Annual Report 1998-99
Executive Officer's Report
by Jim Sloan
The Centre has developed an effective working relationship with Council and earned wide respect among Shire residents. It provides a support base for the community that helps empower individuals and groups in their increasing efforts to take action to protect the environment
For the past nine years Sutherland Shire and its bioregions have benefited from the politically independent environmental focus provided by the SSEC on a broad front of local, regional, state and national environmental issues.
In building community self-reliance and sustainability, the Centre is playing a leading role by nurturing a strong sense of community through education and through activism, which protects and improves the quality of the local and regional environments.
One of my roles when the management committee hired me was to facilitate the ongoing development of a community based strategic plan for SSEC. The intent is to display to the community both locally and regionally, how the SSEC, through pragmatism, good leadership, innovative ideas, and a vibrant community based action centre, will meet the environmental challenges of the twenty first century.
In 1998 Phil Smith wrote a Discussion Paper on an Environmental Centre for the new century. He proposed that a starting point for the SSEC’s vision be outlined as follows: to promote and defend a healthy local environment, keeping the three tiers of government aware of their responsibilities, and judging all issues by criteria of ecologically sustainable development.
With the support of the management committee, I have started the process of expanding on current and past strategic plans for the Centre. This has begun with my exploring on behalf of the society, new millennium options and strategies for:
- direction and vision
- community profile
- financial sustainability
- policies and procedures
- membership, volunteers and staffing
Direction and Vision
The SSEC has shown it has the ability to nurture a strong sense of community through education and activism, while helping to protect and improve the quality of the local and regional environments with the success of local environmental activism over the past 9 years.
It is the intent of the Management Committee to continue making the SSEC the focal point for local and regional environmental activism and actively seek community participation in decision-making at all levels of government.
One of the options currently before the Management Committee in its strategic planning process is beginning a campaign, which will focus on the issue of local environmental action across Australia. The objective being to use the Centre’s web site as an information-clearing house for local environmental action tips and tools, which can be used to empower the broader community.
The desired outcome would be to become the primary source of information on local environmental activism to groups and individuals from all around Australia.
The Centre with its broad base of expertises, could build a library of specialised and generic tools that could be used via the Internet by citizens anywhere in Australia to positively make a contribution in enhancing Australia’s environment. Tools such as mounting a campaign to clean up, preserve, conserve or rehabilitate the local environment. And tools on how to form a group legally, lobby local politicians, pursue local community outreach, raise funds, where to apply for grants etc., all with an empowerment focus on increasing the effectiveness of local citizens in improving the environment.
The Management Committee will be reviewing a wide range of strategic options in the upcoming year(s) that will help it meet the challenges for the next decade.
The Centre staff are currently planning and will soon prepare an attractive prospectus that will be designed to publicise the Centre’s achievements, explain its functions & goals and promote community participation.
As part of the Centre’s strategic planning process, I have been looking at a number of strategies that might help the SSEC achieve longterm financial sustainability.
The Centre currently has a wonderful opportunity to secure longterm financial sustainability because of the recent establishment of a trust fund. This fund plans on directing all of its dividends and interest to the SSEC provided the SSEC continues to meet the fund’s eligibility criteria.
The potential of this sub Trust Fund with Perpetual Trustees of Australia Ltd called Local Environments of Australia Fund (LEAF) can provide the Centre with a source of longterm financial sustainability. All funds donated to LEAF will:
This fund has already been started with an initial sum of $250,000. The Centre is putting into place a strategy that will mount a campaign to increase this amount substantially over the next ten years. It is my belief that we could build this trust to $10,000,000 in that period.
- keep the principle and equity in perpetuity, with only the interest & dividends dispersed and
- provide the donor with a tax credit
When the Centre’s Fundraising Committee met early this year to discuss options for fundraising, they deliberated on both current and future fundraising strategies.
- Street stalls – very successful and to continue
- Annual Dinner & Raffle
In late July a $65,000 grant application was submitted to the Commonwealth Department of Environment & Heritage on behalf of the SSEC. The Centre has applied in the past for “Grants to Voluntary Environment and Heritage Organisations (GVEHO)”, but except for last year, they have been disqualified because of the Centre’s interests being primarily focused on the Sutherland Shire. Last year, they accepted the Centre’s broader focus in EMRAA & Nuclear issues, but as they were not priority support areas they declined to support the Centre.
- Membership Drive – attempt to increase the Centre’s membership to 500+ financial members.
- Business Pack – prepare an information and service pack tailored towards small and medium commercial business that will generate income and donations.
- Guest Speaker Seminars – arrange for well know environmentalists and specialist guest speaker seminars that will attract a paying audience.
- Environmental Info Packs – prepare a variety of topical information packs with the intent of marketing them to the general public.
- Publish a book on global environment issues with a local Australian and perspective that will help raise community awareness.
- Corporate fundraising – prepare a fundraising strategy that approaches regional corporations for support on local environmental projects undertaken by SSEC and longterm funding directed to LEAF.
