Drysdale Ring Road –

Seeking your input  …….

Come see the latest plans, speak directly with VicRoads staff and provide real input into the features of the ring road / bypass and improvements to High Street in Drysdale.

Dates: Wednesday 15 April in Drysdale &

          Wednesday 22 April in Portarlington

Time: Drop in anytime between 3pm–7pm


       SpringDale Neighbourhood Centre, 17-21 High Street Drysdale

       Portarlington Neighbourhood House, 28 Brown Street Portarlington

If you are unable to attend this session, information will be available on the VicRoads website at

For more information, please email or call 5225 2576

Historic day for cycling in our Region


After more than two years we have finally been successful in getting our Principal Bicycle Network (PBN) up in both the City of Greater Geelong and the Surf Coast Shire.

Bike Safe has been actively working with local cyclists, VicRoads and Councils in developing a Principal Bicycle Network (PBN). This plan prioritises key roads and paths across the region for upgrading, modification or building connections. At least 30% of the works can be implemented within existing budgets and infrastructure upgrade plans.

The PBN provides a priority framework for establishing safe, connected cycling routes to and from community hubs. Hubs include the CBD, towns, train stations, schools, tertiary campuses, shopping centres, and recreation centres. It also incorporates commuter and popular leisure cycling routes as well.

Within the PBN there are less roads than in previous strategies, sort of do less but do it better. It also aims to guide engineers and planners to make strategic connections, fix poor design outcomes, and prioritise cycling maintenance. The PBN has also identified strategic Next Generation sealed, separated cycleways leading into the CBD and connecting surrounding suburbs.

Although desirable, not all roads can have bike lanes or shoulders, in which case consideration will be given to speed limit reductions, cycle friendly intersections, traffic calming and signage. Priority for new off-road paths will  be given to those which provide the most direct routes.  If you want more details and maps, here is the link >PBN

FOOTNOTE: Pictured above is CoGG Deputy Mayor Cr Bruce Harwood and Bike Safe President Barton van Laar. Bike Safe also wishes to thank Cr Andy Richards and Cr Eddy Kontelj (and all the Councillors at CoGG and Surf Coast) for their ongoing enthusiastic support.  Bike Safe has funded all strategic and mapping work to date. Now the real work by VicRoads, CoGG and Surf Coast begins, fingers crossed!


clip_image003 starts PBN process

With the support of local managers VicRoads is right now reviewing planned existing works, to see which roads, which intersections can be improved over the next two years. We will keep you updated!


Well done Borough of Queenscliffe!


Lots of new bike racks in Point Lonsdale welcome bikes and guess what, locals ride to the shops. Build it and they will come!


The economic benefits of cycling

Cycling is a viable transport alternative that has significant economic benefits. As an example, the economy benefits by more than $21 every time a person cycles 20 minutes to work and back, according to previous Federal Government reports. The economic benefits of riding and walking to work include better health, less congestion, reduced infrastructure costs, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, better air quality, noise reduction and savings in parking costs.

Three and a half million people—nearly one in six Australians—ride a bicycle at least once a week, and more than 8 million Australians ride at least once a year. Riding a bike delivers economic benefits of around $1.43 per kilometre.

Cycling is low-impact exercise that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Regular cycling has many physical and mental health benefits. It is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of health problems such as stroke, heart attack, some cancers, depression, diabetes, obesity and arthritis.


Some welcome sweeping…






Some welcome fixes…






BELLARINE HWY, NEWCOMB – VicRoads This took two goes but now no longer dips below the surface of the bike lane. Parking is still a problem.


PIGDONS RD, WAURN PONDS – COGG Cyclists were actually tracking along the white line and falling into the carriageway. CoGFG did a quick fix after we reported and came up with modifications. The white line was previously 3-4mm above the road surface trapping water.


Bike Safe Macedon great initiative


The Face of Cycling in the Macedon Ranges…

Legend calls for bike safety


The man known as the voice of cycling, Phil Liggett, was in Portarlington recently for the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic. He joins Bike Safe in promoting cycling safety.

“We all live on the same planet. We all want to get from point A to point B safely. A simple mistake or lack of concentration by a cyclist or a motorist can result in the loss of a life. I think it is terrific is that organisations, such as Bike Safe, bring these matters to the fore, with road users and infrastructure planners. All of us, including Governments and Councils need to listen and respond positively. The results are very worthwhile.”  READ MORE >


Our Facebook page – read it first here


This post received over 10,500 page views and made the Addy! When stuff happens, we will post it on our Facebook page, here >


Finally The Science Behind Why Cycling Makes Us Happier

The environment would pay for ‘free trade’ …. read on with care

By Tom Warne-Smith

Posted Thu 9 Jan 2014, 1:07pm AEDT

Extract from:

Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses could devastating for the environment.

PHOTO: Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses could devastating for the environment. (Simon Cullen: ABC News)

Under the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, Australia could be forced to pay foreign corporations not to dig up or destroy its coastline or native forests, writes Tom Warne-Smith.

What would you do if an international company decided to stick a toxic waste dump next to your house? Lodging an objection with your council is a good start – but what if the company could claim millions of dollars in damages if the council said no?

That’s exactly what happened in Mexico when the municipality of Guadalcazar refused to issue a permit to build a waste dump because of the impact on the 800 surrounding residents and $16.6 million in ‘compensation’ was awarded to the dump’s US owners.

Get ready, because the laws that let this happen are coming to Australia too.

