We won! There will be no motocross facility at Adare!

In the Planning and Environment Court on the morning of 23 January, the Judge dismissed Drywound Pty Ltd’s Appeal against the Council’s decision to refuse the application for a material change of use to allow the establishment of a motocross facility on the land in Adare Road.

It’s over.

The Council’s decision to refuse the Development Application stands.

The voices of the 232 objecting submitters to the Development Application have prevailed.

Colby Steer, the Director of Drywound Pty Ltd, was self-represented at this last hearing after his lawyer had withdrawn as a result of unpaid bills and a lack of response to his emails and phone calls since mid-December 2016.

See more about this development here and here.

Gas heating, cooking to be phased out: Dutch government plans

 The use of gas to cook and for heating will be phased out in the Netherlands under the government’s new energy strategy up to 2050.
The Energieagenda policy document, published on Wednesday, states that gas firms will no longer be required to connect households to the gas supply and that no new gas infrastructure will be developed. Instead homes and offices will be heated by surplus heat generated by industry and waste incineration as well as from geothermal sources. Cooking will be done on electric hobs.
The Energieagenda is a follow up to the energy agreement reached in 2013 between the government, industry, lobby groups and unions. That agreement set out a programme to ensure 16% of Dutch energy requirements are met from sustainable sources by 2023.
Now, in order to meet the agreement reached in Paris last year, CO2 emissions must be reduced to almost zero by 2050, Kamp says. In an interview with the NRC, Kamp said that the shift to a gas-free society will happen gradually. Some seven million households are currently connected to the gas grid.
Other measures in the new plan involve phasing out the use of non-sustainable fuels in the transport sector, more investment in cycling and measures to boost solar and wind power generation by individual households. The plan also envisages that all new cars in the Netherlands will be powered by sustainable sources from 2035.
Cost estimates for the switch currently vary so much that the government has commissioned extra research to assess the financial implications of the plan. They will be published mid 2017.

Last month Amsterdam city council published a plan to rid the city of gas-fired cooking and central heating by 2050. Next year, the aim is to remove 10,000 housing corporation homes from the gas network, city alderman Abdeluheb Choho said. In addition, two new residential areas are already being built without links to the gas network.

The above article is re-posted from DutchNews.nl   where it appeared on Wednesday 7 December 2016

This is only one small demonstration of the lack of information available to the Australian population about what other countries are doing.  The Commonwealth and State governments make the most of this to try to convince us that what they are doing is in line with the rest of the world, when the reality is that we are one of the global laggards in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Massive gains in global renewable energy generation capacity last year

The other day Chris from http://gullygrove.blogspot.com.au made an interesting comment on my post on coal power as the “saviour” of those in Third World poverty.  You can see my response here, but she got me thinking that I should look into how renewable energy generation has been going recently.

This morning ABC News saved me the trouble.  They have a post on the global expansion of renewable energy generation which provides a good overview of what is happening.  As they show, if you strip out the figures for hydropower which distort the calculation of annual percentage growth because of the very large existing base of “old” hydropower plants, the expansion of other, newer, forms of renewable energy is very impressive.

Despite tumbling fossil fuel prices, global renewable energy experienced its greatest surge in capacity last year, growing 9 per cent or around 147 gigawatts (GW) of power.

Stripping out hydro – the world’s largest source of renewable energy – other technologies such as solar, geothermal and wind grew by 18 per cent according a report published by REN21, a network of global government, non-government and research organisations involved in the sector.

“The world now adds more renewable power capacity annually than it adds from all fossil fuels combined,” the report noted.

“By the end of 2015, renewable capacity in place was enough to supply an estimated 23.7 per cent of global electricity, with hydropower providing about 16.6 per cent.”

While the growth was supported by several factors – including better financing, more sympathetic policies, as well as energy security and environmental concerns – the key driver was that renewables were now cost competitive in many markets.

“This growth occurred despite tumbling global prices for all fossil fuels, ongoing fossil fuel subsidies and other challenges facing renewables, including the integration of rising shares of renewable generation, policy and political instability, regulatory barriers and fiscal constraints,” the report said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated fossil fuel companies last year received subsidies totalling around $US5.3 trillion ($7.3 trillion) worldwide, although the International Energy Agency put the figure at a more modest $US493 billion ($680 billion) largely due to a lower estimate of the potential costs of carbon pollution.

Solar PV capacity grew by 27 per cent to a total 227 GW capacity, while wind power was up by 17 per cent to 433 GW.

