Illawarra Greens. Social justice, environmental sustainability, peace and non-violence and grassroots democracy.

Greens want to bring a 'night mayor' to Wollongong's towns, CBD after dark

Wollongong's Greens candidates for the upcoming council election are once again pitching a plan to install a "night mayor", to help boost after-dark activities across the city.

While the job - which the Greens have hoped to create for the past eight years - might have a snazzy, slightly spooky name name, a night mayor is simply a permanent part time position at the council, the party's candidate for Lord Mayor Jess Whittaker said.

The new employee would responsible for prioritising the night-time economy and streamlining clunky venue approval processes, that the Greens said has left many venues delayed or unable to open at all, resulting in a struggling, empty night scene. It would also work with music venues, bars, 24-hour gyms and late-night grocery stores, and help cluster night-time businesses together to create small night-time precincts within the likes of Port Kembla or Thirroul.

"The thing we're hearing from businesses is that it can be a clunky process dealing with council DAs, so a way we can make it easier would be to have someone to support new businesses and young businesses and make it a good experience for them," she said.

Ms Whittaker said the state's first 24-Hour Economy Commissioner Michael Rodrigues, who has been working in with businesses in Sydney, demonstrated how effective having someone overseeing night time activities could be. She said the job would suit a bar or venue owner, or someone from the music or events scene, who knows the dynamics of the industry and can give the council inside knowledge about the local nightlife scene.

The Greens have been pitching the "night mayor" vision at elections since 2017, when then mayoral candidate Mithra Cox said it was based on a similar idea in Amsterdam.

Ms Whittaker said it still had a lot of merit eight years on, especially in tough economic times. "Our nighttime economy has taken a beating from COVID and a lack of adequate help for venue owners, promoters and others to get through the council's red tape and clunky channels," she said.

State Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said Wollongong was a thriving, diverse city that deserved music and the night-time economy to be a priority. "All too often owners of restaurants, cafes and bars who want to provide diverse night-time options for the community find themselves struggling with a confusing and over-the-top regulatory environment and a lack of planning," she said.

"This isn't great for business and it's not great for the community with a lack of lively, safe spaces on offer for people who want to go out late with their family and friends."

 

Story by Kate McIlwain in the Illawarra Mercury, 22 May 2024.


Outdoor seating, live music and a vibrant township. That's the Wollongong Greens' big vision

"We need a night-time mayor to help businesses make it through tough times. That's what we're going through now and we need a vibrant, diverse, creative night-time industry and that's what they champion." - Cate Faehrmann, Greens Music and Night-Time Economy Spokesperson.

"We want to be able to go to a bar or restaurant in your local village, it doesn't necessarily have to be in the CBD. We want these small bars to be in our villages and towns and operating really successfully with the full support of Wollongong Council." - Jess Whittaker, Wollongong City Council Greens Lord Mayor Candidate.

"Labor does have the biggest block on Council and I think it's also on them that this hasn't already happened, because it should have happened." - Jess Whittaker.

 

Olivia Blunden reporting for WIN News, 22 May 2024.

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Get moving on homelessness DAs, say Wollongong Greens council candidates

Approving development applications to expand homelessness services should be sped up to cater for their growing need, Greens candidates for Wollongong City Council said.

Ward 2 candidate Kit Docker, who is a volunteer at the Wollongong Homeless Hub, said recent figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed Wollongong city had seen a sharp increase in people accessing homelessness services in NSW.

"It's disappointing that in the midst of the housing and cost of living crises, frontline services are having to wait up several months or more for their development applications to be approved," Mr Docker said.

"Applications that are crucial to their ability to meet the growing demand for services. I am urging the council to treat this crisis with the urgency it deserves and prioritise DAs for those services on the frontline of this crisis."

Greens candidate for Lord Mayor Jess Whittaker said a DA for the homeless hub has been "held up in council for months and months."

"If it's something that there's a need for the community, it's recognising that need maybe above other things that are in the list and addressing that by liaising with the homeless services working out what they need and how we need to make it happen so that they have those services available to the community," Ms Whittaker said.

