Plans for a 20-year vision for Bendigo’s environmental policy paint a picture of a clean and green city.
The City of Greater Bendigo’s draft environmental policy aims for zero carbon emissions and zero waste going to landfill.
It would embark on a large scale restoration of Bendigo Creek and the creation of an “urban forest” of new trees throughout the CBD.
At the same time it portrays a city having to adapt to a changing climate, both hotter and drier with less but more intense rainfall and a greater threat of fires and droughts.
Within council, its critics predict the plan would create its own catastrophe – councillor Helen Leach recently said residents would be “huddled around fires” to keep warm because of skyrocketing energy prices if the plan was adopted.
Now, the time has come for those with most at stake to have the chance their say on what the city will look like in 20 years, those who will inherit that city – Bendigo’s youth.
Councillors voted to release the draft environmental plan for public comment at their last meeting and several called on the city’s youth to seize the opportunity to shape their own future.
The draft came on the back of 12-months of community consultation and argues the health and prosperity of the city is “deeply interconnected to the health of our natural environment” – meaning the document also talks about equity, the local economy, health and community.
Among other initiatives the plan aims to incorporate traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung, Taungurung and Gurai-illam Wurrung, in land management. A quarter of land in the municipality is public, much of it forest.
Artist, La Trobe student and Yorta Yorta man Troy Firebrace – originally from Shepparton – said both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people would benefit from learning from traditional knowledge of country.
“Those scar trees are kind of like our heritage-listed houses,” Mr Firebrace said.
“The red gums leaves are used in smoke ceremonies and are also a major source of hardwood, used to create spears, shields and canoes, they’re a vital source of firewood and were used to make our huts and shelter from the elements.
“I’d love to see more people taught about the sacred sites around here, the scar trees and the medicine plants.
“[But] some of the stuff we know, the way we feel about country can’t be studied, it can’t be learnt in a course.
“That’s why having Indigenous communities involved in land management is so important.”
Submissions to council regarding the plan are due July 29 and can be emailed to:firstname.lastname@example.org or lodged at council offices.