You can see the full ABC News article here.

It would be interesting to see the current figures for solar PV installation in the Lockyer Valley Region.  In a November 2012 post I calculated that 21.2% of the private houses in the Lockyer had solar power installations – up with the best in Australia at the time.


Australia’s coal is essential for overcoming Third World Poverty??

While I’m on a rave about coal, sustainability and myths (see Josh Frydenberg’s myths about the security of Peabody coal mines in Australia and his (unintentional) demolition of their employment contribution), let’s look at the myth of how our coal is essential to eradicating poverty in Third World countries.

The following is from Mike Sandiford, Professor of Geology at the University of Melbourne in The Conversation:

“Back in Australia, our coal lobby is fond of quotes of the ilk … “_Only when Third World children can do homework at night using cheap coal-fired electricity can they escape from poverty” .

And at least some in our government seem of a like mind.

Why, might we ask, does it matter that it is just “cheap coal-fired” electricity that alone will alleviate poverty? Why does not cheap hydro, geothermal, nuclear or whatever else, also do the trick?

No doubt coal has been a useful source of electricity in the third world, and will likely remain so for some time given that not all countries are endowed with the hydro resources of the Bhutanese. But is clear that Bhutan puts paid to the idea that coal alone can alleviate poverty.

But Bhutan also shows that there is something more fundamental that our coal lobby is loathe to acknowledge, and it speaks to the very paradox that lies at the heart of their claim – given that cheap coal has been around powering electricity systems for over 150 years, why are any children still living in poverty?

Could it be that the purported saviour of the world’s poor – the coal industry – doesn’t really have such a flash track record in the altruism stakes after all?”

Seems that no matter whether we are looking at our sustainable options here in Australia or at eradicating poverty in Third World countries, coal mining isn’t a critical component of either and may just be getting in the way of real solutions.

Australian coal mines as major employers?

We keep on hearing it – Australia needs coal mines, and more of them, in order to generate employment.

Here’s something to think about.

When Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest coal miner, sought bankruptcy protection in the US a little while ago there were ripples of concern in Australia over the possible loss of jobs from their coal mines here.

However the Federal Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg immediately reassured Australians that this was not a risk because of the importance of the local mines to the company.

“My primary concern is with the Australian operations of Peabody. They have 10 mines across Queensland and New South Wales, nearly 3,500 workers if you include the contractors and I spoke to the president of Peabody and they informed me that they will not be reducing their Australian workforce,” Frydenberg told the ABC.

“They have funding to continue with their Australian operations and they see their work in Australia as being core to their operations particularly the proximity their Australian mines have to key demand in Asia.”

So these aren’t tinpot little mines supplying local power plants, but part of the core of Peabody Energy’s operations supplying “key demand in Asia”.

Did you notice that these 10 key mines each employ an average of only 350 workers (including the associated contractors).

Apparently that’s not an unusual number.  The Glencore mine at Tahmoor in New South Wales is about to be closed, putting 350 people out of work.  Glencore produces coking coal (according to pro-mining lobbyists this is the key to the future of coal in Australia) and it also supplies overseas markets.

Just in passing, I wonder how many people are employed on average to deal with the environmental, climate change and human health impacts of just one of these coal mines.

In addition, it seems as if Frydenberg’s assurances about Peabody’s Australian mines might have been a bit of pre-election “voter calming” according to information now available from auditors Ernst and Young who drew attention to a note in the financial report “which details the principal conditions that raise doubt about the company’s and the consolidated entity’s ability to continue as a going concern”.

“As a result of these matters, there is significant uncertainty whether the company and/or the consolidated entity will continue as a going concern, and therefore whether they will realise their assets and extinguish their liabilities in the normal course of business and at the amounts stated in the financial report.”

Just how sustainable is Australia’s ongoing involvement in coal mining?

Revealing a significant koala population in the Adare-Vinegar Hill area

Koalas are probably the most environmentally significant species that would be impacted by the establishment and operation of a motocross track on the Adare property.   Impacts will come from noise, vehicle strike and possibly vegetation clearing in Stage 2 of the development.

It’s funny how members of a community can individually recognise that they have an unusual number of koalas in their vicinity, but no one actually comes to the conclusion that there is an unusually large koala population in the local area.  This is another aspect of our environment/community that dealing with the motocross proposal has brought to the fore.

The database

For the last few weeks our group has been collecting incidental records of koala sightings in the area of bushland which is contiguous with the vegetation in the vicinity of the proposed Adare motocross track.

