THE CITY of Greater Bendigo has told a parliamentary inquiry into climate change that the state government needs to help local governments better plan for the future.
The City was one of five groups who shared their submissions to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Tackling Climate Change in Victorian Communities in Bendigo on Thursday.
The inquiry already held a public hearing in Ballarat earlier this week.
City of Greater Bendigo director Bernie O'Sullivan told the inquiry, the council was addressing the risks posed by climate change through a range of initiatives, including an environment strategy which aims to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy by 2036.
But Mr O'Sullivan stressed there needed to be more accurate, up-to-date climate data to help local governments manage dramatic weather events like fire or drought, as well as plan for the region.
"As a local government, we've done a fair bit of heavy lifting," he said. "We need federal and state governments to support local governments.
"We're seeing some great initiatives but we need consistent policy at a state and federal level.
"We need to think about game-changing investments across all levels of government. It's harder to refit buildings and infrastructure to be more environmentally friendly."
State government projections show the Loddon Mallee region will experience increasing temperatures, less rainfall in autumn, winter and spring, and longer fire seasons.
The Loddon-Mallee's average temperatures could increase by up to 1.3 degrees by 2030.
By 2070 mean temperatures could be 1.2-3.3 degrees warmer than those between 1986 and 2005, depending on future emissions.
City of Greater Bendigo Councillor Jennifer Alden told the inquiry "higher resolution climate projections" were the key to building better cities.
Councillor Alden said there was already research underway at La Trobe University Bendigo to track weather patterns in the region.
The internet of things infrastructure, which was launched in August 2018, is connecting home weather stations to a central online map, which allows the public to track weather events in real time.
"We already have good work underway but we need to continue the process of more local data collection," she said. "We need to be able to identify areas of vulnerability."
Mr O'Sullivan said state and federal governments also needed to be "bolder" with their support for initiatives and projects which could address climate change.
"We have looked at a project to have a pumped hydro scheme with water from the mine shafts," he told the inquiry. "But it's hard to get traction off big projects.
"We had some initial investment from the state government and it was indicated there was potential there. It's a great opportunity. We would love to have the conversation going forward with the state government."
Speakers from the Bendigo Sustainability Group, the Wimmera-Mallee Sustainability Alliance, the Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance, and Make a Change Australia also made submissions to the inquiry.
The overlying message from the groups was that governments needed to invest in the good work already being done in the regions.
"The government needs to properly fund grant programs," Bendigo Sustainability Group vice president Chris Corr said. "A substantial increase in funding is required.
"The government also needs to reduce the barriers to applying for programs."
Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance executive officer Rob Law said governments needed to support projects from the ground up.
"It's more nuanced than just asking for money," Mr Law said. "We need to find ways to create longer term funding for project life cycles.
"It's the middle-scale projects that are hard to get up. There are a range of different funding models that should be tested."
Mr Law said it was also a matter of boosting morale in the community so people feel able and ready to tackle climate change.
"We need to help people feel empowered because so many are concerned about the size of the challenge," he said. "We're seeing too much political inaction, particularly at a federal level."
Make a Change Australia founder Karen Corr said her organisation has been working to engage with people in regional communities who don't normally engage with issues like climate change.
Ms Corr said the government needed to support local groups with advocacy.
"We're seeing a lot of commitment and passion in the community to create solutions," she said. "The state government needs to acknowledge and respect what is already happening in the community.
"We recommend the state government leverages from the existing efforts."
Ms Corr said climate change should be looked at broadly.
"We have groups coming together to know what to do in a crisis," she said. "Groups like sporting clubs and the CFA. Some already have plans in place but we need to support them so they can communicate better with the community."
The chair of the Legislative Assembly's Committee into Environment and Planning - which is conducting the inquiry - said the public hearings had already provided some useful information.
"What we're finding is that communities are undertaking a whole raft of different local initiatives to tackle the challenges of climate change," MP Darren Cheeseman said.
"Certainly, I'm starting to think about some of the ways in which government might further support those initiatives to further respond to climate change.
"It very much occurs to me that communities are not necessarily looking for handouts, but they are looking at ways in which government might support their initiatives.
"And some of those initiatives, we may be able to take beyond the community where those actions have been thought about and have been deployed."
The Committee will be listening to further public hearings in Traralgon and Bairnsdale in October, and Mornington, Geelong, and Warrnambool in November.
There will also be other public hearings in Melbourne in December, and Shepparton, Wangaratta, and Mildura early next year.
The Committee will present its findings in a report to parliament in June, 2020.
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