Port Stephens Council to go carbon neutral by 2025, welcomed by Greens and Labor election candidates

CARBON GOAL: An overhead view of Port Stephens Council's administration building in Raymond Terrace where 357 solar panels were installed in 2019.
CARBON GOAL: An overhead view of Port Stephens Council's administration building in Raymond Terrace where 357 solar panels were installed in 2019.

Port Stephens Council has committed to becoming a carbon neutral organisation by 2025, a move that has been mostly welcomed by the Greens and Labor candidates in the upcoming local government election.

In recognition of the impact climate change has on the Port Stephens community and in support of the NSW Government's aim to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050, councillors endorsed mayor Ryan Palmer's carbon neutrality notice of motion at the October 12 ordinary meeting.

To achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 the council will ensure any emissions released into the atmosphere from its activities will be balanced by the equivalent amount of emissions being removed.

"We aren't immune to the impacts of climate change including increased sea level rise, intensity and frequency of storms, plus bushfire and rainfall patterns that are challenging the way we manage our environment," Cr Palmer said.

"We'll work closely with the community, business and all levels of government to influence behaviour change and reduce energy demand to protect and enhance our natural environment."

The council will now undertake a review of its current emissions to determine the baseline for its targets, find a suitable funding source and prepare a roadmap to achieving carbon neutrality.

Greens west ward candidate Caitlin Spiller welcomed the council's move to "take local action on climate change".

"It's wonderful to see conservative parties and individuals across the country finally accepting that the risk of doing nothing is higher than the cost of taking action," Ms Spiller said.

"While I understand the specific strategies to be implemented are being investigated, I'd encourage the inclusion of the carbon cost of tree and bushland clearing in future planning and development assessments.

"It's a crucial time for Port Stephens in building this and other important climate mitigation strategies, and I'd love to be a part of it. Greens on councils all over the state have been driving climate change strategies that benefit communities and the environment for many years now and I'd draw on that tried and tested experience."

From left: Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer, Greens west ward candidate Caitlin Spiller, Labor west ward councillor Giacomo Arnott and Laboral mayoral candidate Leah Anderson.

From left: Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer, Greens west ward candidate Caitlin Spiller, Labor west ward councillor Giacomo Arnott and Laboral mayoral candidate Leah Anderson.

While supportive of the council moving towards becoming carbon neutral, Labor west ward councillor Giacomo Arnott, who is seeking re-election at the December 4 local government election, questioned the motion's timing.

"It is almost laughable that mayor Ryan Palmer is proposing this motion just before a council election," Cr Arnott said. "He has had four years to make a commitment like this, and has failed to bring this council behind many climate initiatives that I have proposed over the years."

Labor mayoral candidate Leah Anderson said if elected in December she would review the 2025 target to see if it can be achieved sooner.

"This motion is an important first step towards Port Stephens Council playing its part in addressing the emissions it produces and working to reduce the carbon it outputs," she said.

  • Installation of solar photovoltaic systems (generate electricity from sunlight) at the council's Raymond Terrace administration building, Salamander Waste Transfer Station, libraries, community centres and Rural Fire Service buildings
  • Installation of solar pre-heating at Lakeside Leisure Centre, Tomaree Aquatic Centre and Tilligerry Aquatic Centre
  • Use of recycled glass 'greencrete' in the upgrade of Tanilba Bay roundabout.
  • Installation of water-saving irrigation and stormwater harvesting at Medowie Park and Kindlebark Oval
  • Installation of variable-speed drives at Lakeside Leisure Centre, plus Kangaroo Street and Stockton Street flood pumps to save energy consumption
  • Installation of energy-saving LED field lighting at Ferodale netball courts, Tomaree netball courts and Tomaree Sports Complex, the Raymond Terrace administration building, Tomaree Library and Community Centre, council works depots, Birubi Surf Club and a number of community centres and halls

Port Stephens Council's natural systems coordinator Rean Lourens said staff will now develop a roadmap to achieving carbon neutrally.

"By committing to monitor our emissions on a regular basis and working with our community to develop a plan for the future, we will be tracking our success and developing the best outcome for our region," he said.

"We will implement actions via the Integrated Planning and Reporting framework that deliver carbon neutrality and work with the NSW Government to ask for assistance to achieve this."

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