A range of experts have recently highlighted the alarming potential consequences of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). This ‘free trade’ agreement between countries will more than likely contain secretive Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses, allowing foreign companies to sue national governments when changes to domestic laws affect the company’s investments, and so limiting governments in the regulations they can make to protect the public.

A lot has already been said about the disastrous effects of these clauses on public health initiatives, like plain packaging for cigarettes. While the thought of paying Philip Morris so Australia can have a law to protect the health of Australians is bad enough, the effects on our environment could also be devastating.

When Germany’s Hamburg Environmental Authority issued a licence imposing water quality standards on a coal-fired power plant, energy giant Vattenfall commenced investor-state arbitration against the German government, seeking about €1.4 billion, plus arbitration costs and interest. Ultimately Germany and Vattenfall settled the dispute, with Germany agreeing to weaken environmental standards in favour of the corporation. Vattenfall has now started proceedings claiming a reported €3.7 billion in compensation as a result of the German government’s decision to phase out nuclear power.

Under Australian federal environmental law there are a number of provisions which allow our environment minister to vary or revoke approvals for projects like mines in certain circumstances, such as when there is new evidence about the environmental effects. An Australian licence holder has to accept the minister’s decision. But under the new rules, an international investor would be able to seek compensation for any loss of profits from the project.

This opens up a legal nightmare. Imagine that there’s been a bushfire, and an endangered Australian species has suffered a huge loss of habitat. If any Australian government then wanted to change a permit to stop a foreign company from clearing habitat that had become vital to the survival of this species, we would have to pay the company ‘compensation’. Similarly, if our government made a decision to protect a rural community from coal seam gas extraction, a foreign investor could potentially take Australia to court and be compensated for their loss of earnings.

Frighteningly, all of this is happening in secret. We don’t know exactly what the TPP will contain. Around the world, no one knows the full extent of the impact that ISDS clauses have had, because when an investor-state case goes ahead, the arbitration decisions are often kept secret. What we do know is that simply having these clauses in place creates the significant risk of ‘regulatory chill’; a reluctance by governments to act because of the risk of an investor-state dispute. Even in claims when the investor corporations are unsuccessful, governments often end up having to pay half the cost of the arbitration and their own legal expenses.

Worse still, the liability created by ISDS clauses continues even if we decide the treaty is a bad idea after all. While our government could subsequently withdraw from the treaty, as other governments have commenced doing after losing ISDS disputes, the companies that had already invested would continue to be protected by the ISDS for typically another 20 years.

The potential benefits from these clauses to Australians are very limited. Australian businesses have apparently never used the ISDS provisions in Australian treaties. The Productivity Commission, in a 2010 report into ISDS clauses, recommended that our government "avoid the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement provisions in [international agreements] that grant foreign investors in Australia substantive or procedural rights greater than those enjoyed by Australian investors" – advice that the Abbott Government appears to be ignoring in the TPP negotiations.

Do we really want to create an Australia where we have to pay a foreign corporation not to dig up or destroy our coastline or native forests? Our laws should protect Australians and the places we love – not the profits of foreign multinationals.

Beyond Zero Emissions are seeking an experienced and passionate CEO


Beyond Zero Emissions Chief Executive Officer Wanted

The company

Beyond Zero Emissions is a not-for-profit research and communication organisation developing solutions for the implementation of climate change mitigation programmes. Their objective is to transform Australia from a fossil fuel based economy to a renewable powered clean tech economy. Sharing this research with tens of thousands of Australians via a multitude of external channels, the organisation is engaging, educating and inspiring stakeholders with real and positive solutions to climate change.
As one of the fastest growing NGOs in Australia, BZE are seeking an experienced and passionate CEO who can lead and consolidate the organisation through the next period of change and growth.
The role
Reporting to the Board of Management, your role as CEO will be to provide the collaborative leadership needed to ensure the organisation can deliver on its ambitious goals. You will work to foster an environment of courage, collaboration and accountability alongside staff and volunteers alike.
The key responsibilities for the role are:

  • Staff management and leadership
  • Operational management
  • Fundraising
  • External stakeholder engagement
  • Media communications

The requirements
As someone with proven leadership, coaching and management experience you will be thoroughly committed to, and passionate about, action on climate change and the work that the organisation undertakes. As a strong communicator you will be the focal point externally therefore it is essential that you have advanced influencing skills.
Further key requirements include, but are not limited to:

  • Excellence in organisational and project management with the ability to coach staff, manage, and develop high-performance teams, set and achieve strategic objectives.
  • P/L management, ensuring the fiscal viability and sustainability of the organisation.
  • Strong marketing, public relations, and fundraising experience with the ability to engage a wide range of stakeholders.
  • Experience developing productive, collaborative partnerships with external agencies and influential individuals.

The rewards
You will be given the platform to be a highly visible exponent of climate change mitigation, engaging with influential private and public stakeholders across Australia and potentially further afield. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to help shape the future of the Australian energy industry and build on the progress that this organisation has achieved to date.
For a confidential discussion contact Ben Cartland on 0413 555 632 or Richard Evans on 0431 414 883 or send your resume to

UPDATE – Beyond Zero Emissions welcomes a new CEO

Posted on 26 Aug 2013
It is our pleasure to announce that after a long and exhaustive search we are finally able to announce the appointment of our new Chief Executive Officer – Dr Stephen Bygrave.
Stephen will be commencing as CEO of Beyond Zero Emissions on Monday the 9th of September 2013.
Stephen has worked on climate change, renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transport for the past 20 years, primarily in policy and research positions at a local, national and international level.
Dr Stephen Bygrave

Shaping our future – food for thought.