"Just working in partnership with them instead of them being put into the same process as everyone else. They are just such an important service and they're providing so many facilities and food and services to people in our community who are doing it tougher than anyone else.

Last week, the city was rocked by the alleged murder of homeless man Raymond McCormack at the Wollongong train station car park. Ms Whittaker said the Greens call to streamline applications from homelessness services wasn't prompted by that case. "We've been talking about this for a while," she said. "Kit volunteers with the homeless hub and has a really good relationship with them and has been talking to them about this for some time. "It wasn't because of Ray's unfortunate death that we came up with this policy. "We just thought that we had it ready to go and it's a really great time to talk about the need in the community and how desperate the need for services for people who are sleeping rough."

 

Story by Glen Humphries in the Illawarra Mercury, 19 May 2024.


Residents ramp up campaign to save Mount Ousley pedestrian bridge

Greens councillor Mithra Cox criticised the Transport for NSW decision along similar lines, saying it meant residents who lived a few hundred metres away from the university would be forced to drive there.

"When Transport for NSW do things like this it really reduces trust for this council, for our community and for engaging with their processes," Cr Cox said.

 

Story by Kate McIlwain in the Illawarra Mercury, 18 May 2024.


Dozens gather near Wollongong station to remember Ray

Raymond McCormack was a quiet man but he did not go unnoticed, as evidenced by the scores of people who showed up on Thursday evening to a vigil in his honour.

While recollections of his love of ice cream, egg sandwiches, and peace and quiet drew laughs, there were tears, too, as people reflected on a life lost prematurely.

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The great debate: do Wollongong councillors talk too much?

"While everybody supported the motion, people definitely had criticisms of it and nuances of it," Cr Cox said.

"And I was certainly in that category; I'm absolutely going to support it because it's better than nothing, but it's kind of chicken feed as well. And I think there is more that we could do and we could do better.

"And so, that's what the debate is for, I think is to say 'yes, you know, this is a reasonable start, but having $1 million for affordable housing - what that will buy us? How many houses, like one house or two apartments?

"It's really not going to make a huge difference but that's not a reason not to support it."

Cr Cox said the council did pass some motions no-one needed to debate in a block at the start of the meeting.

But she added that it was important to debate some motions; for instance, if someone in the public gallery had come to the meeting for a specific motion, that was always debated.

"Overall, even if all the councillors are agreeing with something, it is a better look to actually have debate about it anyway, rather than just pass everything," Cr Cox said.

"I think it's a good culture that we do generally pass things unanimously and it's not because people are not engaged.

"But of course, there's a difference of political opinion on the council and absolutely, they should have a space to be expressed."

 

Story by Glen Humphries in the Illawarra Mercury, 9 May 2024.


Listening to the 'loudest voices' not the way to go, says Wollongong councillor

Responding to the "loudest voices" wasn't the best way to deliver road safety improvements, Wollongong Councillor Mithra Cox said.

Cr Cox supported the motion, adding that when she first came on the council she wanted a pedestrian crossing on Murray Road so she could take her son to pre-school - he was now almost in high school and the crossing is still not there. She felt there had to be a better approach than just responding to individual requests for crossings and the like.

"It's about having a strategic view of what's better for everybody," Cr Cox said.

"I find it frustrating that instead of achieving this through coming at it from a strategic lens of having a policy in place for the places that have preschools and shops and hairdressers all in one spot that we then have to come and say, 'okay, we want it on this road'.

"I find it's not the right process and not the right way of going about it. And you end up just advocating for the loudest voices rather than having the best outcome for the community."

Cr Cox said there should be a pedestrian focus for Murray Road, rather than catering to cars. "The only people that go up that road are the people that live at the end of it that are getting out to Memorial Drive or to Pioneer Road," she said.

"It's more important that people are able to cross the road, go to the shops in a safe way, that all of those kids are able to get to preschool and school."

 

Story by Glen Humphries in the Illawarra Mercury, 7 May 2024.


'It's a start': Wollongong council releases affordable housing policy

Cr Mithra Cox disagreed with [other councillors' beliefs about levies], stating the levy won't have an effect on what people were willing to pay for an apartment. She added that property investment had been a contributing factor in the current housing crisis.

about"Housing has become, instead of being primarily a place for people to live, an investment for people and a way for people to make money off the capital gains," Cr Cox said.

