Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Supporting Family Services in Coffs Harbour

By Sally Townley 
Last week, Jonathon Cassell and I had an excellent meeting with Charlotte Young of the Warrina Women's and Children's Family and Domestic Violence Specialist Services Cooperative Ltd (Warrina Women and Children’s Refuge). Charlotte has worked for over 20 years assisting women and children to be free of violence in their lives.  Charlotte was recognised this year by the Coffs Harbour International Women’s Day as Woman Of The Year. 

Dr Sally Townley with Charlotte Young of Warrina Refuge

She shared with us some of the challenges that community services such as Warrina face in combatting family violence. Charlotte told us that housing is a critical part of the solution; the housing shortage in Coffs Harbour means that options for women to leave their situation are hampered by lack of long-term housing options. We talked about the possible roles Council could play in affordable housing. Recently, I assisted Councillor Mark Sultana’s proposal to remove developer contribution fees for granny flats. This means effectively around a $10,000 reduction on fees for people building a small second dwelling in their back yard. This is one positive way in which Council can stimulate the supply of small affordable homes.

The Greens have developed an affordable housing plan which you can read about here:

The plan includes proposals for tax reform as well as a blueprint for a housing finance corporation which would use superannuation funds to make housing loans. 
Apart from housing, another impediment is community attitudes and lack of ‘tools’ to support victims of family violence.  We need to break the silence and taboo which prevent people from discussing the problem openly. Charlotte spoke about an educational program in which many of her staff have been trained and they are hoping to run the program widely in Coffs Harbour, including schools and workplaces. The program is called MVP which is Mentors in Violence Prevention. It encourages young men and women to take active roles in preventing gender violence and bullying. 

Often people think that there only two options when violence is encountered; to return the violence or to do nothing. This program develops an individual’s resolve to speak out against violence by constructing and practicing viable options. The program uses a ‘bystander’ approach, where young men are not viewed as potential perpetrators but rather as empowered bystanders who can confront their peers. By giving people a range of options in how to act, bystanders become more likely to act and less likely to remain silent and passive. I would like to see Council, as one of the largest local employers,  run this program for all its staff members.

Another challenge Charlotte identified is the lack of coordination between services. While there are very many hard-working dedicated people working in this space, the Government’s changes to its funding structures have caused instability in organisations. I believe that Council could take an active role in assisting coordination of services relating to family violence. This may be by dedicating some time of a staff member in this role.
Charlotte told us that Aboriginal families are over-represented in their client group. The challenges of dealing with the complex of issues that relate to family violence, such as alcohol, drug abuse and poverty are compounded in many families. She described a range of men’s behavioural change programs and identified the need for strengthening these initiatives. Emergency housing for men is needed so that women and children don’t need to vacate the home.

Charlotte told us that the Women’s Resource and information Centre has now expanded its staff and functions to the point where they are looking at larger premises. Her dream is to have suitable office premises to house as many women’s support workers together so that they can work together to support their clients. I would like to see Council be able to assist in this role, perhaps by making community land available for a purpose-built support centre.

Hearing from Charlotte reminds us that we all have a job to do in speaking out against violence and tackling the issues that go with it. Building and committing to respectful ways of communicating with each other are foundation skills for a thriving community. 

Read about Greens’ policies for social equity, children, health, housing, women and more here

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Northern Beaches Candidates Forum

The Coffs Harbour Greens team attended a candidates forum on Saturday to discuss issues and answer questions relating to our Northern Beaches area. Interested locals from all over the Northern Beaches attended and pitched some great questions.

Councillor Sally Townley speaking at Northern Beaches Candidates Forum

The Coffs Harbour Greens outlined their long history of involvement in the area and shared their vision for the future. I discussed how the Greens had been instrumental in the fight for the protection of the South Moonee Forest, a high conservation area of coastal forest which had been proposed for housing and now is permanently protected and managed by National Parks. Moonee locals fought a long campaign on this issue and we're thrilled at the outcome. 

