GREEN TEAM: Council’s Environmental Strategies coordinator Nick Stephens (front) with team members (l-r) Damian Licari, Sharyn Hunnisett, Anton Nguyen and Vanessa Tallon.
GREEN TEAM: Council’s Environmental Strategies coordinator Nick Stephens (front) with team members (l-r) Damian Licari, Sharyn Hunnisett, Anton Nguyen and Vanessa Tallon.

A sustainable council is the goal

A STREETLIGHT that runs off solar and wind - now that's a good idea. And it's one that Lismore City Council is trialling near Lismore City Hall in a couple of months.

The renewable-energy streetlight comes from Taiwan and will be a national first in helping the council reduce lighting costs and its carbon footprint. The council's Environmental Strategies coordinator, Nick Stephens, reckons this environmental project is one of many that Council's environmental team is currently working on - like the use of wetlands to treat stormwater pollution instead of expensive pollutant traps, installation of solar panels and retrofits on council-owned buildings in the CBD to save dollars and emissions, and a Sustainable Innovations Group that includes council staff to minimise waste and save money within the council's own four walls.

Nick said Lismore was a constituency that was no longer happy with the old-fashioned model of municipal governance. Ratepayers these days demanded much more than roads, rates and rubbish, he said.

"We have a large community of alternative thinkers combined with tree changers coming from cities who are switched on, who talk about recycling and climate change," Nick said.

"It's something that takes time, but council is continually building ecological capital.

"The Tucki Tucki Creek Recreation Reserve, for example, is a showcase for riparian creek restoration. It's pretty rare to have a healthy platypus population living in an urban area. It's something unique. It's a real jewel in the middle of Goonellabah."

Nick's environmental team includes the sustainability talents of Sharyn Hunnisett (who finds ways to make the council operate leaner and cleaner), catchment education officer Vanessa Tallon (who believes one of the council's biggest responsibilities is to educate, especially the youngest in our community), environmental strategies assistant Anton Nguyen (whose own alternative lifestyle with solar power and a composting toilet embodies what he believes is the lifestyle of the future), ecologist Damian Licari (who is finding better ways to preserve biodiversity in a working agricultural landscape), and planning officer Fiona Sinclair.

"Fiona is involved with new land releases and developments," Nick explained.

"We want to see all new homes built with the environment in mind, utilising things like solar passive design."

Nick said his team handled a diverse range of roles, from on-ground works such as removing barriers in streams to promote fish migration, to broader issues such as developing a coastal management plan with neighbouring councils to improve the health of the Richmond River estuary.

The real test for Lismore City Council comes this month when there's a review of its 10-year target to reduce CO2 emissions by 20%.

Planet Footprint will monitor everything from fuel consumption to street lighting, buildings and all other assets to provide the environmental team with all the statistics on energy use in the last decade.

The team will report these figures to council soon.


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