Remaking a suburb for the creative class

Kaid Benfield’s Blog

Posted October 21, 2010 in Green Enterprise, Living Sustainably

By almost any conventional measure, Dublin, Ohio is a wildly successful community.  A suburb of Columbus, Dublin is one of the wealthiest municipalities in Ohio, with a median family income of $126,402, more than double that for the nation as a whole.  Unlike Midwestern cities founded in earlier days on an industrial economy, Dublin is a modern community that has experienced tremendous growth in recent decades, with fewer than 4,000 residents as recently as 1980, but upwards of 38,000 today.
a home in Dublin (via Chambers Custom Homes, Dublin) Jack Nicklaus's Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Golf Club (via GolfWorld)
Dublin is now home to the headquarters of Wendy’s, Ashland, Cardinal Health and several other corporations, including the new-technology OCLC (originally Online Computer Library Center).  Nationwide Insurance and Verizon have significant presence there.  The Professional Golf Association’s Memorial Tournament, one of its more prominent events, is hosted by Ohio native Jack Nicklaus and held annually in Dublin, and the community’s excellent golfing facilities also host numerous other events.  The Scioto River runs through the heart of town, which also can boast a very pleasant historic district.  It’s all working;  you may wonder, why change anything?
Dublin's historic district (courtesy of Goody, Clancy) Dublin's historic district (by: Pierre Metivier, creative commons license)
The answer is that Dublin’s leaders are thinking like a business.  They know that their success has been based on a late-20th century model of office parks, malls, and single-family subdivisions that is now becoming outdated.  Having been on the leading edge of past suburban success, they want to be on the leading edge for the 21st century as well.  And right now, although they have great assets to build upon, they suspect that they aren’t ready for the new generation of “customers.”
Outside of the relatively small historic district, for example, Dublin’s main transportation corridors are lined with development that is relentlessly automobile-oriented and unwalkable, and frequently bland.  What a visitor sees may mask an affluent community, but it also lacks cohesion and resembles nothing so much as run-of-the-mill sprawl, so typical of suburbs built in the 1980s and 1990s:
intersecting Bridge Street, Dublin (by: Doug Kerr, creative commons license)
OCLC parking lot (by: Emily Alling, creative commons license) Dublin Prospect Road, by the Scioto River (via Google Earth)
As recent city manager Terry Foegler told Holly Zachariah of The Columbus Dispatch, what Dublin is missing is what it needs to attract young professionals and empty-nesters: “a trendy, urban area in which to work, play and live.”
While some residents are rightly attentive to be sure that historic character is preserved, Eric Leslie of the Historic Dublin Business Association echoes the need to evolve.  Leslie told Zachariah that development that would get people to live downtown, make walking and biking there easier, and give them something to do would be wonderful: “We need an area where people can stroll and hang out, where people can have some fun.  What we need is an energy.”
In response, the city council has been working on something called the Bridge Street Corridor Study, a bureaucratic name for an exercise to determine whether there are parts of the community’s central area that could be re-imagined to accommodate more walkable, livelier development.  Technical support is being provided by Goody, Clancy & Associates, an architecture and planning firm that has advised clients all over the country – and the world, for that matter – on contextually appropriate urbanist makeovers.  (Disclosure:  Goody, Clancy’s David Dixon is a close professional friend.)  Bridge Street is Dublin’s principal east-west artery, though it takes other names along the way; it runs through the heart of commercial Dublin and the historic district.  The street is also Ohio Route 161 and, in places, US Highway 33.
the focus of planning (courtesy of Goody, Clancy)
study area context (courtesy of Goody, Clancy) citizens participate in planning (courtesy of Goody, Clancy)
Goody Clancy began the right way, listening to businesses and residents, while bringing in nationally recognized experts including Chris Leinberger, Laurie Volk, and Carol Coletta to offer perspective on development trends and markets.  All advised the community to go walkable and mixed-use to be positioned for the future.
“Honestly, I don’t know that any part of it came as a complete surprise to me, particularly in terms of housing stock and the kind of lifestyle environment that young professionals might be seeking,” council member Tim Lecklider told Jennifer Noblit of ThisWeek Dublin. “I’ve been saying for several years on council that we probably have a full complement of single-family homes for a community of our size. To build any more could create a glut of that type of housing.”
the study area is composed of districts with varying character (courtesy of Goody, Clancy)
Noblit’s article, which was published in December of last year, suggests that other council members are in general agreement, though some have a natural concern that the makeover occur in the right places.  Council member Richard Gerber told Noblit that an evolution to accommodate 21st-century lifestyle preferences could be seen as “the natural progression of things. We built a town and now we have fine neighborhoods that have attracted business.  I think in some way this is just one more part of the process.”
From talking to residents, businesses and community leaders, Goody, Clancy found that Dublin is facing increased competition from downtown Columbus, other suburbs, and other parts of the country for the young talent needed to supply the diverse, skilled workforce sought by modern employers.  “As many as 60,000 people work in Dublin in the course of a year,” Foegler told Philip Langdon of New Urban News; between 5,000 and 8,000 employees are hired every year in the community.
Goody, Clancy subcontractor and market analysts Zimmerman, Volk Associates found that, while “there is projected demand for about 1,500 housing units over the next 5-7 years in the study area,” most of that will be for housing more suited to singles and empty nesters than the community’s current housing stock.  Indeed, apart from the city’s study and as further evidence of a changing attitude, the high-tech OCLC is already examining walkable development alternatives for the 80 acres it owns in Dublin.
it is critical to protect community character (by: Jinjian Liang, creative commons license)
Goody, Clancy’s preliminary inquiry recognized that it will be important to build in a way that creates and strengthens neighborhoods, not just adds to them; that development should strengthen, not diminish, the town’s historic district and character; that transportation choices and more complete streets would be required; that the community’s greenway and open space network can grow.
The firm believes that the Bridge Street Corridor is an appropriate place to focus, with significant redevelopment opportunity due to the presence of several large parcels of land under single ownership (including commercial properties well past their prime), and several property owners seeking higher-value uses for their land.  Focusing on the corridor would also present opportunities for increasing connectivity and transportation access, while avoiding impacts on the community’s single-family neighborhoods, which mostly lie outside the study area.  Many of the details may be found in a Planning Foundations document presented in May of this year by Goody, Clancy to the city.
neighborhoods; park system; arteries needing attention (courtesy of Goody, Clancy)
The firm presented its vision for the corridor to the city earlier this month.  Goody, Clancy focused on neighborhoods, key arteries with potential for improvement, and expanding the park and trail system.  Their goal was to illustrate how the city could use thoughtful planning and redevelopment to achieve a future with these outcomes:

