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Creating a Sustainable Shire

Uralla Shire Council is located at the headwaters of the Gwydir River catchment on the New England Tablelands. This geographic location presents Council and its community with a unique opportunity and responsibility to initiate environmental remediation projects with consequences for the environment and communities beyond the Shire’s borders.

Uralla Shire Council is privileged to enjoy the support of an articulate and knowledgeable community passionate about environmental and climate issues. Their aspirations strongly influence and guide Council’s environmental programmes and are, uniquely, directly reflected in the Community Strategic Plan.

In 2008 Uralla Shire Council partnered with the Conservation Council in the Climate Consensus Project; from this process Council’s peak environmental advisory forum, Uralla Climate Change Consensus Forum (U3CF) was created.

Uralla Shire Council demonstrated unique leadership by adopting all 40 recommendations from the Forum into the then Management Plan for the Shire. These recommendations cover a wide range of environmental issues for the State and Shire. The recommendations are entrenched within Council’s framework; through its strategic objectives, goals and strategies; where they influence the shape and direction of not only the Council’s environmental programs but the core business.

The outcome has been the creation of a community consultative forum to discuss environmental issues; improved biodiversity values, weed control and better management of water quality issues in urban environments; control of exotic pest bird species; better outcomes for our Aboriginal community; CO2 savings in energy generation from public buildings and a significant improvement in recycling (or as we call it resource recovery).

These strategies are the first steps in a coherent and cohesive environmental strategy; developing community supported environmental programs and improving Council operational standards and practice. Actions which bring Uralla Shire Council to the forefront as a regional leader in sustainable practices.

Bruce McMullen, a member of U3CF, provided the following statement which sums it all up:

A symbiosis, the U3CF and USC initially came together to discuss how our community was prepared/preparing for the possible consequences of climate change. Since its inception, over 40 recommendations were incorporated in the USC strategic management plan. All of the ‘standard’ issues were addressed including waste management and recycling, vehicular energy efficiency, solar power and hot water generation, alternate energy, school and community education and gardens, walking and cycling tracks, bush recovery, waterway regeneration projects and so on.

We still meet regularly and still hail from a range of interests, vocations and beliefs. But, we still make recommendations, and the Council still consider them, and where able, they act.

There are things the community itself can do to enhance sustainable approaches to life across all ages. Initiatives have been put in place – all at the request of the public, discussed and thought through by the U3CF, and ultimately relayed to council as a recommendation, accepted and acted upon (usually) with general satisfaction and pride in achievement all round.

We work as a collaborative team to enhance the relationship between our local council and the communities it serves. Certainly, there are healthy discussions, but each recommendation to or liaison with the Council through Councillors or employees, exemplifies the cooperative nature of the business. When the constituents and their elected representatives share a vision, then true democracy flourishes.

Success would not be possible without support from residents, schools, voluntary groups, businesses and other Councils, Border River Gwydir CMA and Southern New England Landcare as major partners in a wide variety of biodiversity and landscape management projects.