The purpose of this Briefing Paper is to inform participants regarding the process and findings to date in developing the New England Sustainability Strategy. The Public Forum signifies the completion of 2½ years of work involving more than 1,000 people through forums, workshops, meetings, surveys and discussions. The purpose and vision for this work is for the New England to become a sustainable region by the year 2108. This is an ambitious and achievable pursuit, though the massive collective effort to date has been very significant, perhaps even globally unique. In terms of participation alone it is possible we a nearing a tipping point, about to move to a new level. A broad focus is being taken on the sustainability priorities for the whole region ~ including business, community, all levels of government, urban and rural, towns and villages. So too, the view of sustainability ~ including social, environmental, economic, global, local and more.

8.30-9am Arrival, Exhibition & Refreshments 9-10:30 Opening Speakers, Exhibition & Wild Ideas 10:30-12:30 Strategy Hub Sessions High Country Regeneration New Energy Culture, Capability & Identity Enterprising Economy

12:45-1:15 1:15-2:30

2:30-3:30 3:30-4:30 4:30-5:30

Social Inclusion & Wellbeing YOUNG☺ Wild Flowers Bloom Lunch Break Working Groups ~ Organising Structures, Processes & Resourcing Sustainability Charter Structure & Resources Integration Model 3 NESS – Priority Next Steps Celebration Ceremony & Close Drink @ The White Bull

Short summaries of relevant information for the Strategy Hub and Working Group sessions will be provided to participants at the Public Forum.

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NESS works to incorporate each of the sustainability focus areas outlined above.

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At the recent NESS Sustainability Scorecard Round Table a wide range of stakeholders measured the sustainability of the New England for the first time. There is no regional sustainability framework or shared site to record or measure our communities, agencies, agencies, landholder and industry successes and progress towards a sustainable region. While there are other regional sustainability indicators being developed, notably in the UK and Canada, these are top down, expert designed and managed frameworks. The NESS challenge was to collaboratively design an accessible sustainability scorecard that allowed regional stakeholders to input both quantitative and qualitative indicators of regional sustainability as well as best practice stories of significant change. Their conclusion was that right now we are some way off being sustainable (see below diagram) ~ with an average negative 48 score reflecting that our social, environmental and economic capital is being degraded right now. At the same time however the consensus was that the sustainability of the New England Region has 'marginally improved' in the last two years ~ a positive change of 7 points on average. This is a promising conclusion.

More details of the outcomes and scorecard measures are detailed later in this Briefing.

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In this light, sustainability is one of the most pressing challenges and significant opportunities facing us today. The New England Sustainability Strategy can be a powerful contributor, both as a process and as a resource and tool. As a process it is unique for being designed collaboratively, with participation coming from right across the diversity of our community. This very approach of shared deliberation and decision-making has been identified in numerous local plans and in research literature as a powerful tool for building social inclusion, trust, respect and understanding... and in turn enhance our sustainability, strength, health and happiness. As a resource the Strategy reflects an influential set of shared priorities for alignment of effort, collaboration and partnerships. It is our chart to navigate the tumultuous seas of change now upon us, a useful learning tool for practitioners. And it is a prospectus for funding, enterprise, philanthropy, advocacy and lobbying. One of the issues raised during the local planning dialogues during this year (detailed more fully below) was that ‘we’ve done this before and nothing came of it’. Some communities are frustrated as they struggle on alone, that these matters fall back on Council and that they lack real support from outside stakeholders, partners and agencies. NESS is contributing to a more collaborative and integrated approach. For millennia Aboriginal people have come together in this high country to learn, exchange knowledge and sustain their culture and way of life. Today, we continue to learn and evolve together, with high stakes, great diversity and complexity, technology, knowledge and aspirations, to be a sustainable region.

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It is the year 2109 and the New England Region's natural systems have been regenerated and healed, where every species has its own world, frogs and birds living in harmony within a thriving new City-Region in the high country. Water is the sacred connector of everything. There is a deep sense of trust in the community, in part established through a culture of making decisions in ways that allow the community to reflect, consider and test new ideas with ethical decisions the norm. The respect and listening created allows people to have their say, bringing the community together to take ownership and responsibility for sustainability.

“Our region in 100 years is an interconnected community through natural vegetation, man built, technological, cultural and productive pathways. The region will be invigorating to visit and will be leading by example in our land management and self sufficiency. Our natural and community resources will be better than ever and the journey to sustainability will be well under way.”
While the natural systems of the Region are renewed so too the infrastructure has been retrofitted and redesigned by becoming conscious of the interconnections of everything. Renewable new energy is drawn from the sun, wind and rain, powering retrofitted homes, buildings and workplaces. The region is totally renewably powered. A new regional transport system that connects people and products.