 

Story by Glen Humphries in the Illawarra Mercury, 6 May 2024.


Gong Shuttle should go to Figtree, say Greens council candidates

Extending the Gong Shuttle south to suburbs like Figtree and Unanderra would address the "shocking" public transport availability in those suburbs, Greens Lord Mayor candidate Jess Whittaker said.

With the funding arrangement between Transport for NSW, Wollongong City Council and the University of Wollongong coming up for renegotiation, Ms Whittaker and Ward 2 candidate Kit Docker felt it was the right time to look at extending its reach. Ms Whittaker said her mother-in-law lives near Figtree and Mr Docker lives in the suburb and she claimed the existing public transport network in the area wasn't good. "I know that it's pretty shocking and it is very car dependent," Ms Whittaker said.

"If you want to come to Figtree you could get on your bike, if you have one, you could pay for a bus or you could drive your car.

"There is no train station and that's another driver of this policy announcement because Figtree isn't lucky enough to have a train station. The closest train stations would be in Unanderra and Coniston."

"I remember in the last council election what was talked about in Ward Three was I think it was more a shuttle between Dapto and Port Kembla, but it hasn't happened yet.

"So you need people in council with a passion to make these things happen. And as Greens, we're always advocating for more active transport, more public transport."

With the renegotiating of the funding split for the shuttle coming up, Mr Docker said it should be the responsibility of the state government. "They're the ones that have got the deep pockets," he said. "We've seen announcements from local Labor politicians - almost $400 million for the Mt Ousley interchange, $20 million for the Bulli bypass.

"Clearly they've got the means and the funding to fund this and we think that we shouldn't be stretching council, we shouldn't be stretching the university to pay for this service."

He also noted that, when the previous Liberal government had looked to axe the Gong Shuttle local Labor MPs Ryan Park and Paul Scully fought to keep it. "They were very critical of the Liberal government's attempts to reduce funding and they spoke a really big game when it came to the free Gong Shuttle," Mr Docker said.
"Now they're in government, they have the power to fund this and, and provide not just the existing route but Figtree and Unanderra with certainty around funding.

"So this is their opportunity to step up and follow through on their words from before."

 

Story by Glen Humphries in the Illawarra Mercury, 2 May 2024.


A matter of trust: City council angry over Ousley bridge blunder

Greens councillor Mithra Cox criticised the Transport for NSW decision along similar lines, saying it meant residents who lived a few hundred metres away from the university would be forced to drive there.

"When Transport for NSW do things like this it really reduces trust for this council, for our community and for engaging with their processes," Cr Cox said.

"We've been engaging with them over a number of years on the integrated transport strategy which has all sorts of platitudes about increasing active transport, increasing permeability of the city, integrating our transport strategy to theirs and when things like this happen it really makes us question why bother engaging.

"It's just empty words written on a piece of paper that mean nothing. Shock, horror, they did exactly what we all expected and they removed all of the things that were written in this strategy at the last moment.

"When they engage with us they need to do that in good faith and they need to stick to the things that they said they were going to do."

 

Story by Glen Humphries in the Illawarra Mercury, 9 April 2024.


'Quitting on cyclists': residents anger over losing Ousley interchange bridge

Greens candidate for Wollongong Lord Mayor Jess Whittaker said the removal of the bridge was a sign Transport for NSW was "quitting on the cyclists".

"The pedestrian bridge was a small ask from the community," Ms Whittaker said.

"It was provided in the feedback Transport for NSW received during consultation. It should not be the first thing to be cut when they tighten the budget for this $390 million project.

"We can't sacrifice the benefits of walking and cycling and our good quality lives in Wollongong so we can have an impassable major traffic thoroughfare through the heart of Wollongong."

 

Story by Glen Humphries and Connor Pearce in the Illawarra Mercury, 7 April 2024.


How good things grow from Port Kembla’s crop swap

Every third Saturday, from 10-10:45am, locals gather on the lawns of Port Kembla Community Centre to swap homegrown produce, plants, preserves, recipes and ideas.

