Save Our State believes in Sustainable Living - so that we can hand over a world to the next generation that is worth living in.
SOS recognises that continued population growth concentrated in Sydney, the Central and South coasts places an unacceptable level of stress on our fragile coastal environment and on the quality of life of those who live in cities. Development pressure on water catchments provides just one illustration of the unintended consequences of unchecked growth.
The true financial costs of additional population have also not been recognised.
In the face of an increasing population in Australia there has been a failure to invest sufficiently in infrastructure, notably roads, hospitals and educational facilities. Housing affordability has undergone a dramatic decline.
It has proved not to be possible to deal rationally with the allocation of water in this, the driest inhabited continent on earth.
There has been a failure to prevent the continued destruction of habitat, vital to the survival of many of endangered species of native flora and fauna. The wave of extinctions is over 100 times greater than natural rates. Our annual fishing catch has gone steadily down with two thirds of Australia’s fisheries being classified as “overfished” or “uncertain”.
The 1994 Jones Report recommended that a formal population policy be adopted for Australia. The Government dismissed the recommendation, claiming its then policies would result in modest population growth. The Australian Academy of Science submission to the Jones' Inquiry concluded that a stable population of 23 million by 2040 was both politically feasible and desirableIn March 2001, Save Our Suburbs was joint sponsor of the Sydney's Population Future Forum in Sutherland. Philip Ruddock (then Immigration Minister) assured the forum that by 2050 Australia's population would be stable at around 24 million; Sydney's population, 6 million.
But the recent Intergenerational Report provides startling population projections: 35 million by 2049 for Australia, with Sydney approaching 7 million.
Population growth has major implications for services, infrastructure and the environment. Save Our Suburbs calls on the Federal Government to develop a population policy which respects both natural and built environmental constraints, social harmony and the maintenance of a decent standard of living. The population density of any area should not be increased unless adequate infrastructure is being provided, there will be no adverse environmental impact and the current community is in favour.
The natural environment in which we all live represents a highly complex and interconnected system that we are learning more about every day. The overall approach by Save Our State on this critical issue is to support the implementation and maintenance of policies derived as a result careful analysis, using the best research available from independent sources including the CSIRO and the relevant Local, State and Federal Government authorities.
Climate change is a serious threat to our natural environment and the economy. Practical action should be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so that human activities net effect on climate change is minimised and eventually eliminated over time. This can only happen by the use of technologies that have a real net benefit in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, not by merely transferring the problem to another location, or by creating an even bigger problem that that has no solution and a plethora of unintended effects.
Factual evidence reveals that high-density policies are detrimental not only to the affected community but also to the overall public good. Research from a variety of sources and directions shows that annual greenhouse emissions per person living in high-rise is nearly double that of those living in single-residential dwellings.
Further, traffic density is increased, as any greater proportion of people using public transport is more than outweighed by the greater number of people per unit area who have to use their cars for all sorts of reasons. The reduction in volume allowing dilution and dispersion and inefficient engine operations due to congestion results in increased levels of atmospheric pollution. Also, greater portion of areas covered hard surfaces significantly reduces the cleansing effect of urban trees, gardens and remnant bushland.
Emissions from the transport sector should be reduced by adopting a minimum vehicle efficiency standard of 5 litres per 100 kilometres (130g CO2/100km) for all new cars sold in NSW by 2015. This should apply to government fleets within the next term of government.
Energy efficiency should be driven by supporting the practical increase of minimum performance standards on new appliances, buildings and industrial processes.
Eco Systems and Protected Areas
The eco systems of Australia including those of New South Wales should be protected so as to maintain a healthy and natural environment for all native plants and animals. Those areas that have been degraded in the past should be remediated as part of a coordinated plan for NSW and the country.
Planning of new developments should take into account not only the their individual impact but also consider the cumulative impact taking into consideration what has gone before. Offsets should be used selectively and with the objective of offsetting the same species where appropriate.
Planning should also ensure that provision is made to allow for connectivity through conserving and creating corridors for migration.
The indigenous flora and fauna of the Cumberland Plain is under constant threat of extinction through government 'development' policy. Tokenistic concession to conservation is a recipe for extinctions on the Cumberland Plain, particularly macrofauna. The Cumberland Conservation Corridor proposed by Western Sydney Conservation Alliance Inc is the most certain means of sustaining viable populations of the Cumberland Plain's diverse flora and fauna for future generations. Save Our State Party has adopted the Cumberland Conservation Corridor as part of its conservation strategy.
Development within threatened species habitat and endangered ecological communities should be banned or severely restricted under the Threatened Species Conservation Act.
Natural resilience to climate change should be enhanced by supporting large scale conservation initiatives to protect and restore natural connectivity in the landscape, using voluntary private conservation, reservation and land use planning. Conservation on private land should be facilitated by rewarding landowners for voluntary private conservation by providing ongoing support for revolving funds and extending rates exemptions to all land covered by perpetual conservation covenants.