  • The Bridge Street Corridor is Dublin’s centerpiece. Dublin’s historical and cultural heart is strengthened and balanced by highly walkable districts and neighborhoods on both sides of the Scioto River.
  • Exceptional green spaces preserve the outstanding natural features in the corridor and seamlessly connect each unique district along the corridor.
  • Mixed-use districts bring together complementary arrangements of living, working and recreation in memorable settings created by distinctive, human-scaled architecture and streets that invite walking and gathering.
  • Greatly expanded choices in housing, employment, activities and transportation attract new generations of residents, businesses and visitors.
  • The Bridge Street Corridor radiates a diversity and vitality that mark it as a special place not only within Dublin, but within the region, nation and world.

the overall vision (courtesy of Goody, Clancy)
The concept is ambitious, integrating new townhome, multi-family and loft housing, new office space, new shopping and civic facilities, roof gardens, a trail network, and even space for a light rail line, amidst a fair amount of retained existing buildings.
Recommendations were differentiated for different sub-districts and neighborhoods.  (See numbered sections in image of the planning area above.)  Below, for example, are illustrative possibilities for (clockwise from upper left) the Indian Run district; the edge of the Indian Run district, bordering a natural area; the Sawmill district; and the Riverside district.
vision for Indian Run (courtesy of Goody, Clancy) the edge of Indian Run (courtesy of Goody, Clancy)
Riverside district (courtesy of Goody, Clancy) Sawmill district (courtesy of Goody, Clancy)
Earlier this month, urbanist trend-spotter Richard Florida wrote in The Wall Street Journal that, to do well in today’s economy, suburbs need a bit of urban character:

“Just a couple of decades ago, the suburbs were the very image of the American Dream, with their sprawling, large-lot homes and expansive lawns. Suburban malls, industrial parks and office campuses accounted for a growing percentage of the nation’s economic output. Planners talked about ‘edge cities’—satellite centers where people could live, work and shop without ever having to set foot in major cities.
“With millions of American homes now ‘underwater’ or in foreclosure, the suburbs and exurbs have taken some of the most visible hits from the great recession . . . The suburbs that have continued to prosper during the downturn share many attributes with the best urban neighborhoods: walkability, vibrant street life, density and diversity. The clustering of people and firms is a basic engine of modern economic life. When interesting people encounter each other, they spark new ideas and accelerate the formation of new enterprises. Renewing the suburbs will require retrofitting them for these new ways of living and working.”

vision for Tuller/Greenway district (courtesy of Goody, Clancy)
Later in his article, Florida makes clear that he believes that suburbs that take the necessary steps to become more walkable and urbane will be well-positioned to compete for the creative class (a phrase he coined):

“Walkable suburbs are some of America’s best places to live, and they provide their sprawling, spread-out siblings with a model for renewal. Relatively dense commercial districts, with shops, restaurants and movie theaters, as well as a wide variety of housing types, have always been a feature of the older suburbs that grew up along the streetcar lines of big metro areas . . .
“These are the places where Americans are clamoring to live and where housing prices have held up even in the face of one of the greatest real-estate collapses in modern memory. More than that, as my colleague Charlotta Mellander and I found when we looked into the statistics, the U.S. metro areas with walkable suburbs have greater economic output and higher incomes, more highly educated people, and more high-tech industries, to say nothing of higher levels of happiness.”

While it remains to be seen how much of Goody, Clancy’s vision will be adopted by Dublin as a viable plan, and what the details will be, what impresses me most is the foresight of the community’s leaders in undertaking the Bridge Street Corridor Study and understanding the opportunity they have to be just as relevant to the next thirty years as they have been to the last thirty.  The city now has some important things to think about, and I’m pulling for them.

Living off-the-grid is possible, but not enough to fix climate change

29 January 2013, 6.38am AEST
AUTHOR     Frederick Trainer Visiting fellow at University of New South Wales
Frederick Trainer does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.                                                                                                             The Conversation provides independent analysis and commentary from academics and researchers.                                                We are funded by CSIRO, Melbourne, Monash, RMIT, UTS, UWA, Canberra, CDU, Deakin, Flinders, Griffith, La Trobe, Murdoch, Newcastle. QUT, Swinburne, UniSA, USQ, UTAS, UWS and VU.