“It enables people to acquire a diversity of fresh produce, grown locally without the need for money or shopping at supermarkets,” said Port Kembla crop swap co-facilitator Jess Whittaker.

“We share ideas and stories about our produce before we start, so people know where things have been lovingly grown or prepared and by who.”

“The crop swap is exciting because it’s radical. It cuts out supermarkets by motivating the community to produce their own food and then redistribute it amongst themselves without money,” Jess said.

“The community centre is owned by Wollongong City Council but operated by Our Community Project, who let us use the tables and lawn area,” Jess said.

“We all come together and make new connections and share ideas, there’s something really magic about that.”

For Jess – who is running as the Greens candidate for Ward 1 and Lord Mayor in September's local government elections  – a crop swap is just the start. She has more green ideas for Wollongong.  

“Like supporting people in affordable homes to more environment-friendly modes of transport. I’m really passionate about active transport because I believe bikes are the answer to so many of our modern problems, from poor health, pollution, mental health and solving traffic problems," Jess said.

“We waste far too much money on building new roads while ignoring other solutions, we need to make it safe and easy for people to move about our whole city which is going to take a really progressive council to make it happen!”

“We think crop swaps will grow as people are feeling the need to connect with the community and seeking viable options for diversifying their food supply outside of the supermarket duopoly,” Jess said.

 

Story by Oguzhan Dincsoy in The Illawarra Flame, 4 April 2024.


State government begins planning for Illawarra's post-coal future

Greens candidate for Wollongong City Council Deidre Stuart questioned whether a full range of views were represented.

Ms Stuart noted members of the environmental movement were not present.

“There’s some great people across our society who have good ideas about how people can be upskilled.”

Ms Stuart said there needed to be similar engagement with the environmental consequences of mining, given the estimated multimillion-dollar bill to rehabilitate the Wongawilli and Russell Vale mines, if a buyer is not found.

“Let’s start with cleaning up all the mess,” she said.

 

Story by Connor Pearce in the Illawarra Mercury, 27 March 2024.


Shark nets must go, Greens call after latest Thirroul dolphin death

"The Greens set up a stall at Thirroul over the weekend to talk to people about shark nets and I can say the community sentiment was overwhelmingly in favour of removing the net," Ms Whittaker said.

"People understand that entering the ocean comes with an element of personal responsibility.

"The community told us that they want the government to stop using outdated technology and focus on methods to reduce risk that are kind to the environment, effective and good value."

Ms Whittaker said the nets should be removed without further ado. "We know that shark nets catch mainly other species other than sharks," she said.

"Shark nets are an old method that don't keep swimmers and surfers safe. The state government needs to remove them from our beaches.

"Just like we educate about swimming between the flags, we can also help reduce the risk of shark interactions by providing advice about not swimming in murky water, at dawn or dusk or when there are bait fish around, as well as guidance on the range of personal shark deterrent devices available."

 

By Ben Langford in the Illawarra Mercury, 21 March 2024.


Greens call for removal of shark nets from Illawarra beaches

“Shark nets are a cruel, outdated form of control that have not been proven to keep swimmers safe,” Ms Whittaker said.

“During the weekend we sadly saw an endangered leatherback turtle tangled in shark nets off Manly Beach, followed shortly after by another very large turtle rescued from the nets at Dee Why. This is unacceptable.

“We know that shark nets catch mainly other species other than sharks. Shark nets are an old method that don’t keep swimmers and surfers safe. The state government needs to remove them from our beaches.”

The $86.4 million dollar Sharksmart program funds a range of measures from drum lines to less invasive drone surveillance that can alert swimmers and surfers to the presence of sharks.

“The program offers education and can also supply trauma kits for a fast response in the event of a shark attack.

“There’s some really great elements in this program that use technology such as drones to warn swimmers of a risk, but currently most of the resources are going into managing drum lines and nets,” Ms Whittaker said.

“The Greens set up a stall at Thirroul over the weekend to talk to people about shark nets and I can say the community sentiment was overwhelmingly in favour of removing the nets. People understand that entering the ocean comes with an element of personal responsibility. Just like we educate about swimming between the flags, we can also help reduce the risk of shark interactions by providing advice about not swimming in murky water, at dawn or dusk or when there are bait fish around, as well as guidance on the range of personal shark deterrent devices available.

