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Welcome to Issue #18

We have very important Council elections coming up in October 2024. To ensure that voters make informed choices, this month we are are starting to report Councillor voting patterns on upcoming issues in our monthly Council Watch article.


For the coming Council election, PECAN will support and advocate for candidates pledging action for the environment, and we ask residents to vote for stronger climate action. In the coming months we’re ramping up our activities to inform our community of the environmental issues here in Port Phillip.  We’re looking for volunteers to help with these efforts, so contact us to get involved.


If you are looking for a different night out and like live theatre, KOAL, which runs 22 May – 1 June in St Kilda, could be a good choice. It is a 1-woman part climate catastrophe part clown show. Details here. Or for a totally different kind of different, you might like to visit the Young Ocean Innovators Showcase at Melbourne University on 14 May, 6:00-7:30pm.


Our friends at the AYCC (Australian Youth Climate Coalition) are holding a No More Coal and Gas rally in the Treasury Gardens, starting at noon on Thursday 9 May. If you have time, the more people that can join them the better. See here for details and to sign up. Also, the Australia Institute is very disappointed that the government raises more revenue from student HECS debt than the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax – you can sign their petition here.


The well respected European Environment Agency has recently published its first EU wide Climate Risk Assessment. It basically says that they are facing very big problems if they do not accelerate their climate adaption plans. Watch a good video about the report here.


In very concerning recent news, solar farm installation companies in Queensland seem to be taking many safety shortcuts when setting up these systems. We will not solve our climate problems by creating others!


Finally, on a brighter note, we are very pleased to see that community activism has saved the Toondah Harbour and the Walker Corporation has withdrawn its nature wrecking development proposal. You may like to join the Australian Conservation Foundation’s celebration about this significant win.

Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system.
Wangari Maathai

We are living and working on the unceded lands of the Yalukit Willam people. We pay our respects to the traditional owners of the land and their ongoing connection to land, waters, sky and culture.

image: City of Port Phillip

Council Watch

The voting history of our elected Councillors is crucial when considering who to vote for in the upcoming City of Port Phillip Council elections.


During this Council term, from February 2020 until April 2024, Crs Sirakoff, Clark, Bond and Pearl have voted consistently against the following key measures to promote sustainability and take action on the climate crisis. By contrast, Crs Crawford, Baxter, Copsey (to end 2022) Nyaguy (from March 2023) and Cunsolo (with the exception of the two items asterisked (*) in the table) supported these measures.


17 Feb 21

Include mention of addressing the Climate Emergency in the Council’s Strategic Directions

15 May 21

Endorsement to progress the Inkerman Safe Travel Corridor Project including developing concept design options for the corridor

23 June 21

$50,000 to give free access for Port Phillip Residents to Ripponlea Estate Gardens (access to open space for East St Kilda residents who have little )

23 June 21

Support for local bike programs to continue

23 June 21

$20,000 for Environmental Leaders Course and Sustainable Business Network

1 September 21

Endorsement to pursue funding & delivery of specific pop-up bike lanes proposals through the DoT’s $13M Pop-Up Bike Lane Program.

3 November 21

Motion for CEO to prepare a costed proposal on options to develop a five-year Climate Emergency Action Plan, for Council to effectively take action on the Climate Emergency.

16 March 22

Council contribution to Elsternwick Park Masterplan: 350k to Bayside CC & 600k in Reserve for flood mitigation & water quality in Elster Creek Catchment

15 June 22

Endorsement to participate in Stage 2 of the Elevating Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD) Targets Project, including progressing an amendment to the Port Phillip Planning Scheme.

17 August 22

Review the Act and Adapt Strategy and develop Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan

16 November 22

Explore the establishment of a South Eastern Councils Biodiversity Network (Hobson’s Bay, Melbourne, Port Phillip, Kingston, Frankston, Mornington Shire and Bayside).

20 June 23

Further consider request for longer than 10 year lease for EcoCentre as part of separate lease negotiations

16 August 23

Include advocacy to re-instate a protected bike lane in the State Government’s Shrine to Sea project as recommended by Council officers *

4 October 23

Increase the lease for the EcoCentre from the Officers’ recommendation of 15 years to 21 years. (Amendment moved Baxter and Crawford) *

1 November 23

Adoption of revised Act & Adapt Sustainability Policy and new Climate Emergency Action Plan with amendment to review in 12 months

21 February 24

Approve a lease of 15 years for the EcoCentre

17 April 24

Additional funding ($51,000) for the EcoCentre to cover CPI increases

17 April 24

Additional funding for the EcoCentre to enable opening on Saturdays and Sundays ($68,000)


As noted in this schedule, Councillors meet a few times each month to debate and vote on important issues. Residents can speak to their concerns at Council meetings. Council meetings are livestreamed and recorded if you cannot attend in person, and they are usually very interesting and informative.

image: City of Port Phillip

Have Your Say

As always we recommend that you Have Your Say.


Council has several Have Your Say initiatives in progress now. The most important is the Council Plan and Budget, which is open for comment until 13 May. There is also a consultation on footpath trading guidelines until 17 May.


There are also several “Pop-up Conversations” happening in May. Council staff are available to discuss issues with residents at these Pop-ups.


Additionally, the City of Port Phillip is hosting a Waste Management Information Session – Let’s talk rubbish! – Tuesday 21 May at 10 am to 11 am at the at the St Kilda Library Community Room. Learn all about what waste Port Phillip recycles, puts into landfill or composts. Bookings essential: Phone 03 9209 6260 or 0403 904 092.