It is technically possible to supply your own food, energy and shelter, without reliance on the grid.Moosicom/Flickr

My old house has never been connected to the electricity supply. It runs on a couple of photo voltaic (solar) panels and is warmed by firewood. All water used is rainwater.

I have a vegie garden, fruit trees and chickens. My pumps and machinery run on 12 volt solar electricity. I travel 25km to paid work once a week, by bicycle and train, and drive about 10km a week. I never go away on holidays. The average Australian household uses about one kilowatt of electricity; I use eight watts.

So isn’t downshifting to less consuming lifestyles the way to solve the greenhouse problem?

Emphatically, no it isn’t. It’s part of the solution but not the main part.

If you want to fix the climate, developing nations’ poverty, resource depletion and other environmental problems you will also have to totally scrap economic growth, and therefore capitalism, and largely scrap globalisation, centralisation, the market system, representative democracy, the financial system, big cities, modern agriculture and urbanism.

A little extreme? Here’s the core argument.

Everyone knows the basic facts and figures, but few face up to what they mean. To provide the average Australian with food, settlement area, water and energy now requires about eight hectares of productive land.

If by 2050, nine billion people were to have risen to the present Australian “living standard”, and the planet’s amount of productive land is still the same as it is today, the amount available per capita will be about .8ha. In other words Australian’s today are using ten times the amount that will be possible for all.

It’s much the same for all other resources. There are already scarcities regarding food in general, fish, water, most industrial minerals and petroleum, with estimates of peak coal occurring within a few decades. Only about one fifth of the world’s people have rich world consumption rates, and six times as many will soon be aspiring to them.

And yet, everyone is manically obsessed with constantly increasing “living standards”, production, consumption and GDP. At the standard 3% per annum growth rate, according to WWF figures we will need more than 20 planet earths to meet 2050 resource demands.


Living off-the-grid is not completely without a source of energy … solar panels are an integral part of the lifestyle. sridgway/Flickr

The glaringly obvious yet ignored point is that rich world per capita levels of resource consumption and ecological impact are far beyond levels that that are sustainable, or that could be made sustainable by any remotely plausible technical fixes.

People, including most of the green ones, do not grasp the magnitude of the overshoot, nor the significance of the change required to solve the big problems.

The problems are being caused primarily by our systems, not our lifestyles although these are far too affluent. It’s not possible to get resource consumption down to one-fifth or one-tenth of present levels, unless we not only shift to a zero growth economic system, but to one with a far lower level of GDP. That means an economy in which there can be no interest paid.

That means we have to scrap the present financial system, and the forces driving innovation, incentive, work and investment, and the quest for greater wealth. It means much more than scrapping capitalism; it means completely abandoning some of the fundamental ideas (like the definition of progress,) and values (such as getting rich) that have driven Western culture for 300 years.

We could do it, easily, if you wanted to.

My system, The Simpler Way (detailed in my book), is one whereby we transform our present suburbs and towns into highly self-sufficient and self-governing local and zero-growth economies, in which the quality of life would be higher than it is now in the consumer rat race.

Yes, an important part must be the willing acceptance of frugal, self-sufficient, cooperative ways at the level of the household and community. But it would not be necessary to go as far as I choose to on my bush homestead. We could still have electricity grids, (small) cities, (some) trade and heavy industry, railway networks, a (small) central state (under the control of town assemblies), universities and professional skills, and more socially useful high tech research and development than we have now. You might need to work for money only one day a week.


An ecovillage at Currumbin in Queensland. Flickr

Many people in eco-villages more or less live in the required ways now. Many are attempting to transform their towns and suburbs into being more self-sufficient and self-governing local communities.

But these very encouraging beginnings are not yet focused on the crucial goals.

If you really want to help save the planet don’t fret much about downshifting but join your local community garden, with a view to getting people there thinking more about the need to focus on us eventually achieving the big structural and cultural changes.

Australian wind energy setback: Tracing the origins of the 2km rule

By Oilver Wagg on 14 November 2012

Extract from:
As the wind industry supplies more and more of Australia’s energy needs, the anti-wind farm lobby is gathering strength, buoyed by Liberal-National Coalition governments and a couple of crusading independent senators.
Wind energy proponents argue the decision to impose a minimum 2km distance between wind turbines and residences – a key plank of the Victorian government’s planning regulations and, at this stage, a proposal by the New South Wales government – is based on twisted logic and flawed research into the negative health impacts of wind turbines.
Some go further, accusing the Coalition Victorian government of pandering to vested interests, and questioning the government’s reluctance to explain the reasoning behind the new planning regime – a regime that has, thus far, killed off any new wind developments in the state.
“It’s a good political fix for a government that can’t be bothered explaining planning regulations,” said one senior executive at a wind energy company, who preferred to remain anonymous.
“The government wants to keep it simple… and when the industry has asked them what was the basis of 2km they have never answered, other than to say we’ve needed to strike a balance so the industry can keep developing.”
Victoria gets the wrecking ball rolling

