PLANS Update No. 10 Wednesday 21st December 2011

Please note the subscription on the bar next to this page is for the SOT newsletter.

Hello everyone,

Wow – what a busy two months! Between PLANS receiving its official notice of Incorporation and hitting the ground flying on the Tele-commuting hubs project there has not been a lot of time for breathing! To paraphrase Blaise Pascal I apologise for the length of this Update as I had not the ‘lesuire’ to make it shorter!

The Sustaining Our Towns’ tele-commuting project (in which PLANS is a partner) is looking to address the costs of commuting to our communities’ right across the region – so if you are a commuter, or are already able to work from home, or a small business who might be interested in co-locating in a tele-commuting hub please do our survey at http://101.0.93.138/~wwwsusta/regional-initiatives/tele-commuting-hubs/ As part of this project we are also organising a public meeting specifically addressing the roll-out of the NBN network in the Palerang region – likely to be in Bungendore on Tues 21st February 2012 at 6.30pm – so make a note of that date.

Sustaining Our Towns (SOT) itself is winding up as its funding was for three years finishing in March 2012.  PLANS of course will continue past this date although we may be without a paid project officer for a while. As part of SOT’s self-evaluation they are asking everyone for stories of significant change coming out of any of the SOT programs.  It would be really great to hear from any of you if you have a story to tell about the impact of a visit from an SOT assessor to your home or business, a workshop, the DIY Home Energy Monitoring Kits or other SOT resources or indeed from the activities of PLANS itself.

If you have a story, please email me (melophorus@bigpond.com) in the next week or two, or at the latest before January 31st – it need only be a few lines.

PLANS has been participating in a number of other community events this month – look out for our reports on Palerang Council’s Draft Community Plan consultation and the Closing the Food Loop Event recently hosted by the South East Regional Organisation of Councils.

Finally make sure you check out the upcoming events.  There’s a great opportunity to take up a fully-paid (by Sustaining Our Towns) workshop on ‘Training for Transition’ March 9-11th 2012 at Bermagui.  There’s also a Strawbale Building workshop in the Southern Highlands 17-18th March 2012.  Cheers for 2011 and Happy Christmas, Mel Hillery

In this Weeks Update

1. PLANS partners with Sustaining Our Towns to get the Tele-Commuting Hubs project off the ground

2.     PLANS to administer Land for Wildlife in Palerang

3.     Home Energy Monitoring Kits really are available from Palerang libraries now!

4.     Palerang Council’s Draft Community Plan public meeting

5.     Launch of the S.E. Food Producer’s Discussion Paper and SEROC’s Closing the Food Loop Event

6.     Upcoming Events

7.     In our neighbourhood – Cooma’s Energy and Sustainability Survey gets underway.

What can I do? Please contact Mel at melophorus@bigpond.com if you know someone who would like to receive this monthly update, or if you have something you’d like to see included.

1. Tele-Commuting Hubs project is off the ground

You may recall earlier this year that PLANS announced a partnership with Sustaining Our Towns to undertake their ‘Tele-commuting hubs’ feasibility study for the Bungendore region.  The project has moved relatively slowly until recently when I (Mel Hillery) was able to take on more hours to specifically focus on this project, and consultant Dave Anthony was contracted to the project.

In 2006 6638 people commuted from regional areas like Palerang, Yass Valley, Gouburn and the Upper Lachlan into the ACT (ABS Census). The project is investigating avenues to increase the number of people working from home in this region and the development of a network of ‘tele-commuter’ hubs, where people can work a day or two a week in a local serviced office, decreasing the impact of commuting on these communities. These would be potentially located throughout the ACT region from Cooma to Goulburn, Yass to Bungendore and Braidwood, and potentially in localities like Bywong, Captains Flat, Carwoola, Gunning, Hoskins Town, Murrumbateman, Royalla, Sutton and Wamboin.

As a first step in the project we are hoping to make contact with as many current and would-be tele-commuters as possible as we seek to understand the barriers and opportunities from their perspective.  However we also believe that employees may be one of our best avenues to finding employers willing to champion the concept and lead the way, and indeed those who are already doing so.

As part of our strategy to connect with potential tele-commuters we held a very fruitful public meeting on Tuesday 29th November despite the terrific storm that was waging outside the Bungendore Council Chambers (and across all of Palerang it seems!).  We have received a lot of interest and support from the Mayor, General Manager and Councillors, and are now moving into the phase of the project promoting our on-line survey for ACT commuters which can be found at at http://101.0.93.138/~wwwsusta/regional-initiatives/tele-commuting-hubs/

At the employer interface we have discovered that the timing for ‘work locally or at home’ initiatives may be ripe due to the likely development of a public service wide tele-working policy over the next year (an extension of the existing policy for information technology and communications workers) and with the looming skill crisis in the ACT (apparently 40-60% of senior staff in many organisations planning on retirement in the next 5-10yrs), employers will be looking to keep people on by providing as may flexible work options as possible!

