It’s not so bad

TIM BARLING is vice president of the Conservation Council of WA and a Melville councillor. Despite an inquiry looming for the council, in this week’s THINKING ALLOWED he says there’s plenty of good coming out of its Booragoon headquarters.

With the ongoing news and commentary that seems to surround the City of Melville, residents may think that everything is rotten in the running of the council.

I would argue far from it, that many initiatives of the city are not merely good but lead the state and even the country.

So here’s an outline of five exciting environmental achievements by the City of Melville in the past two years:

The Urban Forest Strategy was initiated by a motion of the mayor just before I was elected to council, with Melville being one of the first local governments in WA to implement one. The strategy aims to increase tree canopy cover along with the biodiversity and mental health benefits that trees provide. An increased canopy cover is also essential in helping mitigate urban heat island effects in a warming climate.

I was enthusiastic for Melville to divest it’s financial reserves from institutions that choose to invest in fossil fuels and thus contribute to climate change, and in 2016 the city changed it’s investment policy to become one of just 12 other local governments to divest in WA.

In 2016 I strongly advocated for the city to continue to be involved in the nationwide Garage Sale Trail that diverts a potential 2 million items from landfill. As a result Melville was able to take advantage of a substantial grant and has held the most successful Garage Sale Trail in WA for the last two years running.

The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy that I encouraged the City of Melville to commit to at the beginning of last year is basically a Kyoto Protocol for local governments around the world. The city must conduct an audit of carbon emissions and commit to strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Melville is only the fourth local government in WA and the 23rd in Australia to sign up to the covenant. The covenant will incorporate such initiatives as $400,000 worth of solar panels for the roof of the Melville Recreation Centre and protection of the foreshore from predicted sea level rises.

Melville is the only local government in WA to run a FOGO  (Food Organics, Garden Organics) waste composting trial with the aim of implementing a full roll out this year. Once fully rolled out the small behaviour change required by residents to enable the system to work will not only help the environment by diverting waste from landfill but will also save member councils millions of dollars per year by avoiding the need for new plant at the SMRC’s Regional Resource Recovery Centre.

That’s a small example of the good the City does; it’s also topped WA’s council financial health indicator for two years running and is one of the first Age Friendly Communities in the world as designated by the World Health Organisation.

Despite these and other initiatives, it often feels like the staff are under constant attack for whatever they do and that they are failing in their duties to the residents. I would contend that they are dedicated and passionate in their roles and have always conveyed their enthusiasm for their projects, job, workplace and the community for which they serve in the numerous interactions I have had with them.

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