- Government Grants – prepare and keep up to-date, a list of government grant programs that give the Centre the opportunity to fund local environmental projects.
- Bequests - develop a program that will encourage regional residents to leave a bequest to LEAF on behalf of the SSEC.
I have tried to find ways to broaden our focus within the GVEHO guidelines in a way that will help us achieve their support. I have had a number of discussions with the chairman and staff looking for ways of broadening the Centre’s focus to a national scale while at the same time continuing a program of local environmental activities. One such outcome as mentioned already, is the potential utilisation of the Centre’s web site as an information-clearing house for local environmental activism that can be used to empower the broader community.
Policies and Procedures
The Centre is currently reviewing all existing policies and procedures and will be updating or establishing a range of them over the coming year. Examples of these are as follows:
- Aboriginal Interests
- Air Pollution
- Coastal Issues
- Community participation in decision making
- Electrical Magnetic Radiation
- Energy Conservation
- Genetic Engineering
- Greenhouse Issues
- Loss of Regional Biodiversity
- Marine Pollution Issues
- Mining and Use of Uranium
- Nuclear Issues
- Resource Use and Population
- River Issues
- Soils and their Conservation
- Threatened Species
- Tourism Issues
- Toxic and Hazardous Waste
- Transportation Issues
- Urban Bushland
- Urban Development
- Waste Minimisation
- Water, Sewage
- Wetland Conservation
This year I am proposing a change to SSEC’s constitution that broadens the Centre’s area of representation to its two bioregions. The first is the Georges (including the Woronora) river system and the second is the Hacking river system. (see AGM – Constitution below for more detail)
NPWS defines bioregion as a territory defined by a combination of biological, social and geographic criteria rather then by geopolitical considerations, generally, a system of related, interconnected ecosystems.
Membership, Volunteers and Staffing
Without the strong support the Centre has from its volunteers, it would not be able to achieve the success and recognition it has attained in the region.
As a measure of the Centre’s success with its regional outreach and it’s presence on the Internet, I would like the membership to note the fact that Centre currently is getting visits and requests for information from:
Therefore I would like to thank all of the volunteers who help keep the Centre open, especially Pat Elphinston, Joan Flowers, Shirley Renshall, Ruth Turner, Michael Priceman, Thai Loi, Terry Harlow, and Joanna Lamont for their reliability in coming in each week to staff the Centre. We couldn’t get by without you.
- 3-4 regional school students each week,
- 1-2 university students (from Wollongong, NSW, Sydney, Western Sydney, UTS, New England and Canberra universities) each week and
- Recently we had a visit by Portuguese journalist doing a story on wetlands.
I would like to thank all of the centres convenors for their tireless efforts and their dedication in promoting each of their issues in the region on behalf of the SSEC. Their efforts are the lifeblood of positive change and education on regional environmental issues.
Lastly I would like to thank I would also like to take this opportunity to thank a number of businesses and individuals for their recent support in the centre’s office renovations:
- Scott and Annette Hogan: for their installation of a sink and running water at the Centre.
- John Turner: for giving up his Saturdays and coming into the Centre to install the new shelving.
- Lance King: of Sutherland Shire Communications in Kirrawee, for repairing and installing the Commander phone system.
- Robert White: of Hudson Timber & Hardware in Kirrawee, for giving the Centre a 40% reduction in shelving materials.
- Steve Worboys: of Total Telecommunication Ltd in Abbotsford, for his kind donation of a Commander phone system.
- Warren Blackburn: of Sutherland Shire Electrical in Oyster Bay, for installing new phone cables and power outlets.
Without your support, we would be handicapped in our efforts to make a difference.
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During the last 12 months the Centre has reinforced its growing reputation as one of the most active environment centres in Australia.
The Centre’s resources have been spread across a range of issues and activity has been both campaign-based and project-based.
The nuclear issue has been top of the agenda under the leadership of Nuclear convenor, Michael Priceman will address these issues in his report later in tonight’s agenda.
The Kurnell Peninsula has continued to be a major focus of the Centre. In December 1998, the Centre played a part in the formation of the Kurnell Regional Environment Planning Council (KREPC) – a coalition of 9 community organisations with an interest in the rehabilitation of the Kurnell Peninsula. The Centre serves as the administrative base for KREPC and currently has 2 representatives on its Executive Committee.
In March, the Centre was invited to sit on a newly formed Environmental Reference Group established by the Caltex Oil Refinery. Meetings of this group are held at quarterly intervals and allow the Centre to raise issues about the operations of the refinery, and to contribute to the Refinery’s strategic planning. Simon Kimberley will address these issues in his report later in tonight’s agenda.
Concern at the rate of development in the Shire and the erosion of its quality of life compelled the Centre step up its overdevelopment campaign in 1999. Among many letters and correspondence on the issue, a list of survey questions was circulated to all councillors inviting them to provide anonymous opinions on various development and population issues in the Shire. Results were published in a special newsletter which focussed on the overdevelopment issue.
Submissions to a State Government discussion paper on Plan Making in NSW, as well as to the State Government Inquiry into Council’s Housing Strategy provided the Centre with additional opportunities to highlight its concerns.
