Sunday, March 28, 2010

Roads, water, smart meters and the 2010 Victorian state election

The phoney campaign for the 2010 Victorian state election is well and truly underway.  Unfortunately, this highlights the failings of politics and government to follow due process, public consultation and make appropriate decisions.  Some examples follow.

Smart meters
The business case for smart meters has not been proven, yet residents are being forced to pay for them whether they want them or not.  Greater benefits at much lower cost could have been obtained by installing simple in house energy meter displays to allow consumers to see real time how much power they are are using and therefore set about reducing it.  Unfortunately, these "in home displays" have been dropped from the mandatory section of the Victorian Government's smart meter specification.

The Brumby government has embarked on a carbon intensive and environmentally damaging water strategy that also has no solid business case.  The north south pipeline steals water from the chronically deprived Murray Darling basin and sends it over the divide to Melbourne.  The desalination plant will consume large amounts of energy, pollute the Bass Coast, and result in high net carbon emissions.  Meanwhile, water tanks, recycling and stopping logging in water catchments are all ignored, despite being more effective, cheaper and better for the environment.

The relaxing of stage 3A water restrictions is a political stunt for the election.  Melbourne's water storages are still too low for this.

The economics of the desalination plan just don't stack up, and due diligence has not been a feature of the business case or the planning/approval process for it.

The internal workings of Government - including sham public consultations - is revealed in the media strategy written by Planning Minister Justin Madden's media advisor and accidentally sent to the media.  Madden and Brumby have claimed repeatedly that the document is "unusual" and "irregular: and even that they have "seen nothing like it".  What a load of nonsense.  This sort of spin and manipulation is clearly common.

What has Victorian Attorney General Rob Hulls and the Brumby Government go to hide? Given a Ministerial advisor wrote at document that indicates planning processes would be subverted (for the Windsor), why should they be "excluded" from giving evidence to a Parliamentary Committee? This has a whiff of corruption about it.

Public transport
Decades of neglect and inadequate funding for Victoria's public transport by both Labor and Liberal governments have taken their toll.  Trains don't run on time, or at all, and are packed when they do.  Trams in the city are infrequent and now crowded to capacity.  Privatisation is a failure. The new Metro operator is as bad or worse than the previous one.

The majority of funding in the 40b dollar transport plan is still going to roads and freeways.

Logging old growth forests
The 2010 Timber Release Plan (TRP) for East Gippland published by the Victorian Government will dramatically increase old growth forest logging in 2010. It deliberately targets old growth forest areas from maps used during negotiations with environment groups about the government's 2006 election commitment to "protect that last significant old growth forest in East Gippsland" Download the letter to get the full story.

VicForests, under the control of the Victorian Government, has been taken to court by Environment East Gippsland to protect Brown Mountain.  The government refused to take appropriate action to protect endangered species such as the Potoroo from logging.   It is to be hoped the judge finds the government should do what the law says and survey for threatened species in forests before logging them.  Currently they don't - because they don't want to find them - which would mean they can't log the forests.

This track record is not good.  I think it may even cost them the next election.  Unfortunately, a Liberal/National government would most likely continue with all these flawed policies and practices.

So think about voting Green or independent and choose carefully where YOUR preference goes.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Smart roads or dumb politicians?

After decades of far too little in investment in public transport, pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, our roads are now grindng to a halt.  Gridlock, or near gridlock, is choking Melbourne.  Short journeys that take 20 minutes in no traffic can now take over an hour.

VicRoads is part of the problem.  When you have a government department with a brief to build and manage roads that consume most of the transport budget, all you get is roads and freeways.

No one in transport or government seems to understand basic maths about how may cars it takes to move too few people - and when the system grinds to a halt.

So now "Smartroads" is announced.  While this seems to be step in the right direction - trying to optimise road use between multiple types of transport - in reality this is what VicRoads has been attempting to do unsuccessfully for the last decade and prior.

The basic assumption that roads - and shared usage - will solve transport needs in a big city is incorrect.

Trying to juggle usage patterns according to the time of day is futile too.  Peak hour used to be when everybody wants to travel, but now we have constant "peak hour" in many places over much of the day - including on weekends.  Cars and trucks get in the way of cyclists, trams and buses at all times.