“The community told us that they want the government to stop using outdated technology and focus on methods to reduce risk that are kind to the environment, effective and good value. Instead of netting dolphins, rays and endangered turtles off our beaches, we are calling on the State Government to reallocate funds that manage nets, to better resourcing the serious problems that actually are harming the community, such as domestic violence, homelessness and access to healthcare.”

“There are popular beaches right up and down the east coast of NSW that are free from shark nets. Why are they only deployed around Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong? If there was a really high, unacceptable risk of shark interactions they would be at every swimming beach. But they’re not. So let’s stop killing marine life on our city beaches with nets that sharks can swim around, and focus on the tools we have that don’t cause harm and actually work,” Ms Whittaker said.

 

Story by Mick Roberts in The Bulli & Clifton Times, 21 March 2024.


We need greater investment in pathways, safe crossings & safer roads

Greens lead candidate for Ward 2 Kit Docker is calling on Wollongong City Council to address the significant accessibility issues faced by residents across Figtree.

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Paramedic and former Bulli High School student will stand for council in September

Ms Whittaker said she is excited to be the Greens candidate at the September elections.

“I grew up in Bulli. I studied at Bulli High School and completed a Bachelor of Science at University of Wollongong,” she said.

“I lived in the northern suburbs as a renter until around seven years ago then we purchased a home in Port Kembla.”

“I believe it’s time for a fresh approach to how our council operates and what we, as a community, aim for,” she said.

“The Greens have big plans to push for more changes to increase affordable housing so our young people, key workers such as teachers, health care workers, paramedics, police officers, and the vulnerable can afford to live in our wonderful city. 

“We want to see better access and transport throughout the city with more footpath upgrades, pedestrian crossings and bike paths constructed so we put people first.

“We will ensure the first new skate park built in 10 years is delivered as soon as possible, followed by the second and the third. This is what the community has been asking for decades.

“This is just a few of the ideas the community has told us they want, but we know we need to do so much more to tackle urban heating, the transition to renewables and protecting our amazing escarpment, waterways and beaches as the effects of climate change intensifies. So we’ll be out talking to the people of Wollongong every day until 14 September to guide our progressive agenda for the next term of council.”

 

“I consider the opportunity to build on the achievements of our exceptional Greens Councillors Mithra and Cath,” Mr Docker said.

“We need a fundamental shift in our Council’s approach to housing that puts the needs of the community before the interests of property developers.

“Council must do more to future proof our communities for the impacts of a changing climate including greater investment into Urban Greening projects to keep our communities and streets cool and leafy.”

 

State Greens MP, Sue Higginson, MLC, said Illawarra is on the frontline of the biggest challenges and opportunities that NSW faces, and her party are ready to tackle the big issues without the baggage of vested interests.

 

Story by Mick Roberts in The Bulli & Clifton Times, 29 February 2024.


Greens announce their Wollongong council election candidates

"It might be a challenge but I've never shied away from a challenge," Ms Whittaker said at the Greens' candidate launch.

"I think we've seen in Shellharbour we've had a first-time Mayor who's never been a councillor and it's been very successful.

"I'm someone who likes to have a go. I have really strong community values and I think as long as I represent what people are asking and stay connected to the community then I can get the job done."

Ms Whittaker praised the "integrity" of Cr Bradbery but felt "we're ready for some new ideas and a fresh approach to council".

"I think the last council operated really well because there was no one block who was in control," she said.

"Decisions had been made collaboratively and I think that's the best way to work. I'm a great collaborator and I hope the next council has a good balance rather than a big block of one party."

 

"It took me a lot of time to consider because I feel it's very onerous to get involved in something as a volunteer in this kind of way," Ms Stuart said.

"I suppose what buoyed me, I talked to Cath and Mithra and I talked to other people in the Greens. They told me there would be a team that would help me look through documents and help think through things. No-one can be an expert on everything."

 

"One of the things I loved the most, even though obviously didn't end up in parliament, was hearing people's stories," Mr Docker said.

