The Upper Hunter Shire is a large and beautiful rural area stretching from the rugged mountain ranges in the north to Lake Glenbawn in the east, rolling hills in the south and golden plains in the west. The thriving economic base is centred on an equine and agriculture industry including cattle and sheep grazing lands, cereal cropping, wineries and prestigious horse studs. Maintaining a healthy environment is essential to our economy and our lifestyle and Council is increasingly putting a stronger emphasis in our corporate planning on sustainability and good environmental practices.
What council has achieved in the past in energy efficiency, renewable energy or broader sustainability:
We have recently formed a new Sustainability Advisory Committee and are close to completing a Sustainability Action Plan 2017.
Some recent wins included saving water by irrigating parks with waste water in Scone, our biggest town. This reduced the use of potable water from 75 ML in 2012/13 to only 3 ML for the following years. Over the last few years we have also progressively changed household water rates so access charges are reduced and usage charges are increased, to encourage water efficiencies.
In the past, Council has undertaken an energy audit of major Council infrastructure and high energy use sites and in 2007 developed a financial loss control action plan. We also implemented an Eco-star sustainability rating program for Council facilities which provided a rating for water and energy efficiency.
What council hopes to achieve in the future in energy efficiency, renewable energy or broader sustainability
Council will continue to update lighting fixtures to LED across all its buildings and facilities and is installing solar PV systems at suitable locations.
We will be using vehicle efficiency as an evaluation criteria for new vehicle purchases and increasing our use of Skype / teleconferences across our three administration offices and other buildings by 30% in 2017/18.
We are investigating the potential for an electric vehicle charging station in the Shire, which would be a great attraction for those using the New England Highway.
More cycleways, solar and other renewable power, eco-tourism and recycling facilities are some of our top priorities. We will continue to manage land use conflicts to protect our agriculture and equine industries.