Thursday, 4 May 2017

Ban the Bag in Coffs Harbour

By Jonathan Cassell

Cr Sally Townley’s Notice of Motion last Thursday night proved overwhelmingly successful as Coffs Harbour Councillors unanimously supported a NSW Greens push to ban single-use plastic bags.

Council will now write to State and Federal Governments urging them to introduce legislation that will ban single use plastic shopping bags.

Council will also contact local retailers to encourage them to voluntarily reduce and ultimately eliminate single use plastic shopping bags from the Coffs Harbour LGA.

This fantastic outcome shows that Coffs Harbour Greens is working together with different tiers of government for positive change in our local community. 

To build on this achievement, however, community-engaged littler campaigners must help keep pressure on our State legislators.

Writing to our local MP Andrew Fraser and telling him in a few words that you support a state wide on ban on plastic bags in NSW is something we can all do.
Under the NSW Greens legislation, lightweight single-use grocery bags with handles and other lightweight bags used to carry away products from retailers, such as take away food or alcohol would be banned.
The following bags would NOT be included in the ban:
  • Barrier bags – the type dispensed from a roll to hold items such as loose fruit and vegetables
  • Heavier style retail bags – the type usually used by clothing and department stores
  • Sturdy bags designed for multiple use such as ‘green’ bags
  • Biodegradable compostable bags that meet the Australian Standard 4736-2006
  • Paper bags
  • Bin liners for purchase
  • Zip lock storage bags
  • Plastic bags that are an integral part of the packaging (such as bread, frozen foods, ice bags or bait bags).
  • Re-usable plastic bags
According to NSW Greens, Australians use over 4 billion plastic grocery-style bags each year with an average use of only 12 minutes and plastic bags have a lifetime of 1000 years.

However, many plastic products are highly problematic. Plastic drink containers for example are actually the biggest problem in our environment making up 50% of total litter volume in New South Wales.
Up to 80 per cent of the litter found in waterways comes from the land and it can have a significant and long-lasting impact on our marine life.
To put this in context, it is estimated that 160 million drink bottles and more than 50 million plastic bags enter our environment every year.
Plastic bottles and plastic bags eventually break down into microplastics and evidence of the impact of those microplastics on our natural marine environment is now overwhelmingly confronting.
The tiny pieces of plastic attract toxins, are eaten by sea life, make their way into the food chain and then onto our plates.
You can now help to reduce plastic usage and be part of the solution. Eco-friendly alternatives to plastic bags are available including the growing popularity of Boomerang Bags.
Plastic pollution is a major waste problem in NSW contributing to landfill and polluting the states waterways, coastlines and oceans. There is no such thing as away!
Please write to Andrew Fraser MP now and tell him you support a ban on single use plastic bags in NSW.
Thank you!
Coffs Harbour Greens Cr Sally Townley and Jonathan Cassell stand for protecting our marine environment.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Victory in Emerald Beach

Environmental Victory for Coffs Harbour Region
    By Jonathan Cassell

Cr Sally Townley addresses Emerald Beach residents prior to Land and Environment Court hearing.
Emerald Beach community celebrated an extraordinary outcome last month when the Land and Environment Court ruled in their favour.

A proposed coastal wetland development north of the existing community was comprehensively dismissed for failing to adequately plan for the future.

In March 2015, Greens councillor Sally Townley moved a council motion to reject the development outright on nine unacceptable reasons.

Council planning staff recommended this development be approved subject to conditions. However, the motion proved successful as a majority of councillors supported Cr Townley to the delight of a rowdy public gallery.

The developer, Pridel developments, then appealed this verdict going to the Land and Environment Court.

Finally on February 7, the court verdict justified community concerns regarding coastal inundation, flooding, emergency exit plans, community disconnection, development footprint, and threat to the adjacent Coffs Coast Regional Park managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The court has now delivered council their first Land and Environment Court win.

As a central campaigner for the Emerald Beach community Group, URGE, the win provides not only personal elation but also a lasting legacy for the region.

This case now sets a precedence for future coastal planning for councils and developers in NSW.

According to the court judgement, the developer application failed, amongst other things, to appropriately consider coastal inundation as a cause for concern risking the safety of its residents.

Sea level rise associated with climate change will impact our coastal region over this century and beyond with high confidence, the court heard.

Due to the high degree of uncertainty, the precautionary principle was argued for since it is likely that the development may become unsuitable.

The proposed development did not accord with the principles of NSW Coastal Policy in that it did not adequately consider the "ecologically sustainable development of the NSW coastline" which includes the principle of intergenerational equity.

In light of the verdict, how did council planners come to recommend this DA for approval? Furthermore, how many other developments are recommended that may also be a risk in the future?

For example, the exclusive gated community of North Sapphire “just metres from the beach” who started selling properties in 2012.

Are council planners understaffed and overwhelmed by complex DA’s leading to poor recommendations or do they simply want the easy way out?

However this court verdict is read, it seems pretty clear that coastal development is dangerous and council should now zone entirely the North Emerald property E2 Conservation. Council planners may also benefit from reading the 2003 NSW Coastal Policy.

In finishing, insufficient assessment of risk and $640 000 worth of court costs later - a rare Coastal Wetheath lives on!

Aerial View of Proposed Development  Image: Trevor Veale Coffs Coast Advocate

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

A Plastic Ocean

By Jonathan Cassell

Marine plastic debris is killing sea birds, whales, and turtles whilst being a potential cause of disease in humans.

Today, more plastic is in the worlds oceans than at any time before and scientific research predicts that if plastic manufacturing continues on current trends then there will be as much plastic in the ocean by 2050 per weight as there are fish.

This is a dangerous development for our world and we need to act collectively to reduce our plastic usage.

Last Thursday night, Sea Shepherd Marine Debris Campaign and Take 3 for the Sea screened the documentary A Plastic Ocean to a sell out crowd.

The documentary by investigative Journalist Craig Leeson illustrates many disturbing examples of plastic pollution and its impacts upon marine and human life.

While the issue goes far beyond our national coastline, Australia could do more to demonstrate responsible leadership to other nations and our own citizenship and significantly limit plastic manufacturing and importation.

This is an issue calling out for genuine innovation Mr Turnbull!

As a culture, however, we are in the dark. The dim lights surrounding this problem are only now beginning to be noticed and political process in Australia seems seriously unresponsive to the crisis.

Are MP’s out of touch and unfit to deal with this gigantic problem?

How can our Nation-State responsibly endorse a plastic industry when we know plastic can take hundreds of years to ‘disappear’?

According to a Productivity Commission Chemicals and Plastics Regulation Report in 2008, plastics contribute to our well being but some can pose substantial risks to health and the environment.

As a society, we signed up to mass plastic production around 70 years ago. Back then, the plastic industry joyfully promoted plastic use would aid our well being. But like tobacco, the plastic industry also fails to account for the pain and suffering it causes.

We need immediate government intervention. 90% of sea birds contain plastic, whales are dying from ingesting plastic, and turtles “stupidly” confuse shopping bags with jelly fish. This is not to be ignored.

Lets make NSW plastic bag free and Ban the Bag.

Please pressure our local MPs Mr Fraser and Mr Hartsuyker to ban single use plastics.

Check out Plastic Ocean at:

Jonathan Cassell with Tim Silverwood from Take 3

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