We now have 66 records of koala sightings for this area.  It may not look like 66 “pins” on the map, but that’s because at this scale many pins are hidden behind others.

These sightings are all within 5km of the motocross track, and almost all are within less than 4km.  The nearest is only 950 metres from the track.

All of these sightings are in vegetation types that occur on the motocross property and within 20-70 metres of the track.  These vegetation types are classified as Bushland Koala Habitat or as Essential Habitat for koalas.

Remember, these are incidental sightings. They are not the result of targeted surveys for koalas.  They are sightings that people happened to make while they were doing other things, and which they have some record of.  People don’t tend to look up in trees when they are working on their land.  Even if they do, koalas are pretty cryptically marked.  They have colours which tend to blend with the bark of trees and the dark shadows in thick foliage, and they even have lighter patches around their rear ends, so that their silhouette is broken up when seen against the sky from below.  Most people never see a koala when they are walking through the bush.

Our data collection is not yet complete.  The properties where there are no koala records are almost all ones where we haven’t yet tried to collect information or where we don’t have access.

The Road-kill Threat

Death by vehicle strike is among the three greatest threats to koala populations in Southeast Queensland.

Adare Road runs from the big dam just to the right of bottom centre in the map vertically (north) to the entrance to the motocross track. There are more than 30 records of koalas within 250 metres of Adare Road (four of these are of koalas crossing the road, and one is of a dead koala on the road).

Koalas are active at night, and that’s when they will be crossing the road.  Imagine the number of road-killed koalas there will be if there is motocross traffic on Adare Road four to six nights per week!

Comparison Between Our Data and the Government Database

The WildNet database has been built up by the State government over a number of years. It contains records of wildlife sightings and listings of plants, mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, freshwater fish, sharks and rays, butterflies and other priority invertebrates in Queensland.

The wildlife lists are based on collated species lists and wildlife records from Queensland Government departments and external organisations. The data sources include:

  • specimen collections;
  • research and monitoring programs;
  • inventory programs including extension activities;
  • literature records;
  • wildlife permit returns; and
  • community wildlife recording programs.

WildNet at present has 65 records of koalas within 10km of the motocross track.  In only a few weeks members of our group, with the cooperation of the local community, have gathered 66 records within 5km of the track.  That’s a fantastic effort, and it’s not finished yet.

It’s not that the koalas weren’t there before – just that this is a big State and there has never been sufficient resources to carry out the necessary surveys at the scale we need for dealing with local government planning applications.

Ultimately our records will go into the WildNet database and into the privately funded Koala Tracker database.

Life throws some strange curve balls at times

Since 7 December last year our lives have been totally dominated by the prospect of a motocross track being built just 2.7km from our house – and even closer than that to the houses of others in the Vinegar Hill-Adare community here in the Lockyer Valley.

We’ve been told that there were 234 submissions lodged with the Lockyer Valley Regional Council in relation to the proposal.  232 of them were against the establishment of a motocross track in the area.  That’s a fantastic achievement for a community that had only 15 business days to respond to the advertising of the proposal.

I’ve been trying to find time to get back to this blog and to posting about our doings on the land here, but it just doesn’t happen.  Today I’ve come to the realisation that this blog is about sustainability, mainly in the Lockyer Valley, but really what happens here is a microcosm of what happens everywhere in the developed world in terms of ultimate sustainability of lifestyle, community, the environment, and indeed the future of humanity.  How we, including our local and state governments, respond to totally wrong-headed proposals like this motocross track is all about whether our society, locally or globally, will be sustainable.

Is the community going to be trashed for the sake of a minority (almost all from outside the area) who want to get their thrills by driving powerful, noisy and dangerous machines around and around on a circuit?  Is the environment going to be trashed for the same purpose?

Is the community going to be trashed because some profit-oriented developer thinks he has the right to change the nature of the area and introduce a totally incompatible activity into our rural landscape?

Is a pristine creek (Redbank Creek, which has all of its catchment above the motocross property in National Park) and its surroundings going to be allowed to be trashed?

Are we going to allow a significant koala population to be degraded by noise impacts from the track and road-kills from the massive increase in traffic on the country road leading to the proposed motocross site?

Are we going to allow the bird population and its significant species to be similarly trashed?

If we do then that’s not sustainability.  And sustainability is what this blog is supposed to be about.  So I ask you to follow us and our community on this journey, and be understanding if there are few posts on this site for at least the next couple of months about sustainable food production.

Thanks. It will be an interesting ride.