Speak up for better planning!


Since moving back to Sydney, I have been taking my children to ‘Bush Kids’ events. As well as introducing my children to the wonderful nature of Australia, these events give me the opportunity to meet other like minded parents and carers.
One of the people that I’ve met has been Corrine Fisher a passionate environmental advocate and mother of two. Because of this personal connection, I’ve come to know about the Bette Planning Network and their important work in light of changes to legislation being introduced in NSW. These legislative changes may have gone unnoticed if it wasn’t for people like Corrine and her colleagues at the Better Planning Network who have been working to highlight what these changes will mean.
In essence, the change being introduced in two bills is to remove your right as a citizen to comment on developments in your local area. Currently all developments must undergo a ‘neighbourhood notification’ period, whereby all affected residents have an opportunity to view plans and put forward comments or objections.
In some instances this notification is given to neighbours for purely process reasons (as I recently found out when I put in a fence application) and it has been attributed to the ‘NIMBY (not in my backyard) syndrome where people feel the need to object to everything, and therefore any development is likely to get tangled in ongoing consultation and ultimately never go ahead.
Despite this however, providing the people of a community the opportunity to have a say in developments that have a direct impact on them is a very important way of creating a sense of cohesion within a community. Who better to provide developers and local government with knowledge than the locals?
When I lived in the UAE, there was pretty much no community consultation on developments. Some strategic plans would have very high level and minimal consultation, but on the whole it was certainly my observation that developments were government sanctioned and as a result the UAE has grown considerably in the last 30 years. When I moved back to Sydney, I recalled how things seem to take so long to get off the ground and this is largely due to the political processes that are in place and well…democracy.


While the model of the UAE may work for it as a country, I am concerned with removing the right to comment on developments altogether. My local area for example is going through considerable change at the moment. There are apartment buildings being developed left right and centre. While as a concept I believe in urban renewal and building in already developed areas, I am concerned about a few things like traffic and services. In none of these plans were there any commercial shops – not even a corner store, so everyone will be forced to drive to Lane Cove.
The beauty of Lane Cove and one of the big reasons that I bough here is the community village feel. It is on most days already at full capacity and I cannot imagine how horrible the trip to the local shops will be once all of these apartments come on line. I’m certainly hoping by that stage to be less car dependent and cycle and walk more with the kids when needing to do some shopping. But in the context of these bills, at least with these apartment developments, the local community action group was able to comment on the scale of the apartments and to negotiate a design that is more in keeping with the surrounding environment and bush setting.
The removal of this local voice altogether will give a green light to developments to be fast tracked with reduced consideration to the environment and the heritage and character of an area.
Since the campaign by the Better Planning Network the government has highlighted that residents will be given an opportunity to comment at the strategic planning level. However I wonder how informed people will be when they are commenting in a 10 year strategic plan and to what level these consideration will inform that strategic document. Additionally, the government has said that even if these strategic plans include resident concerns, they have the right to amend them without any further consultation. Now I may not be an expert, but that doesn’t sound particularly democratic to me and I believe more and more that local action is a very important form of democracy.
What can you do?
So if you a NSW resident and concerned about these changes, there are a few things that you can do to have your voice heard before the bills are put to parliament:
• Tell your friends and colleagues about it;
• Go to the Better Planning Network site and send an email to your local member (it’s easy, it takes like 10 seconds as they give you a template to follow!). The site also gives you other tips on how to get your message to the politicians in power http://betterplanningnetwork.good.do/nsw/email-your-state-mp-3/;
• Sign the petition for exhibiting the Draft Metro Plan for Sydney which calls for great community participation http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/please-exhibit-metro-strategy-for-sydney-under-the-new-planning-system;
• Like the Better Planning Network’s facebook page; and
• Attend the rally on Wednesday 26 June 12:15 – 1:30 pm at 1 Farrer Place, Sydney- next to Governor Macquarie and Governor Phillip Towers and not far from the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure.

Addressing Energy Poverty in India, one Solar light at a time

Addressing poverty is a daunting task. Firstly there are a number of reasons why poverty exists. These include environmental factors, lack of access to natural resources like fresh water, hunger, social inequality, lack of education, lack of access to healthcare and lack of employment opportunities.
I believe that there are a few fundamental things that, if addressed, will improve the lives of many of those living in poverty. These key factors include education, healthcare, food and shelter.
One of the other forms of poverty is energy poverty. What this term refers to is the lack of access to energy which results in the use of kerosene and other forms of fuel which have health impacts on those that use it.
The World Economic Forum states that “Access to energy is fundamental to improving quality of life and is a key imperative for economic development. In the developing world, energy poverty is still rife. Nearly 1.6 billion people still have no access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).”
This is something that I experienced first-hand when I visited India in 2004. So many hours of the day were spent without electricity. Many businesses would have to operate their own diesel generators which have their own environmental problems, such as air pollution.
There is one organisation though that is aiming to change that: Pollinate Energy (http://pollinateenergy.org/about/). I first heard of Pollinate Energy through one of its founders who is a friend of a friend! She is one of the founders of this organisation which is aiming to end energy poverty in India through locally manufactured and affordable clean energy solutions. Their current program is to provide solar lights in homes thereby eliminating the use of Kerosene. We all take for granted that we can switch on a light and are able to see and work and operate. Many people do not have this luxury and these are the people that Pollinate Energy want to help.
Pillinate Energy

What I love about this initiative is that they are working with employing people from the local community and providing them a business opportunity to sell these solar lights to households in their community. They are therefore addressing a number of things that lead to poverty: employment, energy and health.
I also love that they want to share their passion and knowledge with other like-minded people through their Young Professionals Program. The Young Professional Program is aiming to foster future leaders through a two week program based in Bangalore, India.
If you would like to know more and to participate in the Young Professional Program, please go to: http://pollinateenergy.org/our-programs/ypp/ and sign up! Entries close 25 June.