Port Stephens councillors recently voted down a notice of motion from Labor councillor Giacomo Arnott to declare a "climate emergency" while reminding the electorate that council's action on climate change had been ongoing since 2015.
In an interview with the council's Environmental Management System (EMS) manager Kirily Sheridan and natural resources coordinator Kylie Kaye, it was revealed that council policy had resulted in an estimated half a million dollars in cost savings due to power factor correction, electricity tariff reviews and bill validation.
Ms Sheridan said that the council had acted back in 2015 on climate change by developing an EMS in accordance with the Australian and international standards.
"This implementation of the council's education and awareness program had brought cultural change across staffing levels," Ms Sheridan said.
"The focus of these projects has focused on areas such as: water use and pollution; waste service; road infrastructure; heritage and culture impact; flora and fauna; natural resources; natural hazards (bushfires and flooding); soil and hazardous material.
"We'd like to see ourselves as leaders in this field."
This has been reflected with two highly commended industry awards: the first in the Local Government NSW 2016/17 Excellence in the Environment Awards (category of Innovation in Planning, Policies and Decision-Making) and the second in the Statewide Mutual 2019 Risk Management Excellence Awards (category of Strategic/Enterprise Risk Initiative).
Ms Kaye said that the Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan adopted by the council was under review and that that the council had a proud record of sustainable action, saving the ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"Earlier this year the council installed a solar system on its administration building, contributing 20 per cent of the building's total electricity consumption, with an estimated cost saving of approximately $30,000 per year," she said.
"Similarly, the Tomaree Library solar upgrade has contributed to 30 per cent of the building's electricity consumption and solar PV systems have been installed at six community centres, six RFS buildings and the Salamander Waste Transfer Station.
"As for the future the council is looking at savings with renewables and has joined Ausgrid's LED street lighting upgrade program to replace approximately 2000 street lights on residential roads.
"We have also taken the proactive step of installing water data loggers to our main sites. This ensures that leaks are detected as soon as possible."