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Forum tackles climate change

A climate change forum in Batlow on Monday brought together industry, government, academics and the local community.

One of the most important, and contentious, issues on the planet was given a local airing at a climate change forum at the Batlow Literary Institute on Monday.

Snowy Valleys Council hosted the forum which drew together residents,, councillors, technical specialists, academics and council staff.

The forum aimed to inform local thinking on climate change, formalise partnerships to manage it and discuss issues, opportunities and priorities for the region.

Snowy Valleys Council’s mayor James Hayes said the forum was an important milestone in the council’s plan to work towards climate proofing our region.

“Collectively, we want to be ready to manage the impacts as well as take advantage of the new opportunities that may come our way as a result of climate variability,” Cr Hayes said.

“The forum was an important first step in identifying threats and management actions to use in updating Council’s Climate Change Risk Assessment. The next step will be to develop a climate proofing action plan and pursue Government funding to address the big priorities,” Cr Hayes explained.

“While these are Council responsibilities, we recognise that we certainly can’t, and shouldn’t do this alone. Climate change action is most successful under shared ownership and we see community, government, business and industry group partnerships as being critical for success”.

Forum attendees heard perspectives from a range of experts through presentations and an interactive panel discussion. The key-note speakers were Adjunct Professor Peter Waterman and Professor Max Finlayson from Charles Sturt University’s Institute for Land, Water and Society.

Melinda Hilary from the Office of Environment and Heritage Climate Change Adaption and Regional Resilience Team also spoke.

Other notable contributors were Snowy Valleys’ Councillor Dr Geoff Pritchard, Michael Gooden from the Riverina Local Land Service, Steve Thompson from the Murray Local Land Service, Kevin Dodds from the NSW Department of Primary Industry, Peter Crowe as Chair of the Softwoods Working Group, local farmer Bindi Vanzella with 30 years Natural Resource Management experience, and Matthew Christensen, Council’s Director of Assets and Infrastructure.

Adjunct Professor Peter Waterman from Charles Sturt University outlined practical steps to climate proofing the region while emphasising the need to take individual and collective actions.

“We need to acknowledge the reality that weather is more extreme, climates are becoming more variable and are changing and we all need to personally become involved in climate change adaptation measures, such as climate proofing,” Prof Waterman said.

“Climate proofing means making areas and assets resistant and communities more resilient to changing climatic conditions.

“This cannot be achieved without robust partnerships that span communities and beyond. Snowy Valleys Council cannot do this alone and the partnerships reflected in this forum are exactly what are required to make progress,” he said.

Melinda Hilary from the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Regional Preparedness, Climate Resilience and Net Zero Emissions team said the forum was a very positive discussion that sets a benchmark for other councils that need to work through the same process.

“Climate impacts are being felt today and are increasing in frequency and severity. A first step is for councils to update their Climate Change Risk Assessments, which in turn will help them to gain funding to address big priorities.

“A collaborative approach across community, government and industry can greatly enhance the chances of success in this area”, Ms Hilary said.

The presentations and panel discussion was followed by a workshop session in the afternoon, where participants formed groups to discuss risks and potential actions for infrastructure, land-use, environment, community services and economic development-tourism.

Ideas discussed included establishing a platform for sharing information on climate change adaptation ideas (such as innovative irrigation techniques, renewable energy options and soil moisture monitoring technology), incorporating shaded spaces into future town centre developments, growth planning for the region that coordinates land use and investment to adapt to climate changes, improving waste management through education and expanded processing and recycling facilities, protecting essential infrastructure from damage through climate conscious design, creating actions for alert situations and analysing regional environmental impacts.

The workshop notes will inform Council’s climate change risk assessment and action planning.

Copies of the speaker’s presentations are available on the council’s website at www.svc.nsw.gov.au/climate-change-forum and a video recording of the forum will be posted online in the coming days.

Further community engagement is expected to occur later this year, including a follow up climate change forum and ongoing discussions with participants.