If you are a potential or current ‘tele-worker’ (ie you work somewhere other than your employer’s office) please fill out the survey at at http://101.0.93.138/~wwwsusta/regional-initiatives/tele-commuting-hubs/ and promote it through your networks…we need this information to put a good case for the regional development of such centres and/or the promotion of work from home policies with employers. Small business owners looking to co-locate should also fill out the survey.

For further information on the project please contact: Melinda Hillery 0427 440 335 or melophorus@bigpond.com

2.      PLANS to administer Land for Wildlife in Palerang

At the PLANS committee meeting on Monday 5th December 2011 the committee endorsed the proposal for PLANS to become the regional provider of the Land for Wildlife program in Palerang.  Land for Wildlife is a nationwide voluntary scheme that encourages and assists landholders to include nature conservation along with sustainable land management objectives on private land.  It is free to landholders, not legally binding but enables landholders to assess the natural assets of their land and manage for them alongside their other land management goals, be they rural residential or a farming business. You may have noticed the green diamond signs on Land for Wildlife properties in different parts of Australia.

In NSW the State provider of LfW is the Community Environment Network (CEN).  It is their role to administer the whole program and to recruit regional groups to provide the assessment for entry to the scheme and ongoing landholder support.  This is the role that PLANS will be providing in Palerang.  A trial scheme has already been undertaken in Wamboin and Bywong throughout 2011 with fifteen properties successfully registered.   The trial funding is now at an end and so one of the first task for 2012 will involve seeking further funds.  Once these are secured the plan is to continue rolling out the program both in the current area and adjacent localities, with a long-term goal to cover all of Palerang. For further information or to register an expression of interest for the program see http://www.cen.org.au/landforwildlife/

3.     DIY Home Energy Monitoring Kits really are available from Palerang libraries now!

After some delays the DIY Home Energy Monitoring Kits and resources are now available at Palerang libraries.  If you’ve missed out on the fantastic Sustaining Our Towns free Home and Garden advisor visits (though you may not be too late – bookings through to February are still available see http://101.0.93.138/~wwwsusta/homes/book-your-sustainability-review/ ) you may like to have a go at assessing your own energy efficiency.  Check out http://101.0.93.138/~wwwsusta/homes/library-kit/ to see what is available and don’t forget to drop us a line and let us know your “biggest loser” appliance story!

4.     Palerang Council’s Draft Community Plan public consultations

Palerang Council has released the Draft Community Plan which came out of community consultation through the Council Community Forums earlier this year and telephone surveys conducted since then.  A copy of the Draft Plan is available for comment at http://www.palerang.nsw.gov.au/index.php?option=com_jentlacontent&view=enhanced&id=495888 .  The results of the telephone survey and the actual comments recorded at each of the community consultations are also available at this website. The General Manager has advised me that submissions will need to be in by January 24th 2012 as Council will consider the Draft and submissions at its meeting on February 2nd 2012.

The Draft Plan was generated through a process facilitated by Martin Bass from the University of Technology Sydney, who along with Councillors and staff sifted through the more than 7 000 comments recorded, divided them amongst pre-determined themes and debated, wrangled and compromised to distill them down into the statements that we now see in the Draft Plan.

Palerang Council held three community feedback forums in the week beginning the 12th December, and a number of PLANS members attended the one in Bungendore, and presumably also the one in Braidwood (I would be interested in hearing how the Braidwood meeting went?).  There was also a separate meeting targeting rural community associations.

At the Bungendore meeting an early theme emerged when a community member asked where, in this plan, has Palerang stuck its’ head out and had a vision of something different? It was suggested that the mechanistic way in which the comments from the forums and survey were processed has given a result where it is difficult for the Palerang community to look at the Plan and see ourselves in it.

A key insight arose from the response to this point.  Martin Bass responded that the NSW Government has made it very clear that future grants for funding to local Councils must take the Community Plan into account and that therefore Council had to take a line with this document that would enable it to be able to fit a wide variety of projects in.  He also referred to the economic restraints that Palerang Council operates under and stated that this prevents the Plan from going beyond the day to day.  Both Mr Bass and the General Manager Mr Peter Bascomb suggested that creativity and uniqueness would come out of the way that this council and community respond to the issues raised in it.  Mr Bascomb proposed that a Preamble about the nature of Palerang might help develop more of a Palerang flavour to the Plan.