Since then, retaining the character of each village, while lobbying for adequate community facilities has been part of my work on Council. A massive outcry was heard from the Emerald Beach community when fragile and intact wetlands were proposed for housing in North Emerald. This area had been the subject of many unsuccessful Development Applications over the years and was alway refused due to its environmental values. A change in State government regulations now allows developer to trade off areas of high conservation value for others, known as Biobanking. This can eliminate assessment of threatened species, however it does not eliminate assessment of other environmental and social values. I worked closely with the community and supported them in their rejection of this plan. Concerns of flooding, coastal erosion, loss of amenity, social disconnection, impact on adjoining National Parks land were some of the issues documented. I was able to convince a majority of fellow Councillors to reject the application. It now lies before the Land and Environment Court, but the residents know that they, and I, did everything in our power to make our views known.

Provision of adequate communIty facilities is also of concern. An issue that I have worked on and plan to continue is making sure that Developer Contribution funds (section 94) which are the fees paid to Council, per each new housing block to cover roads, sewer, water and community facilities continue to be spent on those purposes. I discovered in some cases that millions of dollars is sitting unspent where almost all houses have been built, fees collected and yet promised footpaths etc have not been delivered. 

Coastal planning is becoming a critical issue. I supported Council's plans for Development Control in the coastal zone, however was in a minority. In the coming term of Council, I plan to re-introduce this important issue back on the agenda. We need a clear plan for each zone and there must be recognition that huge sums of public money cannot be used to hold back the sea to protect private properties. We need to have empathy for those at risk, but a strategy of planned retreat in some cases will have to be implemented. 

Finally, it's not all just about the coast. The hinterland of the Northern Beaches area is facing heavy pressure form industrialised agriculture in the form of blueberry and cucumber reproduction. There has been widespread vegetation clearing to make way for these industries, there is massive extraction pressure on small coastal creeks, there is high levels of agricultural chemicals with no regulations as far as provision of buffer zones to creeks and neighbouring and uses. I believe Council can play a much stronger role and I will strongly advocate for a change to our LEP a to require consent for intensive horticulture operations. In this way, such things as buffers can be mandated. I will also work with other departments to seek support for this change. Landholders are becoming increasingly concerned about the loss of water supply and the whole community needs to be aware of this issue if the horticulture industry is truly going to profit our area.

If you would like to chat about any of these issues or others, please give me a call on 0427092415, message me on facebook or email

Friday, 2 September 2016


The Coffs Harbour Greens are proud to present GREENWAVE, a night of short films with a theme of  environmental and social consciousness.

We will be showing the following inspirational short films:

THE LAST SEA TREASURE - Our feature film is Directed by Danielle Ryan, The Australian Marine Conversation Society has commissioned a beautiful movie called 'The Last Sea Treasure' – a short documentary by Bluebottle Films about the extraordinary Coral Sea, and the social and economic value it brings to tourism and the coastal communities of Queensland.

AMONG GIANTS - Risking injury and incarceration, an environmental activist disrupts the clear-cutting of an ancient redwood grove by sitting on a tiny platform up in the tree canopy.

LEAVING YOUR FEATHERS BEHIND - Small World Stories captures generational knowledge living within Papua New Guinea's indigenous culture. 

THE PALE BLUE DOT - Gethin Cole tells a powerful story about the miracle of life in an immense and endless universe. Pale Blue Dot is about a photograph of planet Earth taken on February 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers, as part of the Family Portrait series of images of the Solar System.

ARTWORK BY NICK WARFIELD- Story teller Kelly Stoner illustrates the remarkable and inspiring work of sculptor and installation artist Nick Warfield who is based on the Mid North coast of New South Wales, Australia.

WINDS OF CHANGE- Small World Stories demonstrates the impact of climate change on the African Nation of Somalia.

Date:Wednesdayn 7th September
Time: 7:00pm
Where: Majestic Cinema Sawtell
Tickets: $10 and free for 14 years and under

Tickets are available at the door, at our harbourside market stall, or you can book online here: eventbrite/greenwave

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Tesla Powerwall in Sunny Sawtell

Sawtell resident Micheal Semb Wever has became the one of the first to install electric car maker Tesla’s Powerwall battery system in the Coffs Harbour region. 

