claims to be aligned with Paris targets but continues to lend to companies like Whitehaven Coal that are planning to DOUBLE their coal production by 2030. Keeping below 1.5 degrees warming means ending all new coal immediately. If NAB is serious about their climate commitments, they must end this toxic relationship now.”


“We’re calling on Ross McEwan, NAB’s CEO, to rule out funding for companies like Whitehaven that have no transition plan and no climate policy. If financed, the Whitehaven coal expansion will lead to climate catastrophe.” 

Jessica Harrison from Bass Coast Climate Action Network said “This week, as the world gathers at COP 27 in Cairo, it is even more urgent that companies like NAB are held accountable for their greenwash. You can’t fund coal expansion plans through companies like Whitehaven coal, via corporate finance loopholes and say you’re meeting Paris targets. It simply isn’t possible.”

“Ross McEwan, NAB’s CEO can either rule out further funding from NAB to Whitehaven coal or face a determined community movement that will not stop until he does.”

Contact: Joey Thompson School Strike for Climate 0468416845

 Contact: Jessica Harrison Bass Coast Climate Action Network 0438174029

When knowledge is power Part 2 by Catherine Watson

Republished from the Bass Coast Post*

Werner is qualified to run a power station so I’m interested to hear that he also has problems with AusNet. Around the middle of a hot sunny day his solar system stops feeding into the grid. Turns out it’s because Harmers Haven is literally at the end of the line. Two of his neighbours also have big PV systems and collectively they produce almost 40kw on a hot day. Too much for a system that’s regulated to stay below 250 volts so it doesn’t damage household appliances.

I struggle to get my mind around the difference between 40 kilowatts and 40 kilowatts an hour. Sometimes I nearly grasp it but then it recedes.  How do volts relate to watts? Doesn’t matter. I’ll know by the end of the course.

We watch a video of Saul Griffiths, a laid back renewable energy guru, who explains why Australia is perfectly placed to lead the world. It’s not just our abundant sun but our enthusiastic adoption of solar panels – the highest rate in the world. You know, the PV panels that governments and power companies have been telling us are actually a bloody nuisance and disrupting the efficient working of the market.

Not according to Griffiths, who says we just need to think about how to use them more efficiently. He talks about the sweet spot of battery storage – not the home and not the central power station but the substation that connects to a neighbourhood or small suburb.

The most important thing any of us can do to reduce emissions is to go all-electric. House, car, the lot. The beauty of it is that it will also save us money. It’s win-win-win. You don’t have to go out and buy everything right now, but plan ahead so that when your gas hot water system gives up the ghost you replace it with an energy-efficient electric hot water system, ideally with a heat pump. Factor in the EV some time in the future.

While we watch the video, Werner jumps up periodically to write on the board apparently random thoughts: “Petrol 12c/km … EV 1c/km. Power generation without water. Atmospheric rivers. Hydrogen wars.”  He writes: Last year China built 20GWs of offshore wind. Europe built 30GW.”

I ask “Is that a lot or a little?”

A lot, he says. Enough to power the entre eastern seaboard of Australia. Australia is just starting on its offshore wind generation journey with exploration of possible sites around Gippsland.

So how much renewable energy does Australia need? 25GW if we’re replacing the current load – but if the entire economy, including transport and industry, switches to electricity – as it must – we need three times that. So 75 GW.

By the time we walk out at the end of three hours we’ve caught Werner’s buzz. Feels like a revolution is coming, and we’re a humble part of it.

*author editor/publisher of the Bass Coast Post. The full article can be read here.

When knowledge is power Part 1 by Catherine Watson

Werner Theinert spreads the word

Republished from the Bass Coast Post*

Werner Theinert is explaining the Coefficient of Performance of heat pumps to us. It’s like the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. You put in one unit of energy and get back two to three units of cooling or heating.

Werner has written on the blackboard: THE ENERGY REVOLUTION IS HERE!  He loves this stuff. He’s so excited he strides the width of the room with his pointer. I’m reminded of those old Energizer ads, which is apt since we are here at Bass Coast Adult Learning (BCAL) to learn about renewable energy as part of BCAL’s Sustainability Series.

We could have started at the beginning with volts and amps and kilowatts – the alphabet and times table of renewable energy – but Werner reckons we should dive straight into the interesting stuff. We’ll ask questions and come back from different angles and by the end of it we’ll have absorbed the basic stuff as well. It’s not as if we have to pass an exam or climb on roofs to fit solar panels. Three of us qualify for the seniors’ discount and Olivia teaches at BCAL.

Interestingly, three of the five here today have connections to “the Valley”. Werner worked at the Yallourn Power Station in various roles for decades, interspersed by 15 years in the Middle East where he was in charge of power generation for an aluminium smelter. Sharon grew up in the Valley. Olivia was teaching in Morwell the day the big fire started at Hazelwood in 2014, blanketing the town in acrid smoke. None of them is sentimental about the impending end of coal-fired power generation.

​We students are all at different stages of the New Energy journey. Sharon Wilcox is a former health policy consultant who’s actually studied and lectured in renewable energy. Of course she’s made the switch from gas to electric. She’s installed a Tesla wallboard. I’m too embarrassed to ask whether you put a wallboard in a car or a house. Perhaps next week.