At this point in the meeting more than a few of us were wondering why it was that Mr Bass was answering so many of these questions on behalf of the Council and exactly who had ownership of the Plan?

A number of points were then raised as to the way in which the data had been analysed and presented – in particular that the indicators were not specific, measurable or useful for monitoring but more aspirational, and that words like ‘development’ and ‘abundant’ which might mean different things to different people were not  clearly defined. Mr Bascomb agreed that the indicators were more aspirational and pointed out that the Operational and other Plans that will be developed following the Community Plan will have specific Key Performance Indicators.

A strong feeling also emerged from the meeting, reiterated by a number of speakers that the Plan deficient in failing to acknowledge that the fact that we live on and exploit land that was taken from its traditional custodians without their permission and without compensation, nor does it recognise their special relationship to this land today. It was suggested that this could be addressed by directly acknowledging this in the Plan, acknowledging Aboriginal elders current and present, and in establishing a Palerang Reconciliation Action Plan.  Speakers at the meeting argued that this issue had not emerged at any prior consultations because the nature of the questions had not led people to raise it.

A number of speakers congratulated Council on the development of the Plan whilst others felt it was completely at odds with current Council policy.  Some felt the process had constrained them, whilst many pointed to key words and ideas that they felt had emerged strongly from the consultative forums but which could not be found in the Draft document including transportation, the words ‘conservation’ and ‘sustainability’ (though not all were in favour of the word ‘sustainability’), the importance of valuing our natural environment, a strong statement against the development of destructive extractive industries like mining, the need for a local aged care facility, the widely held desire for ‘appropriate or ‘sustainable’ growth, and an acknowledgement of the large effect that Canberra has on our region. On the other hand there were those who argued that there were elements in the plan that they felt misrepresented Palerang on a range of issues from the focus on water security belying (they felt) the fact that there is no shortage of water, through to an over emphasis on agricultural industries and interests.

The General Manager, staff and many Councillors have I believe shown a genuine interest and commitment to engage in the consultative process that the community forums, survey and development of the Community Plan have offered.  The conversations that have ensued out of this process have enlightened all of us – staff, Councillors and community members alike – and potentially show us a way forward out of the often negative and reactive interactions that residents have experienced with Council in the past.  The proactive process of consultation we have experienced this year enables greater information exchange and a far more positive atmosphere and Council should be warmly congratulated on it.

Whilst it is difficult to not to end up with banal generalities when a document has many authors, it is also true that unless the Community Plan contains some clear goals that we can recognise as emerging from our comments then it will not be worth the paper it was written on.  In this event the naysayers who said this process was a waste of time will be proven correct.  If it really is to be a Community Plan then we must argue for the feedback from the community to be reflected, in our own words, in the body of the document.

From the Bungendore and Burra forums that I attended I would suggest that a non-controversial set of clear goals for this community in the next ten to twenty years would include (though not be limited to) an ambulance service and an aged care facility (for west Palerang), an established set of heritage/bicycle trails, a community development officer, a study into the best solution for the King’s Highway route in relation to both Bungendore and Braidwood,  a welcome kit for new residents, a streamlined DA process giving better timelines for small developments and wider consultation for large developments, a package of sustainability initiatives (including DA package, transport strategies, and a carbon emmissions reduction strategy), and an iterative interactive and evolving process of ongoing conversation between Council and the Palerang community. I’m sure a similar set of clear goals could also be distilled from the other forums and I don’t understand why these specific aspirations don’t appear in the document, perhaps in addition to the more general statements.

What can I do? Download the Draft Community Plan at http://www.palerang.nsw.gov.au/index.php?option=com_jentlacontent&view=enhanced&id=495888 .  and send your thoughts on what the Plan has done well and where it could be improved to the General Manager Of Palerang Council Peter Bascomb: records@palerang.nsw.gov.au

5.     Launch of the S.E. Food Producer’s Discussion Paper and SEROC’s Closing the Food Loop Event

On Friday 9th December I attended the first half of the Closing the Food Loop Event at the Q in Queanbeyan organised by Geoff Pryor who is the South East Regional Organisation of Council (SEROC)’s Resource Recovery Network Officer.

