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"Community Sustainability" refers to how we live as a community and how we can maintain strong sustainable communities. We need to consider how we use dwindling resources such as power, fuel and water and look at whether the way we live can be sustained into the future. We need to consider any opportunities arising from the need to act on climate change and look at developing these to support local economies. To survive the challenges of the future our community needs to develop a vision for their future.
Most of us are familiar with the predicted scenarios for Climate Change, where we will be affected by more extreme weather and droughts, increased bushfire risk, increasing energy costs and a world of carbon accounting. Helping communities respond and adapt to the predicted changes is a priority for all levels of government and Council plans to help communities transition to a low carbon future. One model for this process which encourages strong, local resilient communities is the Transition Towns movement.
The term “Peak Oil” is used to describe “the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline”.
Most credible sources conclude that we have or are about to reach this peak, meaning that oil based fuel will become scarcer and therefore more expensive. This will have a significant impact on rural communities and petrol selling for $12 per l in the near future may be the wake up call for us all to act. Many people are considering the issue of “food miles”, when buying food in an effort to reduce the amount of fossil fuel required to produce and transport their food.
Council have been looking at alternative crops that will help drought proof farms in the region and may have potential in providing future fuels. Local algae growing trials indicate that algae may be able to be grown in linear ponds using saline groundwater. World-wide research is being conducted to use algae as a source of bio-diesel. Australian bio-diesel manufacturers are also very interested in mustard seed, which will grow in poor soils and is drought and frost tolerant. Trial Blue Mallee crops planted between crop rows sequester carbon into the soil, reduce salinity and produce eucalyptus oil, ethanol and power. Cropping and Blue Gum plantation wastes are also being considered for bio- power plants.
The other “peak” which is concerning our farming community is the peak for production of phosphate based fertilisers. Synthetic fertiliser costs are increasing due to the fact that they require energy for production. Many farmers are looking into the benefits of Bio-char, which is purported to assist in fixing trace elements and increasing biological activity in the soil.
Council have for some time been trying to advance the potential for manufacture and development associated with the renewable energy sector and has developed an industrial estate to the east of Ararat. Planning authorities are being asked to consider the density and layout of new developments and the opportunity for use of pedestrian, cycling and public transport. A framework has been developed to guide the urban streetscapes.
Council works with its local community groups to maximise its environmental outcomes.
The Environmental Sustainability Advisory Group has become a forum to advise Council in the area of community sustainability. The Ararat Greenhouse Action Group works towards promoting positive climate change actions within the community. There are a variety of Landcare and associated groups within the community, including Ararat, Lake Bolac, Buangor, Moyston, Jallukar, Project Platypus and Southern Farming Systems. The Ararat Regional Bio-Links Network is working to develop a network of bio-links. Other support groups including Trust for Nature and Land for Wildlife.
Council is a member of ICLEI’s Cities for Climate Protection and has reached its target of Milestone 5 Plus. It is also a member of the Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance and the Wimmera Mallee Sustainability Alliance.