Guest post by Sally Missing and the team at Ballarat Climate Action Network
Ballarat Climate Action Network has undertaken a survey of candidates old and new who are standing for election to Ballarat City Council. The aim is to see who amongst the candidates could provide the strongest leadership on climate change at a local government level. The survey showed that there are some excellent candidates who can lead Council to a much stronger response on climate change and Ballarat Climate Action Network is encouraging people to vote for them.
Given that 72% of Australians identified climate change as a problem for them personally – the number one issue identified in the very substantial “Australia Talks” survey, we believe it is an issue of significance to the people of Ballarat.
Eighteen of a total twenty four candidates completed the survey which was then translated into traffic light results. Of these, two in each ward achieved a green light rating. Candidates given this rating not only showed a strong commitment to acting on climate change, but also demonstrated leadership and vision for how this might happen at a local government level.
The candidates given a green light came up with a range of recommendations including: a post Covid19 recovery plan that linked jobs and business stimulus to climate initiatives and ensuring sustainability is deeply embedded in the Planning Scheme to ensure liveable precincts, with good active transport connections (walking and riding) and better public transport. A solar loan scheme for households – repayable through rates, community groups and business was also proposed. A number of candidates were also seeking stronger engagement with the broader community in responding to climate change.
To come up with the ratings, we asked candidates to fill out a brief survey with three long answer questions about their priorities going forward, how they would measure success and how they thought council could show leadership on climate change, as well as ten yes/no/maybe responses. There was a lot of consistency in the yes/no/maybe answers but the long form answers were more revealing. We also looked for consistency in responses with what was said at online candidate forums and the special lift out in The Courier on 2/10/2020.
All of the people who responded showed some positive commitment to improving the environment, which was heartening (although some seemed to equate pollution with climate change which is a worry). Given there are two current councillors that voted against the Declaration of a Climate Emergency (Crs Ben Taylor and Grant Tillett) and one who declared his opposition to State Government legislation requiring Councils to take climate change into consideration in their planning processes (Cr Jim Rinaldi), so it may be that some candidates are feeling the heat of public opinion and putting their best spin on their responses.
Those that were given an amber rating showed an interest in a range of climate change initiatives such as improving cycling infrastructure or encouraging greater use of solar panels. After watching three candidate forums and studying the “form guide” in The Courier, it is clear that those who didn’t respond range significantly in their commitment to climate change.
With all due respect to the outgoing Councillors who have given up much time in their service to the community, Ballarat needs and deservers a better Council that has a clearer focus on good governance, the environment and community engagement. Given the limited opportunities to meet the candidates during Covid19, voters are strongly encouraged to check out the online candidate forums – which give a clear idea of candidates priorities and competence. Voters are strongly encouraged to use our scorecard when voting and choose candidates with climate leadership and vision.