A future for Baw Baw

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-12-18-02-pmBaw Baw Shire Council are going through the process of developing another 4 year plan. There was some community engagement with a half day workshop with an opportunity to contribute afterwards. Here is the story BBSN contributed- I hope some of it comes to fruition. What do you think?

Alternative Baw Baw Future #2

The rapid transformation of technology, energy, transport and manufacturing that occurred since the end of the council plan in 2016 took many in in our community by surprise. As has the climate that has begun to change the look and feel of the countryside in Baw Baw with even further reductions in rainfall and more hot days than only 8 years ago. Frequent storms, bushfires and heavy rain events have necessitated more spending on damage to roads and other infrastructure at the same time as the rising cost of insurance coupled with decreased household incomes due to reduced employment have led more families to choose not to insure their homes.

In 2025, the need for strong community supports and volunteerism to help those in need has never been higher. Although we have not yet reached crisis time, the signs of stress after each natural disaster are showing. More and more people are aware that our community would be more resilient if there was a fairer way to distribute the wealth that has been created by more efficient manufacturing with robotics working 24hrs a day, self-driving cars, garbage trucks, street cleaners, taxis as well as robotic dairies and tractors managing our farms. Even retail and postal jobs have been further decimated with more online ordering and drone delivery of items. Inequality that began soaring about 50 years ago with the rise of neoliberalism has left many people disaffected, resentful and ready for change. 13

There are, however, some reasons for celebration in these tough times. One has been the widespread transformation of our energy system. Five years ago we finally stopped building poor quality homes and offices that required massive energy input to keep us comfortable. Since 2020 every new home must comply with the Passive House standard and because of the volume and improved designs since then, the cost of building a home has not increased at all. There is no need for any heating or cooling system and our all electric, highly energy efficient appliances coupled with almost universal uptake of solar PV on buildings means that all new buildings actually produce more energy than they use. From 2017 we began systematically retrofitting existing houses to bring them to as close to this new standard as practical. Boy did that take some doing- there are hundreds of people doing that work in Baw Baw alone and some of our local businesses have developed such a good reputation for their expertise, they are training Americans who were sadly left behind a few years ago.

Our larger, industrial users of energy are covered by a mixture of local production with solar, wind as well as from a large local biomass plant that produces heat and electricity which is fed with some of the waste streams that have not been diverted to recycling and also from the massive tree planting program we started 8 years ago. We also import some from the huge solar thermal plants now operating north of the divide who are also sending their power back to the Latrobe Valley via the same transmission lines that used to export the coal sourced power years ago. When Latrobe City realised they could become the natural home of heavy power using industry as Australia transforms into a 14

renewable energy superpower, they successfully attracted data hubs, more manufacturing businesses, education and research facilities and in contrast to expectations, they’re booming! Just like the previous era of coal power stations, many Baw Baw residents now also work in Latrobe.

In order to deal with the rising summer temperatures making living in Baw Baw unpleasant at times, our council planted a lot of leafy street trees which cool our towns by evaporation and providing excellent shade. What is left of our carparks, which are progressively being turned into public spaces since the trend to driverless cars and falling car ownership picked up, have been covered in community owned solar panels, providing more shade as well as power for the community owned electric bus network which has made access to services possible for all shire residents.

Possibly the best thing that happened in 2019 was the decision to stop any more of our agricultural land being developed. We made the decision to cope with increasing population by embracing apartment living in 3-4 storey blocks that now give Warragul, Drouin, Trafalgar and even Yarragon a more vibrant feel with more people using the public spaces, more nightlife and very popular community gardens at the same time as cementing our position as a reliable supplier of organic food locally, nationally and in overseas markets.

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