Then on Tuesday 28 May, the City of Port Phillip is hosting a Winter Comfort for Renters Webinar starting at 7pm.  On a similar vein, 10am-4pm on Saturday 1 June there is a High Life Expo with workshops about how home owners, apartment livers and body corporate managers can electrify and improve the sustainability and efficiency of their buildings. It should be very good.


Nearby, the City of Yarra is hosting a Business Renewables Buying Group Webinar at 10-11am on Friday 3 May. Then businesses have until 30 June to express interest in joining the group to participate in their collective electricity purchasing agreement. Port Phillip Council is also involved in the Buying Group process, so our local businesses can also benefit from participating in the webinar.


Finally, the City of Port Phillip Urban Forest Strategy is scheduled for release at the May 15 Council Meeting. Hopefully, many of the issues raised at our recent Urban Forest Forum have been incorporated within it.

image: Earthcare St Kilda

The St Kilda Penguin Colony needs your help…

Earthcare St Kilda are running a very important community consultation on the future of the St Kilda Penguin Colony. We encourage all readers to complete the survey and promote it to friends and family.


Separately, in collaboration with the Port Phillip EcoCentre, Earthcare St Kilda is hosting a community planting event along the Canterbury Road Forest in West St Kilda on 5 May – you can sign up here.

image: The AustralianPipeliner

Gas is NOT a cleaner alternative

We do not like calling methane “natural gas” because this is just marketing spin thought up by the fossil fuels industry to hide the fact that methane is actually a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, albeit it is shorter lived in the atmosphere. Moreover, while it may produce less CO2 than oil or coal when it burns, methane can often end up being worse for the environment because of all the leaks in the supply chain between gas well and power station! Learn about it here.


In related good news, it was very pleasing to learn that one major global insurance company has decided to stop underwriting new fossil fuel projects – for details. Separately, a financial “think tank” has started advising major oil and gas companies to accept that they are in a sunset industry and they should stops wasting money investing in exploration and new projects and should instead treat their existing assets as “cash cows” and wind them down to maximize their returns before closing down their businesses – for details.


In even better news, we were very heartened to see that, in a globally unprecedented rebuke, 56% of shareholders at Woodside’s recent AGM voted against the company’s totally inadequate climate plans, and 16% voted against re-electing the Chairperson that oversaw their development. See here for details. The “6 months no rain, Woodside’s to blame” chant by protestors outside the AGM seems particularly appropriate.


Grey Nomads RVing with EVs?

Among several other demographics, “grey nomads” love their caravans, but only one EV now available in Australia (the BMW iX SUV) has a chassis and battery designed for reasonable towing (up to 2.5t). However, there are several more soon to be released globally, including the American work focused Chevrolet Silverado EV pickup truck, which is promised to be comfortable towing 9+ tonnes. See his article for details.


In a related issue, people living in outer suburbs are buying more electric vehicles than those in the inner suburbs. They seem to be realizing the cost and other benefits to be gained – they travel further distances and have more space at their homes for chargers and rooftop solar panels. Details here.  If only we could adopt vehicle to grid technologies more widely, we are sure that these trends towards electric vehicles would strongly accelerate – Australian governments need to pull their fingers out!


Finally, Bayside City Council is proposing to repurpose 9 on street parking spaces in highly visited shopping precincts to be used for daytime electric vehicle charging – a very good initiative, which we should be demanding in Port Phillip. As a side note, Shenzhen, a city of 8 million across the border from Hong Kong, has been doing this for years.

image: Asian Scientist Magazine

Waste to Heat – good or bad?

The short answer is: burning waste to generate electricity or heat is bad if the waste is plastic and so-so if it is biomass. By contrast, recovering the heat which is a waste byproduct from conventional coal/oil/nuclear power stations is mostly good. Watch this video for a fully nuanced answer.


We need even stronger vehicle efficiency standards

New analysis by the Climate Council shows that the fleets sold by big car companies in Australia – Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi and Mazda – actually cause more climate pollution than some of Australia’s biggest coal mines. The rules in place do far to little to disincentivize sales of big, gas guzzling SUVs and utes. Learn more here.


Interestingly, two electric car makers – Tesla and Polestar – have withdrawn from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries because of their campaign against the vehicle efficiency standards. See here for details.


In a related issue people are getting more and more concerned about these truckzillas (we just love this term!). Paris has started charging them more for public parking, and Yarra City Council is considering a similar measure. Perhaps they could pay higher registration fees. The most concerning issue is that these behemoths have large front and rear blindspots and keep on running over children that drivers cannot see – see here. There is a strong case for incorporating mandatory front and rear cameras and obstacle detection in them.


Wires ain’t wires

There has been considerable evolution of the design of electricity transmission and distribution grid cables. Where reasonable, “reconductoring” existing power lines can significantly increase capacity quickly and inexpensively – it reuses the existing towers and is just “maintenance” so there is no long approval process. It will not solve many of our electricity distribution problems but it can sometimes give us some “breathing room”. Watch here for details.


As well as reconductoring, there are several other “grid enhancing technologies” that can help transform our electricity grids to meet the challenges ahead, Read about some here.


Zero emissions mining: myth or reality?

Technically, mining is not sustainable in the long term (we will eventually run out of minerals to dig out of the ground). However, we cannot transition our world to zero-emissions without mining, eg we need more copper to make more electric motors. But by eliminating mining for fossil fuels and focusing on end of life recycling for existing materials we can greatly reduce the amount of stuff we will need to dig up in the future. Watch Engineering with Rosie for the technical details – she does an excellent job of explaining environmental issues.


A bit of fun…

Who knew the iconic Hills Hoist could be considered solarpunk? The name spells it out. “Solar” signals optimism and a strong association with renewable energy, while “punk” reflects a DIY ethos and an anti-capitalist philosophy. A nice riff on Steam Punk!

Learn more here.