Tim Herring has a degree in electronics so he knows a lot of this stuff on a theoretical level. “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” he says. Tim has made the switch. He installed a heat pump for the hot water system and he’s part of a group pushing to get community battery storage in Tenby Point.

​I know the least but I’m interested in the ideas and the sudden pace of change. I’m in the middle of the switch. Ten years ago when I built my house, gas was the go. Now, inspired by our council’s climate action plan, I’ve made a start. Last month I replaced my gas hot water system with a very small electric tank. Next on the list is a split system and an electric cooktop.

Werner has solar panels and an electric vehicle (EV). To my surprise he’s still connected to the main grid. That’s because he’s been waiting and waiting for the technology – a “black box”, he calls it – to allow his Leaf EV to act as the back-up power for his house. The technology has been available in Europe and the US for ages but Australia is still thinking about it. “We’re always trialling in this country,” he grumbles.​ (to be continued)

*author editor/publisher of the Bass Coast Post. The full article can be read here.

Stark choices on coastal assets by Michael Whelan

Edited version first published in the Bass Coast Post*

In 2019, we declared a Climate Emergency and developed a comprehensive Climate Change Action Plan to cut our community’s emissions to zero by 2030. This plan also includes adaptation to respond to climate impacts, one of those being coastal erosion.

The State Government’s latest modelling has confirmed our concerns, that unless serious action is taken now, coastal erosion will impact dozens of houses in Inverloch in coming decades. Maps modelling the impact of climate change on Inverloch, released as part of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DEWLP) “Cape to Cape Resilience Project” show that, without intervention, erosion will cover hundreds of metres of Surf Parade, Inverloch, and eat into about a dozen private properties as the sea level rises 0.5 metres by 2070.

As early as 2040, the modelling shows the Inverloch Surf Lifesaving Club building surrounded entirely with a 0.2 metre sea level rise. By 2100, erosion would reach more than 40 houses at Surf Parade and beyond with a 0.8 metre rise. Erosion also threatens popular

DELWP is consulting the community as it considers more rock walls, sand renourishment and even realigning or raising sections of road in Inverloch, but there is much more that needs to be done.

We may not like to talk about it, but a planned retreat of public assets, and potentially even houses, may need to be considered among the options. Bass Coast is not alone, of course. This is a crisis shared by almost every other coastal council in Victoria, around Australia and the world, from Bells Beach to Massachusetts in north-east of the United States and beyond.

That’s why at last week’s Municipal Association of Victoria State Council meeting, Bass Coast Council put forward a motion requesting the Victorian Government urgently integrate environment and climate change policy into Victorian planning schemes and develop a state-wide Flood Mapping system and Flood Management Overlay. The Victorian Government’s current position is to leave it to local councils to update flood mapping and controls in their planning scheme.

Limited support has been provided by the State Government to some councils to help them developed flood studies and tools to help councils manage and respond to local flood risks and coastal erosion. This system and overlay should be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect our changing environment and the impacts of climate change. Inundation and coastal erosion are natural disasters that pose a significant threat to life, the environment and the economy.

Many councils do not have the resources or capability to undertake such work. It is both logical and feasible for an overarching state-wide flood inundation overlay to be developed by the Victorian Government. The Victorian Government demonstrated leadership in the aftermath of the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires by implementing a Victoria wide Bushfire Management Overlay. There is now a desperate need for a similar overlay to respond to the climate emergency and projected flood inundation and coastal erosion across Victoria. Whether it’s informing a staged retreat, coastal protection, or just managing growth and development; our communities need access to up to date information and modelling so we can make wiser decisions for our future.

*Michael Whelan is Bass Coast Mayor. The full article is here.

East Gippsland Shire Council Latest

Republished from Environment Connect Spring 23

New Environmental Sustainability Strategy

We’ve stepped up our protection for East Gippsland’s biodiversity, ecology and ecosystems, by adopting a new environmental protection strategy that charts a course for the next decade.

The Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2022-2032 recognises that East Gippslanders love their mountains, beaches and wilderness, and redoubles efforts to conserve and protect the shire’s environment.

The strategy, adopted by Council on Tuesday 28 June, demonstrates how we can act, inform, educate and lead to conserve our natural assets and address climate change. Our natural environment contributes to our residents’ health and wellbeing, forms part of our cultural identity, and underpins our tourism offerings and much of our economic activity.

The strategy aligns with the Community Vision 2040, developed with community, and sets out what we want to achieve in that time. It recognises that a long-term view is needed to achieve strategic outcomes.

The strategy has the following seven goals:

1. Conservation of the natural environment and biodiversity

2. Sustainable management of natural resources

3. Community participation in the climate response

4. Respect and alignment with the rights of Traditional Owner groups

5. Environmental sustainability supporting sustainable economic growth and new job opportunities

6. Growth in the circular economy

7. Community resilience to respond to increasing climate risks and natural disasters

The feedback indicated climate change was recognised by locals as the greatest threat to the shire’s natural environment and future sustainability. Community interest in the development of the strategy was strong, with 472 website visits; 184 downloads of the draft strategy; 55 survey responses and detailed written submissions from individuals and community groups representing 150 members.