"Hearing the challenges they've been facing and being able to take it to some sort of platform, like the media, and help elevate and promote their voices.

"There are a lot of people in the community, vulnerable people, who are simply not heard. I hope whether I make it on council or not that I can promote and elevate the concerns of those most vulnerable in our community."

 

Story by Glen Humphries in the Illawarra Mercury, 15 February 2024.


Greens announce new candidate for Wollongong lord mayor

"It's time for a fresh approach to how our city council operates," Ms Whittaker said.

Ms Whittaker said in the midst of a housing crisis it was time for Council to take on a more active role in addressing housing affordability, such as collecting windfall profits where upzoning occurs and including social and affordable housing as part of planning agreements.

"At the moment, it's basically crumbs," she said. "Considering the large profits that developers are making, it's quite shocking that wasn't able to be 10 or 20 per cent."

Ms Whittaker said increasing supply, without stipulating that units be set aside as social or affordable housing, would do little to address soaring rents and house prices. "Having people near transport hubs is something the Greens support, because it reduces cars on the road, we just have to make sure that there's trains on the train lines."

"I want to be able to see people not being trapped in their homes and able to get about the community freely without being fearful of cars," she said. "Safe routes to school, access for the disabled, we'll really focusing on getting all those upgrades happening around the city, building on the work that the last council has done."

Ms Whittaker was the lead Greens candidate for Ward 3 in 2021. 2024 is shaping up to be a very different contest. "We weren't allowed to door-knock, we couldn't have how to vote cards, we would have candidate forums where no one would turn up because everyone was terrified for COVID." "I feel like that was a bit of a training ground and I'm more confident now and I have an idea of how you win a campaign which is to get out and talk to as many people as you can.

"Listen to people and then things they are telling you, put those ideas forward and fight for them."

 

Story by Connor Pearce in the Illawarra Mercury, 15 February 2024.


An unprecedented collaboration is underway between BlueScope Australia and two mining giants to decarbonise steelmaking.

https://www.facebook.com/WINNewsIllawarra/videos/308580948862422

Greens Councillor Cath Blakey:

"We've been dismayed that the Blast Furnace reline is going ahead. That's a billion dollar investment that I'm sure will become a stranded asset. It locks in pollution for decades to come."

On pilot location: "I'd like to think it should be Wollongong, because we've got existing workforces and existing infrastructure."

Story by Eva Baxter, WIN News, 12 February 2024.


Russell Vale mine closure could leave taxpayers with multimillion dollar bill

Wollongong Greens councillor Cath Blakey said there was a "big risk" that the community would have to pay for the eventual remediation of Russell Vale mine.

Story by Connor Pearce in the Illawarra Mercury, 9 February 2024.


Wollongong affordable housing fund secures just two families a home

Councillor Mithra Cox said while Council's ability to intervene in the housing market was limited the scheme had not yet had a significant impact on housing affordability.

"It's an absolute drop in the ocean," she said. "A couple of housing units is really not going to touch the sides, but when you think about how much it costs to buy a house, it's difficult to stretch that money to a lot of people."

Ms Cox said without significant government interventions, which were out of reach of local governments, this would continue to be the case.

"Massively increasing the amount of social housing in the system is one of the key things that would improve housing affordability," she said. "That said, it's outside of council's remit to do that."

Story by Connor Pearce in the Illawarra Mercury, 14 December 2023.


We stand with you: Wollongong council's message to Palestine war victims

Wollongong councillors have voted to stand with the victims of the war in Palestine.

Greens councillor Cath Blakey brought a motion before Wollongong City Council calling on councillors to reiterate the city's "commitment to the human rights of all people to live with freedom, safety and self-determination".

Cr Blakey also wanted council to acknowledge "the anguish and pain that the war in Palestine and Israel is causing to many people in the Wollongong community".

"I'd like to see this city join the diplomatic chorus for a ceasefire, oppose the killing and collective punishment of civilians and also join the chorus to release hostages and political prisoners and support that diverse community we have here in Wollongong," Cr Blakey said.

"This council was also addressed by community members last meeting with a compelling request that council request the federal government to vote for a ceasefire," Cr Blakey said. "Over the last nine weeks the Wollongong community has been rocked by the attacks by Hamas and the Israel Defence Force on civilians since the seventh of October.

