Today was a day of disappointment, after listening to people from various backgrounds and professions discuss the importance of protecting the environment we saw how the concept of sustainability can be viewed in a very different light with sustainability being an assurance that your children will have jobs in the future. The policies and procedures implemented by authorities such as the Blue Mountains City Council (BMCC) and the NPWS were seen as a hindrance rather than a benefit, as customers were there to utilise their facilities and not because of the environmental value. It was sad to hear that any sustainability initiatives were only adopted because they were supported by the younger staff members. This clearly highlighted some of the fundamental challenges that have been raised during our talks over the last two days and the importance of wearing the many different hats, as education is clearly needed in this case.
In direct contrast to this it was interesting to hear the perspectives of BMCC staff on waste management and the challenges that council have faced in minimising waste amongst the residential and commercial communities. An interesting example of council connecting a local mushroom grower with a wood working business that needed to dispose of their sawdust was discussed and how the two parties have come together to reduce waste by using the sawdust as a mushroom growing medium in former mine tunnels. This industrial symbiosis project was a clever way for the council to assist a business in reducing its waste and highlights the need for more forward thinking people to come up with clever solutions to our waste problem, particularly given the looming deadline for the closure of the landfill facility.
There is very little that council can do to change the behaviour of businesses that do not want to implement sustainable practices within their organisations as there is no leverage, in particular ‘absent landlords’ posed a problem for many organisations that wanted to implement sustainable practices but were unable to due to their landlords not being present or interested. Sustainability does not need to be a dirty word in business, as many sustainability practices can provide many savings for businesses in many areas, however it is clear that this work still needs to be done on educating people about this.
We had the opportunity to have a very enlightening talk with staff at the rural bush fire service and it was just brilliant to see that people had a very open view on the need to balance environmental conservation as well as protecting lives and assets. From the talk it was nice to see how even the groups that undertake controlled bushfire activities also have a keen interest in seeing the environmental assets preserved, with many of the staff themselves within the blue mountains. However it was hard to hear that despite the risk of fire, many people try and avoid implementing the necessary fire protection systems that would protect their homes in the event of a fire this again highlights the importance of education, particularly amongst people that are new to the area who have not lived in areas with this level of fire risk.
Following this talk, we went to see the sediment control measures that council have implemented to stop sediment washing into the streams further down the mountain and the success these measures have had in reducing sediment build up downstream. Again it was important to note that council is also under budget pressure and the large sediment traps which cost approximately $100,000 cannot be constructed on a whim. We then went to see the work undertaken by members of a bushcare group at the Pope’s Glen bushcare site. It was great to see that members of the local community have a keen interest in protecting the environment as evident from the 10 years of work that they have put into the site in transforming it back into its natural state. However, it brought up questions for me on how and who would be responsible for this restoration of larger areas when council are already struggling for finance.