Late last year the City of Newcastle released a community strategic plan as part of its Newcastle 2030 planning process. Although there aren’t many specific strategies I am hopeful that it will set lead to some positive action over the next few years. IF (and I think it is a fairly big IF), Council really uses it to determine its priorities for the next decade, it could make a big difference. I think it establishes some important priorities and, from a sustainability point of view, it recognises the importance of making changes.
In particular, I hope that the three guiding principles play a big role in future decisions by Council. The principles are:
- Ecologically sustainable design principles
- Social justice
- Local democracy.
If taken seriously, they have huge implications for Council. In terms of ecologically sustainable design principles, here is how they describe them:
“The precautionary principle. Action to prevent environmental damage should not be postponed through lack of scientific certainty.
Intergenerational equity. We need to consider both present and future generations in decisions we make about resource use, the environment and our management of other crucial sustainability values.
Conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity. We need to respect and co-exist with the biodiversity of our local area and use natural resources carefully. The conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration.
Improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms. When we assess the costs and benefits of our actions, we need to include costs to the environment. ”
The challenge for Council will be to put these principles into practice in a meaningful way. At the moment Lake Macquarie certainly appears to do be doing more in terms of sustainability. I hope that one of the things Council will do is to continue the discussions started through the 2030 process but with a specific focus on sustainability. It is important that we engage the broad community in addressing the many changes we need to make.
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