"In Wollongong there have been nine weeks of actions ranging from prayer sessions, weekly protest rallies and marches [and] student strikes. These community events have included a wide range of participants with Palestinian and Arabic voices combined with Israeli and Jewish voices."

Cr Blakey's vote was passed unanimously.

Story by Glen Humphries in the Illawarra Mercury, 11 December 2023.


Renewable energy the 'quick and easy' solution to emissions control

Renewable energy sources like wind farms were "the quickest and easiest ways" to reduce emissions linked to electricity use, Wollongong councillor Mithra Cox said.

The Greens councillor was speaking on the decision to adopt a plan for Wollongong City Council to address the issue of climate change through to the end of the decade. The Climate Change Mitigation Plan 2023-30 followed on from the 2020-22 plan and sets a target of zero emissions for council operations by 2030 and net zero emissions for the city by 2050.

Cr Cox said those targets were dependent on the decarbonisation of the electricity grid. "It's the quickest and easiest way to make fast reductions but this is dependent on state and federal targets being met to reduce emissions from electricity."

"Then that is largely dependent on large-scale renewable being built for which there is a proposal for an offshore wind zone here in Wollongong. I'm really proud of the position and leadership council has shown in supporting that and I hope we're able to continue to advocate for that because without those sort of projects happening we've got no chance of meeting the big reductions in electricity decarbonisation."

Cr Cox also spoke of the problems around transportation emissions and, as the move to electric vehicles continued, that more charging options needed to be included in both residential spaces and council car parks.

"It's not going to be enough to have one or two in car parks, especially in multi-unit apartments where parking might be underground."

"It's really, really important that the electricity infrastructure is put in at the time those apartments are being built and that they are delivered to every single parking space, otherwise those car parks will be there for 100 years and won't have the infrastructure in place."

"Similarly our own parking stations, as we upgrade them, will need an electricity connection to every parking space."

 

Story by Glen Humphries in the Illawarra Mercury, 28 November 2023.


Port Kembla tree vandalism spree sparks urgent calls for stronger penalties

Wollongong Greens Councillor Cath Blakey agreed with Ms Whittaker it was a "selfish act", and suggested more "creative means" could be used in the area to deter vandals.

"Like we saw with the Belmore Basin billboard of community artworks and photos of the tea trees, the Brighton Le Sands containers decorated in murals of native plants and wildlife, or the Noosa's billboards which have an image of a beautiful Rainbow Bee-eater alongside the words 'who destroyed my home'," Cr Blakey told the Mercury.

"These billboards and containers are large and onsite while newly planted trees regrow. There is also an opportunity for community education and artistic celebration of our native plants and wildlife."

 

Story by Desiree Savage in the Illawarra Mercury, 14 November 2023.


Decriminalize bike riding on footpaths

Wollongong council to push for bikes to be allowed on footpaths and buses

Greens councillor Cath Blakey, said the changes would help get more people using bikes and were supported by the city's adopted cycling strategy.

Cr Blakey said she was in favour of all ages being able to ride on footpaths as it would especially allow more young people and women to feel safe while riding in busy areas without shared paths or cycling infrastructure. She said cyclists were allowed on footpaths in most states and territories, with NSW and Victoria the only two to outlaw riding on footpaths as a rule.

"I recognise some people are concerned about risks to pedestrians, and it is really important to give way to pedestrians, but this is mostly about formalising what already happens when people feel unsafe riding on the road anyway," she said.

"The problem with the rules now, is that police can apply them with discretion, which leads to some people being targeted and fined, while others are left alone."

She said allowing cyclists to ride of the footpath was just one of the improvements needed to encourage cycling, and needed to be combined with investment in dedicated cycling infrastructure.

"Personally, I don't actually like riding on the footpath - because you have to contend with driveways and other infrastructure - but there are some places you just don't feel safe riding on the road," she said. "This is not a perfect situation, and if we could retrofit cycleways on every single street I'd love to do that, but there's budget constraints and we can't change it overnight - so if we want people riding bikes now we need to change the rule."