“Dense mini-city populations surround by food-producing woodlands. Every family apartment-home has a spectacular view, nature on their balconies and close access to the surrounding natural environment.”

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The economy reflects the strong the culture of sustainability, working with natural and human cycles, where nothing is wasted and what we have is protected. This resourcefulness extends beyond material world and includes no wasting of people, time, brain power or knowledge.

“I decided that when combined in the following way, they could become a key philosophy that our community adopted in 100 years time: 'Learning, love and respect for the nature of all things'.”
This spirit of learning and patience has built a community that walks the talk on sustainability and has become a thriving, modern city-region for generations to come.

The original funding in 2008 was to create a sustainability action plan for Armidale alone. However the benefits, arguably necessity, of working on sustainability at a regional scale were recognised by Armidale Dumaresq Council who generously agreed to make their funding available to benefit the wider New England Region including Uralla, Walcha and Guyra local government areas too. Seven specialist working groups developed SWOCs, looking at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Challenges for sustainability from the perspectives of environment, local government, business/economics, students/youth, social, global and the UNE. The SWOCs became briefing papers for the first Public Forum, held at NERAM as the last event of the Sustainable Living Expo. 120 people energetically worked on seven diverse domains of sustainability: social, environmental, economic & business, cultural, students & youth, global and Aboriginal. Some 300 community members, organisations and stakeholders directly participated in creating the 'Foundation Strategy'. Five key regional strategies with priorities (mapped below) were identified as laying the foundation for a sustainable New England: 1. Regional Regeneration of Environmental - Farming Landscapes – biodiversity, water quality, habitats and riparian zones and retention, adaptable farming, soil fertility and wildlife corridor regeneration; showcases with local food, farmers markets, wineries and urban landscape initiatives such as SLEX; 2. Building on our Strengths & Assets – consolidating, growing and exporting our world class agribusiness; knowledge – research, education & professional services;

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3. New Energy – diversify energy sources, community renewable energy initiatives, measure & initiate energy efficiency drive, energy enterprises & employment, transport, tri-generation for hospitals; 4. Nurture a Culture of Sustainability – nurture a leadership network of ‘sustainability shifters’, build community awareness, social capacity and especially youth engagement in decision-making; and, 5. Two Dozen Roses Bloom – supporting small innovative initiatives e.g. Iron Man Welders, Sustainable Living Armidale.

In 2009 the four LGA's (Armidale, Walcha, Guyra & Uralla) together with the New England Sustainability Strategy Executive (NESSiE) successfully applied for funding. The regional collaboration of local government and stakeholders contributed to this new funding from the NSW Environment Trust, who have remarked that the New England is one of the most successful examples of a collaborative approach anywhere in NSW.

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This work built upon the high level of community participation, support and ownership and expands upon the 'Foundation Strategy' with the following pieces of work: • Widen out the regional sustainability planning dialogues with community four local Sustainability Forums (Bundarra, Uralla, Guyra and Walcha) to review the Foundation Strategy and develop SEED (Social Environmental Economic Development) Plans; • The inaugural Sustainability Scorecard Round Table which collaboratively measured the sustainability of the New England Region and then developed a Regional Sustainability Scorecard & KPPi (Key Performance and Progress Indicator) Framework; • Develop a replicable model to integrate NESS and other similar plans (such as HiCUB, LAPP, CCCF) with local government planning, management and reporting systems; • Development and agree an appropriate multi-stakeholder governance structure for NESS; • Analyse and integrate existing plans, priorities and strategies (see below for further details) and, • Develop a community communication and engagement strategy for sustainability, including a new web portal. The final stage of work for NESS2 is this second Public Forum. To date more than 1,000 people have now participated in the collaborative development of NESS through forums, workshops, meetings, surveys and discussions. Outcomes to date from NESS2 are detailed in the following pages.