The solutions we need are:
  • Convert Melbourne's tram network into a dedicated light rail metro, free from interference by cars and trucks
  • Provide safe dedicated cycling routes that allow commuters to travel up to 50km into and across Melbourne from all directions.  Bike lanes painted on lines  that cars drive across, or bike routes based on the "time of day" won't work
  • Build more heavy rail - Melbourne's population has increased by over 3 million people with no more rail infrastructure added to service new suburbs.
  • Introduce a congestion tax on cars travelling with less than two people in central Melbourne.
  • Genuine public consultation on transport options rather than government departments and politicians dressing up "business as usual" as something new.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Submission on National Heritage Listing of the Tarkine

Peter Campbell
Address supplied

Australian Heritage Council
GPO Box 787

Via email:

5th March 2010

Public comment submission on: National Heritage Listing of the Tarkine, north west Tasmania.

I am writing to support the recent Emergency National Heritage Listing of the Tarkine.  I have visited the area and was greatly impressed by its cultural and natural values.  I firmly believe these values justify a National Heritage listing.

The natural and cultural values of the Tarkine I think are particularly important and well recognised include;

  • One of the richest archaeological sites in Tasmania with the diversity and density of Aboriginal sites ranking it among "the world's greatest archaeological sites''.  There are hut site remains, pebble causeways, numerous extensive middens and petroglyphs
  • The largest single tract of rainforest in Australia, and the largest Wilderness dominated by rainforest in Australia with over 190,000 ha of rainforest in total
  • The northern limit of Huon Pine
  • A high diversity of wet tall eucalypt forests including large, contiguous areas of Eucalyptus obliqua
  • A great diversity of other vegetation communities, such as dry sclerophyll forest and woodland, buttongrass moorland, sandy littoral communities, wetlands, grassland, dry coastal vegetation and sphagnum communities
  • A high diversity of non-vascular plants (mosses, liverworts and lichens) including at least 151 species of liverworts and 92 species of mosses
  • A diverse vertebrate fauna including 28 terrestrial mammals, 111 land and freshwater birds, 11 reptiles, 8 frogs and 13 freshwater fish
  • Over 50 rare, threatened and endangered species of flora and fauna, including the Tasmanian Wedge Tailed Eagle and Giant Freshwater Crayfish
  • A complex and diverse invertebrate fauna, including; at least 16 species found nowhere else, the largest freshwater invertebrate on earth (Astacopsis gouldi) and one of the richest amphipod (a type of small crustacean) fauna diversities in the world
  • Globally unique magnesite karst systems in the Lyons/Keith/Arthur River areas and at Main Rivulet/ Bowry Creek area
  • Excellent examples of joint controlled drainage features (e.g. Huskisson syncline, Meredith Range, Rapid River)
  • Significant coastal features such as the Sandy Cape dune field, which are among the largest in Australia, and the Arthur River estuary (probably the best example of a large river estuary in good condition in Tasmania)
  • Dolomite karst systems in the Trowutta/Sumac/Black River region and Karst landforms in the 'Ahrberg' group (Donaldson and Upper Rapid rivers)
  • The largest basalt plateau in Tasmania retaining its original vegetation
  • Other geomorphic features such as the Bulgobac glacial end moraine and fossil sites at Marionoak and Hatfield River
  • Large areas of high quality wilderness centred on the Meredith Range and the Sumac region and three separate areas (Norfolk Range, Mt Bertha/Donaldson River and Savage/Keith River) which abut each other, creating a continuous stretch of wilderness covering much of the proposed National Heritage Area;
  • Areas of high quality scenic value such as; Australia's largest tract of rainforest, the Meredith Range, the Norfolk Range and the coastline
The Tarkine contains a wide diversity of values.  It is a significant area that contains a large proportion of true wilderness.

I commend it’s listing to the members of the Australian Heritage Council, and encourage you to recommend it’s permanent inclusion on the National Heritage List.

I believe World Heritage listing should also be considered for this unique and precious region.

Peter Campbell