Bike racks on buses makes public transport more viable: Cr Blakey said allowing bikes to be carried on buses would make public transport more viable for many people in Wollongong.

"I've ridden to work and then in the afternoon it's raining and you then have to leave your bike at work - so being able to have those mixed modes where you can put a bike on a train or on a bus would be really helpful," she said.

"In Wollongong, we've got lots of suburbs that are really hilly, so we can cycle down them but not necessarily back up - so having bike racks on buses would be great. "It would open up the catchment of people that are likely to catch the bus, because you can go so much further on a bike than you can walking, so there would be more people being able to get to the bus stop." She said bike racks could be installed as the bus fleet was upgraded, and would be able to be used on a first come, first served basis.

 

Story by Kate McIlwain at the Illawarra Mercury, 6 November 2023.


Wollongong council votes in favour of wind zone plans - with conditions

The Greens Mithra Cox said climate change was a mammoth task to solve and needed fast action, involving many forms of renewable energy if future generations were to have a livable planet.

"It's going to require a major economic and industrial transformation within our lifetimes and ideally within the next decade," she said.

"But the alternative does not bear thinking about. The sea level rise predictions for Wollongong, if we remain on the current emissions trajectory that we're currently on is three metres by 2100. My kids will still be alive."

She also took aim at the behaviour of people at the Thirroul forum saying she would not engage with people who "heckle an Aboriginal elder... shouts over the top of anyone with a different opinion, or sends fake information mocked up in Microsoft paint and claim it as evidence".

"If you don't care about the impacts of climate change on my generation and the generations to come, then don't expect me to engage on a deep level," she said.

 

Story by Kate McIlwain in the Illawarra Mercury, 9 October 2023.


Illawarra environmental groups back offshore wind plans

Councillors and others standing on Flagstaff Hill Wollongong with the proposed offshore wind farm zone in the background.

Greens Councillors Mithra Cox and Cath Blakey joined local environmental groups to support the designation of an Illawarra offshore wind power area.

Story by Connor Pearce in the Illawarra Mercury, September 24 2023.


Industry must play a part in Wollongong council's climate change plans

The council had an important role to play in reducing community emissions, Cr Mithra Cox said, through empowering people rather than telling them what to do.

"There is a really big role for council in ensuring that we can have all-electric homes, making sure that the electricity connections that they have in the kitchens are good enough that they have induction stoves," Cr Cox said.

"It's also ensuring that new buildings, particularly apartments, have electricity in the car parks in basements should people want to switch to electric vehicles.
"When you build an apartment, it's going to be there for the next 50, 70 or 80 years. The decisions we're going to be making are going to be with us for a long time."


Cr Cox also noted that the Whyte's Gully tip was the biggest source of the council emissions and that she didn't feel they could capture 100 per cent of them by 2030.

 

Story by Glen Humphries in the Illawarra Mercury, 18 September 2023.


South32 sponsors Ride Wollongong

The decision to appoint miner South32 as the naming rights sponsor of September’s Ride Wollongong festival has shocked the climate-conscious cycling community.

“The event’s a great idea. But I don’t want to go to it now, unless it’s part of an action to oppose the sponsorship,” says local cycling advocate Jess Whittaker.

“We’re in a climate emergency. I can’t look my kids in the eye and say, ‘We’re going to this cycling event – it’s paid for by a coal mine. And by the way, they’re burning your future and stuffing the water catchment.”

Ms Whittaker, a Port Kembla health care worker who ran as the Greens lead candidate in Ward 3 at the last Wollongong City Council election in December 2021, said: “You don’t have to have hundreds of thousands of dollars to put on a community event. The council should just be funding that.”

Despite being a keen cyclist, Ms Whittaker won’t be attending this month’s South32 Ride Wollongong festival.

“I just can’t do it. It was the same feeling I got at UCI when they were handing out all those yellow hats with South32 logos and I just felt so embarrassed. All these people come over from Europe and we’re in a climate emergency and here’s good old Wollongong handing out the hats for the coal mine.

“I actually took a hat home and embroidered ‘end coal’ on it and then wore it back the next day.”

Story by Genevieve Swart in The Illawarra Flame, 1 September 2023. (pdf download, archive)