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Six major focus areas were identified as critical to the regional Sustainability Scorecard. Participants self-organised into teams to define the scope and key indicators for each focus area – to evaluate progress towards a sustainable New England and identify existing data sources and gaps. 1. Environmental Regeneration of natural capital a) Biodiversity – rates of land clearance, (area of veg/community/tree cover), condition of vegetation, species (ecosystem) richness/loss, threatened species / communities numbers, health riparian ecosystems (data sources NVIS. Bird Atlas as surrogate measure), Conservation Agreements b) Soil – Sustainable Agriculture – ground cover, biota health –compaction / organic matter – fertility – nutrient import/export (quantity & type), no. of landholders (ha) adapting regenerative practices, rotational grazing, rehydration, soil carbon etc, numbers of organic registered farmers, $ spent on fertiliser (BOS), nutrient loss through effluent (Local Govt) & Agricultural production, change in land-use (BOS) & Feral animals & weed awareness (survey). Other data sources: groundcover - AussieGress, soil carbon & biota health expert advice), sustainable agric practices – survey c) Water – ground water recharge, time for rain to river (catchment retention), water use efficiency, natural flow of rivers (hydrological data – DECCW), water quality indicators (at points (DECCW, Local council advice), macroinvertebrates (UNE, Streamwatch) d) Land-Use - remediation work (ha), area of productive agric. land, peri-urban growth (note BOS is looking for things to measure) 2. New Energy a) Energy Consumption - changes in regional, place communities’ residential & industry sector energy consumption levels (Country Energy) b) Energy efficiency measures - uptake c) Renewables uptake – solar & wind, biofuels capabilities vs transmission capabilities & line losses d) Stationary & transport – use of fossil fuels to bio-fuels, estimates kms travelled, survey changes in travel, nos. registered vehicles e) Carbon footprint & greenhouse gas emission – changes Note gaps identified included ‘embodied energy’ 3. Diverse Economy & Business - building on our Strengths & Assets a) Business start-ups & numbers in region, workforce participation rates b) Regional gross value of production c) Sustainable Businesses -meeting a set of sustainable criteria (eg NISBN) &

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numbers of new sustainable enterprises attracted into Region d) Business output per unit of inputs of energy, carbon, water 4. Social Inclusion & Wellbeing a) Health & Wellbeing – chronic diseases, minimum life expectancy, immunization rates, obesity, drug abuse, mental illness, mental, physical & emotional & spiritual wellbeing b) Education & Employment– participation rates, school, VET & tertiary graduates, literacy / numeracy, early childhood access, workforce participation, wage parity c) Housing – numbers in government and community housing, waiting lists, evictions, permanency, homelessness, housing affordability & ownership rates d) Access to resources, participation in decision-making e) Respect cultural inclusion in curriculum, recognition of different learning styles, arrest and incarceration rates, Indigenous & minority group representation on Council Data sources include: NSW Housing, Health, Community Services, NEDGP, Local Govt. Northern Region Aboriginal Lands council & Community Housing bodies 5. Nurturing a Sustainability New England Culture, Identity and Stories a) Branding New England as a sustainable region – promotion & recognition, visual evidence b) Prominent Visual examples eg solar panels on local govt. buildings, wind turbines c) Livability Index – unemployment, income, lifestyle measures compared to the national average d) Sense of Place & Community & Prominence of Indigenous & Minority groups e) Agreed Regional Principles on sustainable growth - Regional Charter f) Carbon Footprint per capita Data sources including survey of attitudes, perception of visitors, livability etc 6. Awareness & Capability to Lead & Engage in sustainable initiatives, decisionmaking a) Numbers participating in SLEX, farmers markets b) Renewable energy connections, ebates uptakes c) No’s of enterprises & institutions with sustainable policies & initiatives – schools d) Ethical investment Data sources include - Who Cares & National Values Surveys – including identifying regional environmental leaders & notions of self-agency Other measures identified but not defined included waste, water availability & quality, air quality, development & adoption of new technologies (innovation), sustainable transport initiatives, resource use & footprints – draw-downs on future generations.

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There are a large number of sustainability initiatives taking place across the New England ~ community organisations, private initiatives, business and the many layers and agencies of government. Local Council have a key role in providing economic and social infrastructure and services, plus important roles in auspicing grants, supporting and partnering many of these sustainability initiatives. However many of these efforts are fragmented with a danger of duplication and perhaps more significantly to miss opportunities for enhanced outcomes through support, promotion creating synergies across initiatives. A series of workshops have been undertaken with a New England local government stakeholder group (Armidale Dumaresq, Guyra, Uralla and Walcha) to consider these issues, with recommendations including: • The wide range of environmental-social-economic regional sustainability initiatives need to be linked and promoted as a dynamic network of regional sustainability projects and documented in an integrated regional sustainability performance reporting framework; • This bridge building' across initiatives could open up new strategic partnerships for accessing resources/funding, enable synergies across initiatives, and enhance community awareness of what is happening with regional sustainability; • NESS is a key mechanism to help 'bring it all together' - to develop story lines around sustainability initiatives in waste, energy etc and collate these initiatives as part of a regional sustainability reporting framework; and, • Promote on-going community involvement, education and awareness raising processes around regional sustainability. The key dimensions of such a regional sustainability performance framework were seen as sustainable water, energy (renewable efficient), waste, landscape rehabilitation biodiversity, community engagement- social inclusion, and economic-social infrastructure - service delivery and business enterprise development. The local government stakeholder group are now analysis the strengths and weaknesses of existing sustainability reporting processes to identify a number of holistic sustainability indicators they could adopt. Uralla's Climate Change Consensus and the Regional State of the Environment Report were both identified as working examples of what will become a comprehensive model for integrated planning and reporting for sustainability.

