World Environment Day (5 June 2019) is a day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. Council has been working on many initiatives aimed at reducing emissions, addressing climate change and protecting biodiversity. Here is a snapshot.
Hepburn Reserves Biodiversity Audit
Council is auditing the biodiversity assets within Council owned or managed reserves. Over 40 parcels of land are being assessed for vegetation quality, threatened species, habitat features and environmental threats and opportunities. Completion of the audit is expected by August.
Hidden biodiversity treasures, (and a few horrors!) have been revealed. Data from the audits will inform reserve management and help prioritise Council’s biodiversity actions and community support. The hundreds of new plant records will be supplied to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas.
Towards Zero Emissions Roadmap
Towards Zero Emissions Roadmap is Council’s plan to reach zero net emissions due to Council operations by 2021. Works such as installing solar photovoltaics (PV) and upgrades to energy efficient lighting and equipment are ongoing at sites around the Shire. Council is assessing different options to procure the remaining electricity consumption from renewable projects.
A passenger electric vehicle (EV) and hybrid vehicle have just been purchased. Council is also seeking quotations for a replacement light truck and is considering diesel, hybrid and full electric options. EV uptake will also require an expansion of charging infrastructure.
Bioenergy Pilot Project
The Bioenergy pilot project is currently underway. Council was successful in obtaining grant funding from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to implement a bioenergy pilot project, aimed at diverting organic waste from landfill. The technology is called anaerobic digestion, which is the breakdown of organic waste in the absence of oxygen to create biogas (fuel), digestate (fertiliser) and water.
This funded project has required infrastructure works to be carried out at the Creswick Transfer Station. A trial unit is on site and consultants have been commissioning and testing in recent months. The pilot will be operating for the remainder of 2019, after which the project outcomes will be reviewed. Expansion to full scale would allow the site to process up to 5-7 tonnes per day – diverting almost all of Hepburn Shire’s organic waste from landfill.
PROGRAMS WITH COMMUNITY
In April, Hepburn hosted a well-attended demonstration of Blackberry control techniques by the Victorian Gorse Taskforce in Creswick. The demonstrations included the use of mulchers, drones and organic-derived herbicides. Given the high level of local interest, the Victorian Blackberry Taskforce and Hepburn Shire Council are in the early stage of planning another event in the second half of 2019.
Biocontrol of Environmental Weeds
In early autumn, a biocontrol for English (Scotch) Broom, the ‘Broom Gall Mite’ was identified in the Shire. The mite was released in the Australian Alps in 2012 by Agriculture Victoria. The mite has since been identified by Council officers at many sites around Daylesford and surrounding areas, perhaps introduced by enthusiastic volunteers. It appears to be having a significant impact on the Broom, reducing seed production and vigour- even killing some plants. A late spring program to involve community in helping the mite spread to other parts of the Shire is being discussed with Agriculture Victoria.
The Hepburn Shire Zero Net Emissions Transition (Z-NET) project was developed throughout 2018 and a Community Transition Plan was formally launched on 4 April 2019. This is a collaborative project between community members, sustainability groups, industry experts, Hepburn Wind, Hepburn Shire Council, Sustainability Victoria and various others.
The project uses real world, local data to develop a greenhouse gas emissions baseline for stationary energy (electricity & heat), transport, agriculture, land use change, waste and wastewater within the Shire. This information will be used to guide local emission reduction programs and track progress over the next ten years. Project resources are available at z-net.org.au/hepburn.
Biodiversity Grants – $24,000 has been allocated by Council for a new grant program to support biodiversity actions. Several excellent proposals were received from local groups in May and, following Council approval, successful applications will be announced in late June.
Towards Zero Community Grants are allocated to community groups within the Shire to help them reduce their emissions and operating costs. More than $27,000 was allocated in May to community groups to upgrade to energy efficient lighting, install solar PV and perform energy efficiency assessments and upgrades.
Hepburn Solar Bulk Buy is run by the not-for-profit community group, MASH. The Bulk Buy has run throughout 2018/2019 and has been strongly supported by Council. The program has been highly subscribed and helped to increase the percentage of solar installations within the Shire. A new supplier has recently been appointed and the team at MASH have been working hard to support customers through this transition. More than $22,000 has been raised for the Bulk Buy Community Bonus from MASH and Council, which is being used to install solar on community facilities around the Shire. Funding was allocated in May after an application and assessment process.
Solar Savers supports pensioners and low-income households in the Shire to access solar PV systems. Council covers the cost upfront, which is paid back through a special rates charge to the property over ten years, at 0% interest. Energy bill savings are expected to offset the repayments, meaning that participating properties should be in front by $100 or more in the first year.
The project was fully subscribed in 2018/2019 and consequently it will be offered again in the 19/20 financial year.
To discuss any of the projects listed above or new potential projects, please contact Council’s Sustainability Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0437 061 349 or the Biodiversity Officer at email@example.com or 0437 048 648.