Walking the talk, environmentally

Lismore City Council Environment Team has been working away quietly and, in the process, they have changed the very nature of the City with cutting edge developments in sustainability.

Council’s Environmental Strategies Coordinator Nick Stephens can rattle off a dozen projects that the Team has been involved in, such as the use of wetlands to treat stormwater pollution instead of the grossly expensive pollutant traps; installation of solar panels and retrofits on council-owned buildings in the CBD to save dollars and emissions; a Sustainable Innovations Group, which includes Council staff, to minimise waste and save money within Council offices.

 “Lismore City Council is continually building ecological capital,“ said Nick. “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.”

Catchment Education Officer Vanessa Tallon said one of Council’s biggest responsibilities is to educate, especially the youngest in our community.
“We want kids to grow up being environmentally conscious. It should just be second nature. The Students Using Sustainable Strategies (SUSS) Forum is a big part of that, and every school in the region is involved. It’s a partnership between Rous Water and its member councils, the National Parks & Wildlife Service and Dorroughby Environmental Education Centre.

“Young people learn about how to live with a small footprint in their own homes, and they take that home and teach their families. It’s a great facilitator for community change at a grassroots level,” said Vanessa.

Ecologist Damian Licari has begun work on Council’s Biodiversity Strategy – a framework for protection of the many intact but fragmented ecosystems in the Northern Rivers.

“The Biodiversity Strategy will help us manage ecological assets,” Damian explained. “By undertaking vegetation mapping and looking at key habitats, we can find better ways to preserve biodiversity in a working agricultural landscape. It’s about how to work with landholders and ensure farmers can make a living from their land while preserving the biodiversity that’s there.”

The Environment Team recently secured $150,000 in grant money to work with landowners in south-east Lismore to improve koala habitat and transform the coral tree infested Slaters Creek in North Lismore into a thriving inner city habitat. The team is also using stormwater funds to build an artificial wetland on Slaters Creek as part of a long-term effort to improve water quality coming from the catchment, and there are major plans in place for improving Browns Creek in Lismore Park.

Nick Stephens thinks that Lismore City Council has always taken a progressive approach to sustainability, in response to a constituency that’s no longer happy with the traditional models of municipal governance.

“People expect far more than just roads from our Council nowadays. You 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. There’s a high level of awareness in the community and that leads to a certain level of expectation.”