Nirvana Semb Wever, Councillor Sally Townley, Michael Semb Wever and Greens candidate Jonathan Cassell 

While the long term financial benefits and reduction in carbon emissions initially attracted Mr Wever, it is the smart technology used by the Tesla Powerwall battery that has impressed his family. 

“The system now returns on investment anywhere from 20% to 30% per annum with the help of a powerful energy storage battery of 7kWh,” Mr Wever said.

“Choosing a 5kW Solar installation with premium panels along with the Tesla Powerwall and the Reposit software cost a total of $17k. It’s a manageable investment.”

Coffs Harbour Greens Councillor Sally Townley welcomes the long term investment in solar systems and recently visited the Wever family to discuss local resident attitudes to the new technology. 

Nirvana Semb Wever and Councillor Sally Townley

“It makes sense that we all reduce our dependence on coal. The Coffs Harbour area has plenty of sunshine and these new technologies also work amazingly in low light conditions.”

“What people want is council to lead in their renewable energy usage and make sure council’s electricity is from 100% renewable sources by 2030. We need strong Councillor leadership to make sure this happens.”

The Wever family now uses 75-90% less grid electricity. 

This graph shows the average consumption

“For our family of five our previous monthly electricity bills ranged from $300 upwards. Now there's significant savings and an obvious peace of mind purchased with this layout.”

Mr Wever is using Canberra start-up company Reposit Power software to manage the system. 

“It keeps track of both the household energy usage patterns and the grid
prices and it will then intelligently sell off battery energy when the grid 
is offering higher prices.” 

“Likewise it will recharge a battery during the night when grid prices are low if it knows the home will need extra electricity before the sunrise.”

The Wever family believe this is a sign of good things to come for a country of sunshine and reducing the energy costs of Coffs Harbour homes.

Councillor Sally Townley and Micheal Semb Wever

Photos by: Esmee Lane

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Why Moonee Beach is saying NO

The Moonee Beach community are making their views known loud and clear. The beachside village is sporting red flags everywhere and dozens of locals have written submissions and signed petitions. What is going on in sleepy Moonee?

The shopping centre corporation Gowing Brothers Pty Ltd has recently lodged a Development Application (DA) to build a service station in what is virtually the only remaining commercial land in the village. "What's wrong with that? We all drive cars don't we?" is a question you may well ask.

The service station is planned to be 24 hrs operation, also have a fast food outlet attached and is proposed directly adjacent to a child care centre. The locals have deep concerns about this, namely

1. The service station shares a boundary with a child care centre which means that kids are playing only metres from gas tanks, petrol fumes all day from cars and also tankers. Toxins and heavy metals  from hydrocarbons are known to impact human health and particularly young children. Most Local Government Areas (LGAs) include a planning provision which limit this sort of development to greater than 500m away from 'sensitive areas' such as child care centres. Coffs Harbour's planning rules do not have this provision. 

2. The 24 fast food is not considered by locals to promote healthy living and will lead to more litter in the area. The spread of fast food packaging materials is well-documented from this type of establishment. Nothing else in Moonee is open for 24 hours and the zoning is to provide for a local or village services, not to service the highway. In fact service centres,mmuch as service the highways, are specifically banned in this zone.

3. The proximity of waterways and the Solitary Islands Marine Park. Coffs Harbour City Council has recently approved a service station development which allowed the overflow of the pollution collection tanks to be discharged into,the adjacent creek. This means that there is no reason to expect any different, ie it is likely that the same would occur at Moonee and contaminated water would be allowed to flow into the public tidal waterways of Moonee Creek and then to the Marine Park. There is a certain irony here in that Gowings promote themselves as marine conservationists through their support of Sea Shepard and their own Whale Trust.

The Coffs Harbour Greens will support the Moonee community in their quest to have appropriate development which fits with the DCP and adds value to the area without compromising children's health or the environment.