The Centre was again able to assist a number of residents who approached the Centre with concerns about development proposals in their neighbourhood. The Centre is able to assist with technical advice through it staff an urban convenor Neil de Nett. Gordon Hocking will address these issues in his report later in tonight’s agenda.
The Centre’s involvement at Towra has been primarily project-based during 1999. Funding for the Centre’s rainforest restoration project at Weedy Pond was extended for 1999 and work was again undertaken to remove invasive weeds to allow native species to regenerate. With the assistance of community volunteers, international backpackers, young unemployed people and Lend Lease personnel, a corridor of rehabilitated bushland was created linking two shorelines of the Nature Reserve. The Centre has benefited from the services of Chris Brogan who has provided expert assistance.
The Centre’s TOWRA-Net website continues to be accessed by an increasing number of people from local students, to government departments and media (See “Events”). It is increasing the level of public awareness about Towra as well as informing and educating the community about the current conservation activities that are being undertaken by the Centre and National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Preservation of Urban Bushland - PUBS
In response to the threats to urban bushland in the Shire, a group of concerned residents have come together under the umbrella of the Centre to form PUBs – The Preservation of Urban Bushland Society. Throughout Sutherland Shire, urban bushland is under threat, and under the direction of Miriam Verbeek and Sue Matthews, PUBs will aim to:
Miriam Verbeek will expand these issues in her report later in tonight’s agenda.
- Campaign actively to preserve urban bushland in the Sutherland Shire.
- Increase public knowledge about the benefits of urban bushland to community welfare.
- Work together with Sutherland Shire Council’s Bushcare to advance their aims.
- One of the first actions of PUBs was to put its name to a petition against plans to construct an indoor sports centre on a site containing an endangered ecological plant community at Menai.
SSEC Airports Committee is keeping a watching brief over the airport issues as the Federal Government moves towards arrogantly placating all sides by suggesting a smaller version of the original Badgerys Creek proposal or planning to divert regional/commuter aircraft from Sydney to an expanded Bankstown airport.
We remain in contact with airport groups in western Sydney and Bankstown and strongly disagree with the last Sutherland Shire Mayors support for an airport at Badgerys Creek.
The Centre has stayed active in the NCC Waste Crisis Network, supporting community involvement in State Waste Minimisation activities. We put a submission into DUAP on the Lucas Heights EIS in March and have been actively supporting a campaign to bring Container Deposit Legislation back into NSW. Currently we are participating in the NSW Government “Alternative Waste Management Technology and Practices Inquiry” in an effort to find alternatives to megatips outside the Sydney Metropolitan Area.
In the last 12 months, the Centre has expanded its presence on the Internet. The Centre currently maintains 3 websites:
We are indebted to one of our volunteers Thai Loi, without whose assistance, these sites may not exist. In addition to pioneering the Centre’s Internet presence, he has also provided training to the Centre’s staff which has enabled them to maintain these websites.
There have been a number of significant events that have involved the Centre in 1999.
- International media visits the Centre
During July 1999, contact was made via the Internet with Ms Magarida Serra – a journalist from the Portuguese radio station TSF. The station was compiling a special series of reports on significant ecosystems in different parts of the world. After finding the Centre’s TOWRA-Net website, Ms Serra, who filed the report on our region, chose to visit and profile Towra Point and the activities of the Centre for the story.
- Public Events
To celebrate World Environment Day, the Centre set up an information stall in the Cronulla Plaza. The Centre was joined by Council’s Bushcare in what proved to be a very useful exercise in raising the profile of the Centre in the area. Elsewhere, the Centre set up a display promoting the benefits of Container Deposit legislation in Sutherland, and conducted its regular fundraising stall in Gymea.
In September 1999, the Centre was invited to set up a display for the Biodiversity Springfest at Heathcote. With over 700 people attending, it was a good opportunity to inform people about the Centre and answer their questions about various issues.
- Visit by Environment Australia Graduates
In September 1999, 25 first year employees from Environment Australia visiting from Canberra attended the Centre for their case study into the workings, concerns and the expectations of a community-based environment group. Interestingly, first contact with the Centre was again made via the Internet.
The Centre continues to produce articles on a range of environmentally-related topics for the local Shirelife Magazine.
- Department of Urban Affairs and Planning – Inquiry into the Implementation of Sutherland
- Shire Council’s Housing Strategy
- Sutherland Shire Council – Shape the Shire
- Sutherland Shire Council – Plan of Management
- Department of Urban Affairs and Planning – Plan Making in NSW
- Healthy Rivers Commission – Commission of Inquiry, Woronora River
- Dept Urban Affairs and Planning – Georges River Regional Environmental Plan
- Dept Urban Affairs and Planning – Lucas Heights EIS
- Roads and Traffic Authority – Menai/Engadine Traffic Study
- NSW Scientific Committee – Sutherland Shire Littoral Rainforest – listing as an Endangered Ecological Community
- NSW Scientific Committee - Kurnell Dune Forest - listing as an Endangered Ecological Community
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