Saturday, May 5, 2007

Local Press Release

5th May 2007: For immediate release

Climate Change: Government policy lags resident expectations

According to Christopher Stenhouse, local residents in Chatswood have found that when it comes to taking action to mitigate the impacts of Climate Change, the administration side of Council (charged with implementing current policy) is out of step with the residents’ and Councillors' current thinking. Christopher, acting on behalf of his parents and other residents of Wilfred Avenue Chatswood, has been asking Willoughby Council to acquire at least some old growth forest on properties at 39-43 Wilfred Avenue. In the process, Christopher has secured pledges from local residents for $500,000. They need at least $650,000 to secure one property and $3M to acquire all three. Pledges have been given from residents as far away as Bellevue Street. According to Stenhouse, “Even pensioners are making $500.00 pledges”.

“In my view, this level of community interest and participation is unprecedented” says Willoughby West Ward Councillor Terry Fogarty. “Christopher and his team approached me seeking support to purchase 43 Wilfred Avenue. I pointed out to them that whilst Willoughby Council does purchase vacant land from time to time, there is no current budget provision for such an acquisition”. Stenhouse replied that “Council needs to listen to its residents. Trees on the properties are listed on Council’s own Natural Heritage Register. Residents are concerned about Global Warming and Climate Change and feel Council should be doing more at a local level to address these issues”. Subsequently Clr. Fogarty proposed a draft motion that Council consider how it could assist the local residents acquire the property.

The residents were astounded to read the recommendation from Council Administration Officers (Nick Tobin, Corporate Affairs Director) to Council that “No further action be taken to purchase any portion of the property and Council Officers work with any potential developer of the site to ensure that significant natural features of the site are retained through a negotiated planning and design process”.

According to Stenhouse, “We know the Council is developing innovative approaches to Climate Change; in fact, they met recently to consider their Sustainability initiatives in light of recent evidence regarding Global Warming. For example, Council is looking at some innovative partnering with the corporate sector to protect and restore bushland. So we are disappointed and dismayed to see such a recommendation from the Council’s administrative team. We know that Council is still formulating its exact response to Climate Change, so we are hoping that until that time, Councillors will see their way clear to adopt a Precautionary Approach and assist in the purchase of this old growth reserve until more is known about the intrinsic value of bushland. And with $500,000 already pledged by the local community, Council can be assured that it has the community’s support”

“I was astounded to discover during my research on this project that the NSW Government has adopted such a low penalty ($11.00 /tCO2-eq) for CO2 emissions. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report, Working Group III – Mitigation of Climate Change (4th May 2007) has identified that carbon penalties need to be set in the order to US$155.00/t CO2-eq (A$190.00/t CO2-eq ). This is some seventeen times higher than NSW current rates. Is it any wonder that our bureaucrats undervalue the intrinsic value of bush land?” said Clr. Fogarty.

Clr. Fogarty’s motion will discussed by Council at its Corporate and Transport Committee Meeting, 6PM, Banksia Room, Level 6, 31 Victor Street, Chatswood on Monday 7 May 2007. It has also been ‘called’ to the full Council Meeting, 7PM, Council Chambers, 31 Victor Street, Chatswood on Monday 14 May 2007.

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