BASS Coast Shire councillors are fast running out of time to deal with the impacts of climate change, including unprecedent erosion along coastlines at Inverloch and Phillip Island, according to youth.
And it’s all set to come to a head at this week’s council meeting, when Cr Michael Whelan will put forward a motion calling for a ‘climate emergency’ to be declared.
It comes on the back of a passionate plea from local secondary college students, who say climate change is killing off species.
Wonthaggi Secondary College students Isabel Rooks and Callum Bugbird they can’t remember a life without climate change.
“At times, I feel hopeless, like you may too,” Isabel said at a Community Connections Session at the Council Chambers last Wednesday.
“There are great possibilities available with the technologies we have.
“I imagine a sustainable Bass Coast with only solar and wind produced electricity along with regenerative farming.”
Isabel and Callum recently joined the Bass Coast Climate Action Network (BCCAN) to voice their concerns for the future generations; those who will have to live with the consequences of today’s actions.
“Climate change is slowly killing off species, it is happening faster than ever before and the fact that change is coming whether we like it or not; we must, as a community, decide the change we want,” said Callum.
“There is still time, a short amount of time and with time comes hope.
“We want to have a future.”
Alongside the Wonthaggi Secondary students were Aileen Vening and Michael Nugent, both of the BCCAN, who say they’re not going anywhere until there’s leadership from all levels of government; local, state and federal.
The BCCAN has only been around for about three months, but has already put forward a petition to council with well over 1000 signatures for this Wednesday’s council meeting.
It demands council to require all shire reports to include a section on climate implications for council’s own operations and for the Bass Coast community.
“We ask that you declare a climate emergency next week to show the community and state and federal politicians that you are taking this matter seriously, far beyond business and politics as usual,” said Michael.
Aileen added: “Weather patterns are changing and are of great concern to us in Gippsland where agriculture is such an important part of our economy and warming oceans are contributing to the sea level rise, the rise that we are confronted with here in Bass Coast.
“This is not science fiction, nor it is someone else’s problem.”
Mayor Cr Brett Tessari commended the students on taking an interest in their community, in the bigger picture and voicing their concerns on a global matter.
He said council is taking action.
“We will work on research and declare a climate emergency when we have all the facts,” said Cr Tessari.
With minimal opportunity to discuss powerful matters with youth within the chambers, Cr Les Larke too spoke of his gratitude towards the young students in taking a stand.
“Thank you for bringing your generation’s opinions to the table with a signed petition, I commend you both on your perseverance,” said Cr Larke.
“On behalf of my fellow councillors I would like to say that we are taking action, we have worked continually with Bass Coast Landcare both in research and financially, and can reassure you that this major issue is at the forefront for council.”
Cr Tessari added: “I won’t say ‘yes, we will declare a climate emergency’ next week.
“I will say we will research further into this alarming issue and have the answers for the community first,” said Cr Tessari.
The August 21 ordinary council meeting will be held in Wonthaggi at the civic centre council chambers from 5pm, where the petition will be tabled.