THE need to transition to more sustainable agriculture was one of the first issues covered last Wednesday by community members presenting to South Gippsland Shire Council under its new system.
Accompanied by Transition Corner Inlet District Secretary Lloyd Morcom, Vice President Peter Burgess raised the issues of product cost and availability, and community stability and resilience, when future world oil shortages hit.
“The 2007/08 oil price shock was a precursor of what is to come,” Mr. Burgess foreshadowed.
“Our way of life is tied to the price of oil, which according to a recent report from the Chief Executive Officer of Lloyds of London, will be subject to “dramatic change and mobility” in the near future.
“There will be implications for South Gippsland with its focus on food production which is both essential and our economic lifeblood,” he added.
“We don’t even know how much food is out there in the community or going to waste unused.
“Why get vegetables in from elsewhere when we can grow them here in season?” he challenged.
Noting that it takes an average of 10 calories of fossil fuel to make one calorie of food, Mr. Burgess described Australia’s agricultural system as, “dripping with oil”.
He stated, “We’ve already had a ten-fold increase in the cost of phosphate rock which is used in fertilisers!”
While there are many factors about the situation that the Council cannot control, Mr. Burgess suggested that it could help communities by encouraging locally grown food through community gardens and orchards, promote organic farming, support local ‘transition towns’ groups, prepare an ‘energy descent plan’ for the municipality, encourage young people to take up agricultural careers, help small scale growers find local markets and consult with the community on sustainability issues.
In response to a query from Mayor C Jim Fawcett, Mr. Burgess advised that he (and Mr. Morcom) had attended the Council’s Sustainability Forum that morning and had also participated in the community survey.
Answering Cr Mimmie Jackson’s question, he said that the Transition Corner Inlet District could follow the example of the Transition Town Sunshine Coast group and provide a template and information to work with Council on developing an energy descent plan that could be adopted for the municipality.
“There are also templates for lots of other things besides transport,” he added.
Mr. Morcom commented that Murray Goulburn was now trialing gas-powered trucks, which although very expensive, “might be the way to go.”
“Transport issues will be quite complicated but I have pointed out the vulnerability of local traders to an oil shortage situation and wonder if we could organise a gas truck for local use.”
Cr Jennie Deane thanked Mr. Burgess for presenting on a general topic of interest that was not an agenda item for the next meeting.
“This new process for presentations gives us a chance to talk about the broader issues,” she said.
“Council has already started support for community gardens such as provision of rent-free land at Loch,” she continued.
“I expect more actions will come out of the Sustainability Strategy when it has been completed.
“Congratulations on getting Transition Corner Inlet District up and going really well.”