The event opened with two addresses, one by John Barilaro MP on the NSW’s Government ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ initiative and the other by Dr Mike Kelly MP on the Commonwealth Government’s National Food Plan.  It was somewhat ironic that the Love Food Hate waste campaign is targeted at decreasing the 40% of household food in NSW that goes to waste (!!!), whilst Dr Kelly’s address was predicated on the assumption that there is not enough food in the world and we need to increase our production.

Julian Lee, General Manager of Food Connect in Sydney (delivers organic food straight from farmer to consumer) gave a very inspiring and thoughtful presentation on the opportunities and barriers to using consumer group buying to bring down the price of organic food and make organic food available to the ‘mainstream’ using the model of a social enterprise. Julian made the point that a product must stand completely on its own quality because most people won’t pay for social good.  David Gregory, a food chains and branding expert, gave a contrasting analysis of the history of food production and marketing in Australia and argued that in order for producers to get a larger share of the consumer dollar (it is currently less than 10%) they need to build services into their products like becoming organic/addressing animal ethics/limiting food miles.

Carolyn Wells then launched the South East Food Discussion Paper which is a fascinating and high quality read for all of us interested in Closing the Food loop in our region (can be downloaded at http://101.0.93.138/~wwwsusta/regional-initiatives/south-east-food/ ).  The Discussion Paper will be followed with a SE Food Action Plan to achieve real change in the next five years and an on-line grower/buyer interface for this region which is currently under development. The main message out of the Discussion Paper is that there is a shortage of locally produced food and that we need more producers and more reliable supply and transport.

The final part of the morning was a series of five vignettes from locals involved in the food loop: Kate Sheldon from Benedict House discussing the difficulties of sourcing local produce for her restaurant; Basil Smith, Queanbeyan chef born and bred, elaborated on this theme and the reduction of transport costs by producing locally, but emphasised the need for consumer education; Michael Croft, Bega Valley Paddock to Plate producer discussed the barriers to farmers trying to sell directly from the farm gate; Monica Alcock presented on the Health Promoting Schools Framework which is trying to take a whole school approach to encouraging more consumption of vegetables, healthier snacks and more water; and finally Annabel Schweiger who gave a very inspirational account of being a home food producer/practitioner at Little Burra where her family produce  geese, chickens, orchard fruit, raspberry canes, fish, vegetables, make their own bread and yoghurt and have beehives, as well as taking on the challenge of running Queanbeyan Public School canteen without commercially processed food.

What can I do? Download the South East Food Discussion Paper (http://101.0.93.138/~wwwsusta/regional-initiatives/south-east-food/ ) and forward your comments to Carolyn Wells on 0417 430 750 or wells.carolyn@gmail.com.

6.     Upcoming Events

Queanbeyan Summer Sunset Markets Fridays 5-8pm adjacent to Queanbeyan library 253 Crawford St.  Food stalls, live music and entertainment, products from our local artists and craftspeople, gourmet foods, collectables etc.  Every 1st and 3rd Friday of the month.

Submissions on Palerang Draft Community Plan due Tuesday 24th January 2012.  Plan to be considered at Palerang Council Meeting on February 2nd 2012.

Stories of Significant change due to SOT January 31st 2012 so please send them to me by Friday 27th January 2012.

PLANS and SOT hosted Public Meeting on Broadband solutions for Palerang Monday 20th February Bungendore 6.30pm venue tba.

South East Food Producers Forum Tuesday 21st February 10am-1pm Queanbeyan venue tba.

Training for Transition Course Friday 9th– Sunday 11th March 2012 at The Crossing Bermagui, fully funded by Sustaining Our Towns.  Book now at http://101.0.93.138/~wwwsusta/regional-initiatives/capacity-building/ to avoid disappointment.

Straw-bale Building Workshop Saturday 17th– Sunday 18th March 2012 at Gudhara Holistic Sanctuary, Southern Highlands.  For more information see  www.gudhara.org.au

Wombats on the Wall The Native Animal Rescue Group 2012 wombat calendar is on sale! It’s a great calendar! The proceeds of the calendar help to buy treatments and medications; pay vet bills; and subsidise milk supplies. The calendar is very popular and great value at only $10. Buy one for friends, neighbours, workmates, relatives and yourself. How about taking a few and selling them to others? Contact Phil Machin ph 02 6238 3717 or machin4@bigpond.com

7.      In our neighbourhood – Cooma’s Energy and Sustainability Survey gets underway

For a bit of inspiration check out the Community pages on the SOT website to see what our neighbours have been up to in the SOT community projects.  In Cooma a small team of surveyors has been undertaking the Cooma Energy and Sustainability Survey in North Cooma.  Check out http://101.0.93.138/~wwwsusta/local-projects/cooma-monaro/

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