Population caps should be considered for sensitive environments.
Ecological reports should be peer reviewed in order to avoid reports being favourable to entities commissioning the reports.
Forests and Native Vegetation
Native Australian forests and vegetation form part of our overall eco system. As a consequence, protection of these forests is essential for a balanced and diverse natural environment that supports all native flora and fauna. Government should work with business, local communities and scientists specialising in this area to ensure that the right balance is achieved between all competing interests.
Further development of plantations should be supported on a socially acceptable and ecologically sustainable basis, ensuring plantation establishment does not result in the destruction or conversion of natural ecosystems or prime agricultural land.
Rivers, Wetlands and Catchments
The maintenance of healthy rivers, wetlands and catchments is essential for the well being of our natural environment as well as for the continued existence of urban and regional communities. History shows that human activities over the past two centuries in Australia have had serious negative effects on this critical component of our natural environment. The results of this activity should be reversed or remediated wherever possible.
The NSW Government should cooperate with the Federal Government to implement the Murray Darling Basin Plan, restoring health to the rivers and wetlands of the basin by ensuring environmental water is an allocation priority.
Coastal lakes should be protected from pollution through the removal of stormwater runoff drains and sewerage flows.
Investment in catchment restoration should be increased, including funding for Catchment Management Authorities.
Water supply infrastructure for New South Wales metropolitan areas has been disgracefully neglected. Proposals put forward for rectifying this problem by New South Wales political parties are emotionally based and ridiculously biased and unrealistic. Unrealistic suggestions as systems on which Sydney's water supply should be largely based include storm water harvesting, aquifer harvesting, desalination and reduction in consumption. All of these could be a small part of the final solution but would have very limited applicability.
A proper objective study of all options should be undertaken as a matter of great urgency. Precautions must be put into place to ensure such a study is free from the political interference and the preconceived ideas that bedevil current proposals. For example, situations close to Sydney in a high rainfall area with many deep ravines and at altitude that should be investigated as possibilities for additional storage. Such a solution could well be much cheaper in terms of capital and running costs and require much less energy. The costs (including environmental costs) and benefits for all practical options should be objectively considered.
The marine environment of our continent and state is critical component of our eco system. Overfishing and pollution of our coastal waters should be addressed in a manner that ensures healthy and sustainable marine plants and animal populations. This should also be balanced against the requirements of coastal communities and industries including fishing, tourism and agriculture.
A framework and timeframe should be established to move towards true ecosystem based and precautionary fisheries management to prevent any further decline in marine ecosystems and promote their recovery. An environmental impact statement and fishery management strategy for the NSW recreational fishery should be prepared to ensure fisheries management decisions are made on an informed basis and the state's recreational fishery moves towards sustainability.
Rural Land Management
Rural land management is a key component of effective environmental management, as the decisions made at this level have a range of effects on our inland and coastal waterways including the downstream effects on surrounding lands. The farming and agricultural industry is becoming much aware of the impact that their activities have on the environment. Every effort should be made by government to work with the rural sector to minimise the negative effects that agriculture has on the overall environment, whilst ensuring that equitable outcomes are achieved by all affected parties.
New plant introductions should be restricted to those assessed as low risk. Priority outcomes should be established to implement weed plans.
Mining and Gas
The mining and gas extraction industries form a large part of the Australian economy and provide a large proportion of the energy currently required for domestic and industrial use. However, the activities of this sector must always be subject to appropriate government regulation and public scrutiny to ensure that the results of any exploration or extraction do not harm the environment, or result in the degradation of other individual's property or livelihood.
A comprehensive environmental strategy for coal seam methane extraction must be developed with full community and independent scientific input. Mining operations accessing water must be required to obtain an existing water licence from the affected water resource area.
The health of residents living in coal affected regions must be protected by introducing and enforcing standards for fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) based on the best available science and with consideration of the cumulative health impacts from multiple emission sources.
Pollution and Waste
During the last 20 years there has been a successful move towards the separation of commercial and domestic waste to allow the recycling of materials including garden waste, paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and metal. This approach needs to be accelerated to result in 100% recovery and reuse where practicable, and additional waste materials including e-waste need to become part of this approach. As well as ensuring that our environment is not damaged, the reuse of materials through effective recycling means that there are significant economic benefits gained including reduced use of new resources and energy.
In many settled areas there is a significant shortage of green space. This shortage is particularly acute in intensely developed areas such as Sydney's eastern and western suburbs.
As population has grown so has the need for open green space for pocket, local and regional parks. Yet the state government is constantly ensuring the conversion of existing green space to medium and high density housing.
As population increases, however, the need for parks and green spaces increases, not diminishes. The responsibility for identifying open space needs and acquiring land has effectively been left to underfunded local councils.
