The Macedon Ranges in Central Victoria is renowned for its natural beauty, rural landscapes and iconic landmarks, including Hanging Rock and Mount Macedon. This is why the community is passionate about addressing climate change and doing what they can to preserve the natural environment for future generations.

Macedon Ranges Shire Council is proactively leading the community to a sustainable future by declaring a Climate Emergency, working with communities to develop a shire-wide Climate Emergency Response Plan, and implementing award-winning waste management initiatives.

The journey so far

In March 2021, Macedon Ranges Shire Council joined more than 30 councils in Victoria and 100 across Australia to declare a Climate Emergency. The declaration recognised the urgent need to address the causes and impacts of climate change across all aspects of Council’s operations and in its work with the community.

Macedon Ranges Shire Council’s Mayor, Cr Annette Death, said the declaration led to Council committing within its Council Plan 2021-2031 to lessen the severity of climate change through actions that enable Council and the community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We recognised this as a key area needing urgent attention and how important it was to our community,” Mayor Death said. “As part of our Council Plan, we set about identifying initiatives within Council and the wider community that would be impactful to achieving positive inroads in regards to climate action.”

In December 2022, Council adopted its Counting Down to Zero plan, targeting net-zero emissions by 30 June 2030 and outlining key actions to reduce, avoid or offset the Council’s existing emissions while influencing key stakeholders to do the same.

To date, Council has taken a range of steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including purchasing 100 per cent renewable electricity, the installation of rooftop solar, converting street lights to energy-efficient LEDs, and transitioning Council fleet passenger vehicles to hybrid and electric vehicles.

Plans are also underway to replace gas boilers at Council’s aquatic centres with electric heat pumps as part of a broader aim to “get off gas” at all council facilities. Council has also facilitated the development of local community climate action plans across seven townships in the shire under a program called Cool Changes.

Each township’s plan takes a customised approach and empowers local residents to address climate change in a way that best suits their circumstances, further encouraging climate action initiatives at a grassroots level.

The path ahead

Earlier this year, Council launched Cool-ER Changes to develop a shire-wide Climate Emergency Response Plan for both Council and the community, and to mark the next step in the journey to a better climate future

“Cool-ER Changes aims to develop a universal action plan for the shire. It addresses climate action more broadly by looking at all aspects of our life as impacted by climate change, including our connection to nature, rural land management, future-proofing community sport, the liveability of our homes and low carbon energy and transport,” Mayor Death said.

“It brings together actions identified in the individual plans developed by each township through the Cool Changes program and considers them part of the bigger picture for our region.” The plan is informed by a number of themed workshops delving into discussions on topics including healthy ecosystems, renewable energy, waste management and responses to natural disasters.

“The workshops provide the opportunity for community members, stakeholder agencies and Council representatives from across the shire to come together and collaborate on a holistic plan for the region,” Mayor Death said. “We have seen an exchange of ideas and experiences and enthusiastic discussions about accelerating action over the next few years.”

A draft plan will be prepared and placed on public consultation for wider community feedback later in 2023, before a final version is adopted by Council, signalling a commitment to its implementation over the next few years.

Council’s war on waste

Macedon Ranges Shire Council has also been extremely proactive in the resource recovery space, implementing initiatives that challenge traditional waste management methods and complement the broader climate action plan.

Macedon Ranges Shire Council was one of the first councils in Victoria to introduce the four bin waste and recycling system in February 2020. The household kerbside service consists of four colour-coded bins for residents to sort their waste into: yellow for recycling; green for FOGO – food and garden organics; red for general waste; and purple for glass only.

Each bin also includes infographics to identify what waste goes where. Since its implementation, it has seen a diversion of 74 per cent, some of the highest diversion rates in Victoria. The initiative was also awarded Most Outstanding WARR (Waste and Resource Recovery) Project in the regional category at the Waste and Innovation Recycling Awards 2022.

The Victorian Government announced last year that it would roll out the four-bin service in all council areas across the state by 2030.

“We were an early adopter of the four-bin system compared to other LGAs, and our residents adapted and embraced the concept quite quickly, leading to its success,” Mayor Death said. “Our community is very passionate about recycling and doing what they can to help the environment, and they are very willing to try new things in this area which has enabled us to implement and trial a range of new initiatives.”

These initiatives include:

  • Launching a kerbside soft plastics recycling program trial in the township of Romsey
  • Introducing a reusable nappy, sanitary and incontinence product rebate pilot program to encourage the community to access affordable reusable options
  • Delivering reusable cloth nappy workshops to help educate families and reduce about 3.5 million disposable nappies sent to landfill each year in the shire
  • Phasing out single-use plastics across all Council operations and facilities and introducing a single-use plastics policy
  • Implementing the four-bin system at Hanging Rock Reserve, a major tourist destination for the Macedon Ranges, to encourage visitors to think about how they dispose of waste
  • Collecting polystyrene at the resource recovery facilities for recycling, and soon to introduce textile recycling.
  • Working with RMIT University and industry on combining biochar into roads and footpaths to increase longevity

Waste from Council’s kerbside collections and resource recovery centres is repurposed in various ways, including converting glass into road base materials and turning FOGO material into Australian Standard compost, which is available at cost to the community.

Mayor Death said Council would continue to prioritise proactive ways to manage waste and implement initiatives to take action on climate change at a local level and more broadly.

“Every little bit helps – we need to do as much as we can right now to mitigate the effects of climate change and provide a better future for  generations to come,” Mayor Death said.

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