Minimising food waste; recycling e-waste and PV panels; access to Clean Energy Finance and the Emissions Reduction Fund; funding levy banks; and legal liability for councils approving development in potential inundation zones were all topics I discussed on behalf of local government at my first meeting of the Environment Ministers as ALGA President last Friday.
Overall, it was refreshing to see the level of collaboration between jurisdictions and their willingness to address these important community and environmental issues, among others.
I was particularly pleased that the Commonwealth has seen the merit in working together to reduce food waste. A number of councils in many jurisdictions are very active in this area, doing things such as encouraging households to place food waste in their green stream. Not only does this divert it from landfill and subsequent methane generation, it returns it to the organic stream as compost, improving soil profile and retaining nutrients in the ecosystem. Local government has a lot to offer the Commonwealth in this area.
Another initiative that stood out was the Victorian Government’s ban on ewaste from landfills and it is now taking the lead on developing a scheme to manage end-of-life photovoltaics. I highlighted that councils are willing to participate in properly-resourced and effective ewaste programs and requested that local government be consulted in the design and implementation of any scheme to address the emerging risks of these products. I also pointed out that local government plays an important role in education, collaboration, aggregation and recycling across all waste streams and that it’s important to build on our extensive experience in other product stewardship programs.
We received a briefing from the Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy, on achievements to-date on the Commonwealth’s activities to address climate change. I took the opportunity to raise the challenges experienced by councils in funding mitigation and adaptation projects – especially for small coastal communities considering sea level change – and the very real issue of legal liability of councils around planning decisions.
I also suggested to the Minister that the thresholds for councils to access Clean Energy Finance and the Emissions Reduction Fund are too high and discourage or prevent otherwise willing councils to contribute to a lower emissions future. He was very interested in understanding this more and directed us to engage with his department to do so. If you have first-hand experience in this area please send us your story via your state or territory association.
On this busy last sitting week of the Federal Government, I was also able to meet with the Minister for Local Government and Territories, Senator the Hon Fiona Nash, and the Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, Stephen Jones MP. These meetings were an opportunity to reinforce the priorities of local government at the national level with the key political players and to highlight the opportunities for productive partnerships between the two levels of government.
I look forward to working with both Minister Nash and Mr Jones in the new year to achieve the very best for local communities.
Mayor David O’Loughlin