SOS will work to ensure that existing green space is protected and that a programme is put into place to ensure that government-owned and built-upon land is retained or private property is purchased for green space in those areas which are, or will become, equivalently desirable and deficient in green space. Where private property is purchased compulsory acquisition should be a last resort, with just compensation for loss of land, income and amenity and for change of land use.
A pro-active metropolitan open space strategy would;
- Identify areas where there is a deficiency of open green space, identify all public land and place the details on a register and ensure that any 'surplus' government property is converted to open space and appropriately rezoned.
- Such conversions should permit a range of green space uses from local 'pocket' parks to regional parks. Any assessment of deficiency should take into account future population projections as well as the existing population.
- Where there is sufficient open space in a particular area and government property is genuinely surplus to requirements asset sales should be permitted. To remove the incentive to use asset sales as a way of funding on-going government programmes, however, all the proceeds of such sales should be committed to a fund which would allow the purchase of private property for green space in areas which are deficient.
- New developments should be designed to ensure there is public access to an adequate supply of appropriately located public open space and recreation areas, to provide for a range of recreational uses and visual amenity
Place Electricity Lines underground
Energy Australia currently provides a small sum to local councils to subsidise the undergrounding of power lines. SOS will work to ensure that this figure is increased.
The community currently provides Energy Australia with a massive hidden subsidy. When overhead power lines are brought down in storms, for example, the work of the police and the SES is paid for through local rates and taxes.
SOS will work to ensure that Energy Australia is held directly responsible for these hidden costs. A long-term plan for the undergrounding of cables is necessary.
Fix Street-tree Trimming problem
SOS will push for a parliamentary inquiry into the mutilation of street trees. This will encompass Energy Australia's management of sub-contractors, the extent of slashing, the lack of effective remedies for over-pruning and the role of councils in the process.
Reduce Aircraft noise and pollution
Sydney suffers from unnecessary aircraft noise and pollution that would not be tolerated in other countries where this would lead to hefty fines. Save Our Suburbs will press that Airservices Australia change their procedures so that aircraft approaching Sydney airport can adopt "power off" approaches. This will minimise the amount of time that approaching aircraft traverse the city under high power when they produce unnecessary noise and atmospheric pollution and waste fuel.
Limit Poker Machines
No additional poker machines should be permitted and a government enquiry should be instituted to determine a program of phased reduction.
Mechanisms should be put into place that put a limit on losses of individual players.
Filter Urban Road Tunnels
Road tunnels are fast becoming a Sydney way of motoring. In theory, they lead to free flowing underground traffic and less congested roads, but they don’t solve our public transport or our motor vehicle pollution problems, which are as harmful as passive smoking, leading to asthma in the short term and lung cancer, chronic heart disease and emphysema over time. Over 1000 people die from vehicle-related pollution in Sydney every year, many more than from road crashes.
Unfiltered ventilation stacks have been built for the M5 East and Eastern Distributor and are planned, for the Cross-City, Lane Cove, Drummoyne, and Spit Bridge/Manly tunnels, in spite of vigorous opposition from community and environmental groups to the flawed planning processes and regulations which have allowed them to be built.
These stacks pose serious health risks and have economic implications for all residents, businesses, workers and taxpayers in NSW. Their impacts can be equivalent to that of a major polluting industry and must be recognised and treated as such with strict quantitative emission limits regulated under licence.
We must make sure road tunnel fumes are filtered, or otherwise treated, to protect the health of motorists and people who live and work around their outlets.
Minimise Harmful Environmental and Health Effects of Infrastructure projects
Housing and infrastructure projects such as unfiltered road tunnels have been allowed to be built despite community opposition and serious risks being identified by technical and environmental experts.
SOS will ensure that:
- Standards, especially in major infrastructure projects that include the private sector, are appropriate and clearly defined. These standards and the project conditions must reflect the best available information and technology.
- Any infrastructure project emitting pollution will be compelled to control this pollution at source, using the best available technology such as progressive in-tunnel filtration and detoxification systems. The principle of Maximum Achievable Control of pollutants will be implemented.
- There should be full and proper independent health risk analysis before major infrastructure projects are approved, and independent monitoring should be conducted both before and after projects are operational.
- Government Departments and Authorities responsible for infrastructure projects will be compelled to apply strict quantitative limits to harmful pollutants and to assess their impact at every stage on all impacted individuals and groups. They must take account of emerging standards, latest medical and scientific evidence on health impacts and new technological developments.
- Consent agencies, such as the Department of Planning and the EPA must ensure that such projects are licensed. Licence control conditions will aim to reduce polluting emissions. Performance achievements that improve on regulatory requirements will be rewarded. Penalties will apply to any breach of conditions. Operations that are energy-wasteful will be penalised and energy conservation rewarded.
- Just compensation is provided to people who are adversely affected by major developments and for loss of land, income or amenity, and for change of land use.