Under a policy brought in as an election promise in Victoria, turbines are banned from being constructed within 2km of residences, unless there is a written agreement with the relevant landowners.
The Clean Energy Council, which was not consulted on Victoria’s setback law, has never seen any evidence of why a 2km zone was chosen.
“We have not seen any scientific evidence – other than the Victoria government saying it wants to re-balance the planning system – of why a 2km setback has been imposed,” Russell Marsh, policy director at the Clean Energy Council, told RenewEconomy.
Ken McAlpine, Asia-Pacific director of policy and government relations at Vestas, said the company does not support arbitrary limits.
“Projects should be judged on their merits. There’s a big difference between a kilometre away on dead flat land and a kilometre away from turbine sitting on a hill,” he said.
NSW is also proposing to ban the construction of wind turbines within 2km of residences unless there is written agreement from relevant landowners or unless permitted via a “gateway process”.
Via this “gateway” process, if turbines are proposed within 2km of homes where owners have not provided their written consent, the project developer may apply to the planning department for approval and must include such details as predicted noise levels and visual impact, as well as the potential for blade glint or shadow flicker.
The NSW government, which is awaiting the results of additional independent research undertaken as part of the wind farm audits, expects to finalise the proposals “in the coming months” according to a spokesman  for the Department of Planning and Infrastructure. As for the origins of the 2km rule, the spokesman did not comment.
The lie of the Landscape Guardians
The Landscape Guardians – an organisation set up in 2007 to achieve “better outcomes for natural and cultural landscape protection through the planning process” – originally called for a 2km setback for all turbines.
The pressure group’s ideas match with Victorian government policy, observed Ketan Joshi, a research and communications officer at Infigen Energy.
“It doesn’t seem to be based on scientific evaluation – it seems to be an arbitrary number,” he toldRenewEconomy.
“In the absence of any real evidence and/or scientific analysis, it seems strange the government would leave itself open to conjecture on how the policy was developed.
“Even if one were to accept the theory that 2km was funneled into government policy via the Landscape Guardians, their own development of the 2km setback is based on spurious health claims and a set of principles that don’t apply.”
In June, Victoria’s planning minister Matthew Guy said the 2km setback would remain in place even if medical research showed that wind turbines did not cause health problems.
“The 2km setback is in place for a number of reasons in relation to amenity, in relation to noise, in relation to strobe lighting,” he said.
“We felt it was [the] right level, the right distance to put in place, as a basic principle and that is what we will be implementing in policy.”
Guy’s office did not respond to calls or emails requesting an interview.
Flawed research
Much of the current community resistance to wind farms can be traced back to work by Nina Pierpont, a pediatrician who coined the phrase Wind Turbine Syndrome (WTS).
The controversy surrounding Pierpont’s work centres around her statements made in a self-published research theorising that ultra-low frequency sounds affect human health. She asserts that wind turbines affect people’s moods and may cause physiological problems such as insomnia, headaches, tinnitus, vertigo and nausea.
“It’s a fundamentally flawed piece of research, but unfortunately it’s often used as a basis for some of these health issues on wind farms and to justify the 2km setback,” said Infigen’s Joshi. “To justify that 2km setback, one would have to demonstrate quite a few things with statistically significant scientific investigation.”
Ultra-low-frequency sound, or infrasound, has been thoroughly examined and dismissed as an adverse health effect of wind turbines. One study shows that infrasound 75 metres from a beach is significantly higher than 360 meters from a wind turbine.
In Australia, before the Victorian wind farm planning regulations were imposed, the 2010 Rapid Review of the Evidence by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) found no direct pathological effects from wind farms, and that any potential impact on humans could be minimised by following existing planning guidelines.
There have now been 17 reviews of the available evidence about wind farms and health, published internationally. Each of these reviews has concluded that wind turbines can annoy a minority of people in their vicinity, but that there is no evidence that they make them ill.
Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at the University of Sydney, noted the scientific studies that do exist have mainly concluded that “pre-existing negative attitudes to wind farms are generally stronger predictors of annoyance than residential distance to the turbines or recorded levels of noise.”
Last month, Chapman – who has called WTS a “communicated disease” – told Radio National’s Science Show that sleep problems are the most-mentioned negative impact of living too close to a wind turbine. But a large population suffers from insomnia, “so no surprises there”.
“Chickens won’t lay near wind farms. Tell that to the Tasmanian poultry farmer who has a turbine on site,” Chapman said.
“Earthworms vanish from the soil in an 18km radius, hundreds of cattle and goats die horrible deaths from ‘stray electricity’, but veterinary officials are mysteriously never summoned.
“In 35 years in public health I have never encountered anything remotely as apocalyptic,” he said.

View of the 35-turbine Callicum Hills Wind Farm, Victoria.The land between the turbines continues to be used for farming. Image: Rolandg. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Throwing precautionary principle to the wind
The NSW Draft Planning Guidelines state: “Despite extensive research and numerous public inquiries, adverse health effects have not been established, but the possibility has not been ruled out. A prudent approach should be applied in designing and siting wind farm facilities.”
In this context, Infigen’s Joshi thinks the precautionary principle is being misinterpreted. There are, of course, many definitions of the principle. A February 2002 European Commission communication on the precautionary principle states:

“The precautionary principle applies where scientific evidence is insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain and preliminary scientific evaluation indicates that there are reasonable grounds for concern that the potentially dangerous effects on the environment, human, animal or plant health may be inconsistent with the high level of protection chosen by the EU”.

