The Critically Endangered Regent Honeyeater bird, sitting on a tree branch

Blue Mountains City Council responds to Australia State of the Environment 2021

29 Jul 2022

Blue Mountains City Council is devastated, but not surprised, by the facts revealed in the recently released Australia State of the Environment (SoE) 2021

The SoE’s finding, that: “Overall, the state and trend of the environment of Australia are poor and deteriorating as a result of increasing pressures from climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and resource extraction” is a call to every person, business and government to take bold and decisive action immediately. 

Blue Mountains Mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill, said: “Climate change is real and our local government area is bearing the brunt of it, with rolling natural disasters on an unprecedented scale battering our environment, our residents and our infrastructure. 

“Blue Mountains City Council has been a leader in sustainability over the last 20 years, and as one of only two cities in the world located within a UNESCO declared World Heritage Area, we fully recognises our stewardship responsibility in managing the Blue Mountains sustainably within a landscape of globally significant biodiversity.”

There is some cause for hope; the SoE states: “Immediate action with innovative management and collaboration can turn things around.” The time for that action is now.

“Blue Mountains City Council’s Planetary Health Initiative, Rights of Nature principles and Statement of Recognition and Commitment ensure environmental concerns are at the forefront of every action Council takes,” Mayor Greenhill said.

With the recent bushfires, floods and COVID in mind, and within a philosophy of “think globally, act locally”, Council initiated the Blue Mountains Planetary Health Initiative with a strong vision to grow Planetary Health for the whole City, for all life, and for future generations.

This initiative is investigating the establishment of a Planetary Health Centre in Katoomba and implementing an exciting city-wide Planetary Health Action Program providing local, regional and potentially broader benefits including a range of projects, research, education and local job creation. 

The guiding principles and motivations of the Blue Mountains Planetary Health Initiative are echoed in the SoE where it states: “Our health, living standards, cultural and spiritual fulfilment, and connection to Country are all interconnected and are negatively impacted by our deteriorating environment.” 

Blue Mountains City Council CEO, Dr. Rosemary Dillon, said: “Planetary health, which Council has now adopted as a guiding principle for all of its services, is a global imperative. City of Blue Mountains embraces its responsibility to ensure environmental, social and economic sustainability at a local level… and to play an important leadership role in contributing to the health of the planet which means healthy natural systems.”

Of particular concern for the Blue Mountains is that the SoE reveals that the already unacceptably-high number of listed threatened species will increase substantially in coming years as a result of the 2019–20 bushfires. As both a bushfire-ravaged region, and home to endangered and threated species including koalas, Regent Honeyeaters, Greater Gliders, Eastern Quolls, Blue Mountains Water Skinks, the Dwarf Mountain Pine, and Callistemon megalongensis (the Megalong Valley Bottlebrush), this is bleak news. 

Australia State of the Environment 2021 states: “Our environment holds the key to our survival and wellbeing. The natural world is not separate from the human world – it is the source of our food, water, air and raw materials. Our culture and wellbeing are interwoven with the places where we live and walk.”  This sentiment is the same as our own belief in the Rights of Nature

Blue Mountains City Council was the first Council and government entity in Australia to decide it would integrate Rights of Nature (RON) principles into its operations and practices.  RON is a rapidly growing international movement that aims to ensure a safe and healthy future for our planet by encouraging humanity to reorient its relationship with nature, from an essentially exploitative one, to one that recognises the importance of all life on earth.

Australia State of the Environment 2021 includes, for the first time, an Indigenous chapter demonstrating the benefits of learning from Australia’s Indigenous peoples. The SoE states, “Indigenous knowledge and connections to Country are vital for sustainability and healing Australia”, and “Indigenous people seek greater participation in Australia’s environmental management system. Respectful use of Indigenous knowledge, recognition of Indigenous knowledge rights, and Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge systems working together will lead to positive change.” 

Blue Mountains City Council supports this participation through our enduring dedication to the Statement of Recognition and Commitment, which enshrines the strong partnership between Council and Gundungurra and Dharug Traditional Owners.

Australia State of the Environment 2021 states: “To improve the outlook for our environment, communities and economy, we will need to strengthen and build connections: connecting people with Country; connecting economics with the environment; and connecting biodiversity, lands, rivers, seas, skies and soils.” 

Blue Mountains City Council is fully committed to doing all we can to achieve this goal for our residents and our environment. 

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Photo: The Critically Endangered Regent Honeyeater. Credit: Dave Noble

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