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NESS is usefully different. The strategic planning dialogues are exploratory conversations. They incorporate a diversity of perspectives and bring together community, stakeholder, business, professional and expert knowledge. They help catalyse the emergence of new understandings, partnered initiatives and collaborative ways of working together. In this respect the NSW Environmental Trust has remarked: “This project has exceeded expectations. The outreach is amazing, and the work dedicated to developing a useful, fully integrated approach to sustainability implementation across the region is to be applauded.” Throughout this work a clear view has been expressed that NESS should not be another organisation, another layer, structure or more competition for scarce resources. Rather, NESS should be a multi-stakeholder dialogue-based network focussed on the sustainability of the New England, a learning, planning and support mechanism that enhances the capabilities and resources of existing organisations, networks and groups to implement initiatives and achieve sustainability. NESS would provide this by providing: • A hub for a self-organising network of regional communities, enterprises & stakeholders around sustainability initiatives to promote, inform, enhance and support each others initiatives; • The brand for New England Sustainability whose trademark is held as a commons agreement with a solicitor on behalf of the network group • Organising around a regional sustainability charter that outlines shared principles, vision and scope • An annual evaluation dialogue of its partnering regional communities and stakeholders to review progress, new strategic initiatives, the Sustainability Scorecard and capture what has been learnt • A capability based executive and secretariat • A website portal to effect the above In this way the New England Sustainability network would be the collective thinking of communities and stakeholders about strategies and initiatives for sustainability.

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The overall structure and parts that make are NESS are depicted below. Importantly, in light of the above 'notion of NESS', responsibility for implementation of strategies and initiatives is performed by stakeholders, not NESS.

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A key part of the work on NESS is to integrate with existing plans, priorities and strategies. These have been incorporated into short briefing papers that will be provided to delegates for use in the Strategy Hubs and Working Groups sessions at the Public Forum. Following are details of what has been considered and integrated to date:
Climate Change Consensus ~ Uralla, Guyra & Armidale Councils 2010 Northern Tablelands Electorate Survey ~ ‘The shape of the future’ Waterfall Way Eco-Tourism Initiative Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan ~ Uralla, Guyra, Walcha & Armidale Councils

University of New England Strategic Plan (2007 Uralla Creative Village - 2010) Northern Inland Regional Development Plan (2010‐2015) Healthy People ~ Living and Learning in a Health Environment

Local Government Plans – Walcha Social Plan, Southern New England State of the Armidale Strategic Community Plan, Guyra Environment Report (2008-2009) Management Plan & Uralla Community Management Plan Catchment Management Action Plans ~ Namoi, Border-Rivers Gwydir Hunter New England Health Service Strategic Plan & New England Divisions of General Practice Rural and Regional Taskforce Report (2008) NSW State Government North West Regional Cluster NSW Aboriginal Land Council Northern Region Regional Economic Development Strategy & Implementation Plan

By the end of Friday 3 December a complete archive of all the major documentation, reports and information created since the work on NESS began in mid2008 will be added here for viewing and download. This archive includes copies of reports for all of the pieces of work detailed in this briefing. Short summaries of relevant information for the Strategy Hub and Working Group sessions will be provided to participants at the Public Forum.

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Starfish auspices and facilitates NESS. Starfishes' Key Focus Areas are Sustainable Transitions (such as NESS), Well-Being and Peace-Social Harmony. These are achieved through collaborative leadership, learning and community enterprises, and with roles including: • Facilitator – Catalyser - Broker of partnership, leadership, learning networks around sustainability (NESS, Keepit Aboriginal Community Employment Strategy) • Implementer – Catalyser of Community Enterprises ( Farming the Sun, New England Community Wind Farm Study) • Leadership support programs (YOUth LEADing the World, Transitional Leadership)

3 December 2010

Adam Blakester & Micheal O'Loughlin
New England Sustainability Strategy Executive | 02 6775 2501 | 0419 808 900 | S adam.f.blakester

funded by the

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