“You need to have scientifically valid, preliminary evaluation – you have to have reasonable rational grounds for concern [to invoke the precautionary principle],” Joshi said, “and essentially the scientific validity of the health claims around wind turbines I don’t think meet those criteria.”
“When you present the health issue in terms of potential harm, it has more salience to people and I worry that sometimes that discourages close analysis of their claims,” he added.
“It’s normal to find worrying advice salient,” Joshi said. “People seem to be naturally tuned to looking out for harm – it’s an evolutionary trait in people, which necessitates caution, honesty and ethics.”
Populist policy-making?

Wind farm developers and turbine manufacturers were frustrated and dismayed at the speed at which Victoria’s planning regime was implemented – and the Coalition has been criticised for offering little in the way of explanation for the new rules.
When in opposition, it said that while it supported wind energy, it was committed to returning certainty and fairness after the previous Labor government had imposed wind farms on reluctant local communities.
But the introduction of the 2km setback rule – which is rumoured, in business circles, to have been largely driven by Baillieu himself – was certainly not a populist measure, as borne out in the latest election results.
Strong anti-wind farm campaigns in two areas – Waubra, with a the 128-turbine Acciona-owned wind farm, and Beaufort & Skipton, the proposed location for Origin Energy’s 157-turbine Stockyard Hill wind farm – resulted in the areas registering the smallest swing away from Labor in the last state election.

View to Waubra wind farm, over the city of Ballarat. Image: Russell Luckock. Source: Wikimedia Commons
The planning rules were popular, however, in areas such as the Western Plains, and the heart of the ‘no-go’ zone, the McHarg Range in central Victoria.
As well as the 2km setback, Victoria imposed a ban on turbines within 5km of 21 regional centres, and ‘no-go’ zones including the Great Ocean Road, Mornington Peninsula, Wilsons Promontory, the entire Macedon Ranges shire , and the McHarg Ranges.
Marigold Merlyn Baillieu Southey, one-time lieutenant governor of Victoria and a matriarch of the Baillieu/Myer family, owns an 800-hectare farm and vineyard near Tooborac in the McHarg. Lady Southey, who is also Premier Ted Baillieu’s second cousin, actively opposed the development of a proposed  80-turbine Transfield wind farm on land neighbouring her property – including, in 2010, a letter-writing campaign to Transfield’s management and board members – which was subsequently banned under the new laws.
Metres vs decibels
While recognising the need for appropriate planning regulations to comply with community concerns and establish a social licence to operate, wind farm developers and turbine manufacturers are frustrated that setbacks are talked about in terms of distance.
Simon Holmes à Court, a director of community-owned wind farm Hepburn near Daylesford, Victoria, said setbacks should be framed in terms of sound and measured in decibels not metres. “There could possibly be very large projects that would require a 3km buffer and likewise there are other projects, such as the two turbine Hepburn Community Wind Farm, where houses as close as 500 metres are fully compliant with noise standards.”

Hepburn Wind Farm
“The buffer you need between the turbine and the house is a function of the geography, the turbine model, the number of turbines and the wind conditions in that area. There are vigorous science-based methods for measuring setbacks form wind turbines to residences,” Holmes à Court said.
A report by acoustic engineers Noise Management Services emphasised the “need for, and practicality of” the 2km setback, recommending that the 2km setback be implemented at Waubra, Cape Bridgewater and other existing wind farms.
But wind proponents said the acoustic engineer behind the survey, Dr Bob Thorne, had clear conflicts of interest. Details of the report were kept secret, although Democratic Labor Party Senator John Madigan gave a press conference on the report to present it to planning minister Matthew Guy.
“Senator Madigan has got a lot of people in Waubra convinced the wind farm is not compliant,” one Victoria-based wind developer told RenewEconomy. “Even Acciona – the owner of the wind farm hasn’t seen this report.”
[Webmaster’s Personal Views] Following is the standout quote from this article, as there is never any definitive mention of the ‘TYPE’ of wind turbine. I personally wish to construct a small 1 meter by 3 meter square Vertical Axis Wind Turbine to mount on my home roof in Portarlington. Am I subject to this overall ruling?
“The buffer you need between the turbine and the house is a function of the geography, the turbine model, the number of turbines and the wind conditions in that area. There are vigorous science-based methods for measuring setbacks form wind turbines to residences,” Holmes à Court said.

Coalition has launched a nationwide broadband survey

Bronte surf club.JPG

Published on: September 23, 2012


Today the Coalition has launched a nationwide broadband survey which allows every Australian to see for themselves the speed of their existing fixed line and mobile broadband services.
The survey is available at
The survey will provide important information to the Coalition about the speed of existing broadband in Australian cities, suburbs, towns and regions.
We want every Australian to have faster broadband sooner and more affordably.
Many suburbs and towns are inadequately served by existing fixed line and mobile broadband. But Labor’s NBN is not the answer. It reduces competition, will increase the monthly cost of broadband and is, for many Australian households, many years in the future.
The Government originally promised 511,000 households would be on the NBN fibre network by next June. But despite providing billions of dollars to the NBN, Labor now admits the real number will be just 54,000 – after almost six years in office!
So Australians have every reason to be suspicious about the Government’s promises of improved broadband. And it is households and businesses in those areas where broadband is poorest that have been hit hardest by Labor’s delays.
Our commitment is to fast-track upgrades in these areas and roll out the NBN according to need rather than politics.
In contrast, the Labor NBN has not prioritized better broadband for inadequately served areas. It will not reach some Australians until the 2020s. And it will increase prices: the NBN business plan states that the monthly revenues it earns from each customer will triple between now and 2021.
The Coalition has a better plan. We will encourage competition instead of stamping it out, and leverage existing infrastructure to complete upgrades sooner. We will ensure families have more choice and pay less for their monthly internet bill.
We urge all Australians to complete the broadband survey to help us ensure better broadband is available across the nation sooner, and those who need upgrades the most get it first.

Why TRUenergy hit the panic button over renewables.

By Giles Parkinson on 10 September 2012 .
Extract from:

TRUenergy’s release of a report attacking the costs of the renewable energy target on Friday highlight the fears it has over the impact of wind and solar on its coal and gas-fired generators.

But the renewable energy industry has been quick to point out some giant holes in its argument.

The first is over the cost to the scheme. 

TRUenergy suggested that building enough wind and solar and other renewables capacity to meet the 41,000 gigawatt hour (GWh) target would cost $53 billion out to 2030.
Reducing the target to reflect “real demand” might mean only 27,000GWh is required, reducing the cost by $25 billion – a figure designed to attract headline and talk back radio time.
The renewables industry point to numerous flaws in the pricing calculations over demand, the use of inflation indexed costs out to 2030 brought back to sound scary in 2012 dollars, and the assumed cost of the certificates.
The question on demand is a technical one, and apparently is distorted because excludes rooftop solar and older wind farms, which are defined as “negative demand” by AEMO. But the point is that the market operator has been unable to make an accurate forecast of demand one year out, let alone eight, which is why the industry, including TRUenergy and Origin Energy, favoured a fixed target when the target was legislated.
For full details refer:
Finally, there is a telling point, as we pointed on Friday, that TRUenergy is worried that renewables will push down wholesale electricity prices to the point where the business case for the current fossil fuel generators is compromised.
This is the merit order effect at work. In South Australia, and in Ireland, and to a lesser extent in other countries such as Germany, the reduction achieved in wholesale prices more than offsets the cost of the renewables energy target. Some estimates suggest that if South Australia’s wind-inspired merit order effect was repeated in Victoria, TRUenergy would lose about $200 million per year in revenue.
TRUenergy, on the other hand, admits that diluting the LRET will push up wholesale prices – enough, it suggests, to encourage the construction of new fossil fuel generation.
As the Germans are finding, the merit order effect is not an excuse to reduce the target. But it is a reason for having a sensible discussion about the structure of the electricity market.
And the question the government, or more particularly the Climate Change Authority, should ask itself is:                                                                                                                           These companies could have worked to reduce their carbon risk and diversified their generation portfolio year ago – why should they be rewarded for mismanagement?

Facebook meets Gehry: two top cultural influencers team up …

By Reena Jana | August 29, 2012, 3:15 AM PDT

Extract from:
Facebook’s Katigbak snapped and posted a photograph of Gehry and Zuckerberg, both smiling while and looking at a physical model of the new building. In the shot, the two look like peers in their t-shirts, despite their 55-year age difference. The image, to me, says a lot about the parallel powers of both architecture and social networking in today’s culture–er, should I say, the power of Frank Gehry and of Facebook, specifically. Across generations and across disciplines, they are hugely influential shapers of human experience, physical and virtual, and both are using design as a strategy to innovate.
Last Friday, social networking giant Facebook announced it has hired renowned architect Frank Gehry to expand its current headquarters in Menlo Park, California. The pairing reflects the two parties’ ongoing, respective pursuits of design as an innovation strategy.
From the first report on the project, by Bloomberg architecture critic James S. Russell, to the thorough analysis of Facebook’s possible marketing goals related to the Gehry announcement by The Atlantic’s Emily Chertoff, journalists are combing over the architect’s plans in great detail. It’s going to be one, gigantic room that will house 2,800 engineers. Conference rooms and other meeting areas, including “micro-kitchens,” will pepper the huge open space, which “somewhat resembles a warehouse,” as Facebook’s Everett Katigbak, the company’s Environmental Design Manager, described the design on a blog post.
The big room is meant to make it easy for staff to move around and work flexibly with teams as needed, rearranging their desks as need be. The epic workspace, which Bloomberg reports as 420,000 square feet, or 10 acres, in size, will be sandwiched in between a parking garage below and a garden up on the roof. A tunnel under a highway will connect Gehry’s structure with the current Facebook campus. The company plans to break ground on the Gehry building by early next year, with a fast construction period to follow.
The design is far more subdued than the sparkling, undulating buildings that Gehry has created for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain or the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. With its intentionally unfinished feel, and its planned quick building timeline, the new Gehry Facebook edifice seems to suggest a sense of nimble iteration. This concept reflects how Facebook designs its products and services: speedily, in a current state of “testing,” and always open to change (often after much, ahem, honest feedback from its users).
In the case of Gehry, in this situation, it’s to rethink how physical space can affect how a major, public company structures (or un-structures) its daily operations in an era of start-up worship. And as we’ve discussed here on SmartPlanet, Gehry has also been pushing in directions beyond building grand, showcase structures, having recently designed an eco-friendly duplex in New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina victims; he’s also expanded his business by creating software tools for designers, too. In the case of Facebook, more generally, the company is striving to establish how a clean-looking and yet ever-changing, often-debated social networking platform affects how we share and collect information about our lives in new ways. While some may say the pairing is a simply a meeting of big brands–which it is– it can also be seen as a meeting of ambitious and imaginative minds.
Image: Facebook. Photo by Everett Katigbak.