Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Biodeiversity Fund

December 16, 2011

The Biodiversity Fund will invest around $946m over the next six years to help land managers store carbon, enhance biodiversity and build greater environmental resilience. It funds land managers to restore, manage and better protect biodiversity on public and private land – and to provide support for emerging opportunities in the new carbon market e.g. new or existing carbon stores.

The Biodiversity Fund will invest in three main areas:

  • Biodiverse plantings – to expand native habitat via planting mixed vegetation species.
  • Protecting and enhancing existing native vegetation – to protect, manage and enhance existing native vegetation in high conservation areas for its carbon storage and biodiversity benefits.
  • Managing threats to biodiversity – to control threat of invasive pests and weeds.
  • new biodiverse plantings of mixed species that establish and re-connect native ecosystems.
  • revegetate landscape to improve connections b/w remnant vegetation across public/private lands.
  • restore native habitats in largely intact landscapes in northernAustraliaand/or on the rangelands, or in peri-urban and coastal catchments.
  • enhance the condition of native vegetation adjacent to key assets e.g. World Heritage Areas.
  • establish/restore native wetland and waterway habitats, esp. on cleared lands.
  • reduce the impacts of invasive species across connected landscapes.


One round per year – Years 1 and 2 have around $32m each and the emphasis will be on 30-40 pilots – Years 3 and 4 have $250m each and the last two years have around $170m each. Matching fund required is not required for privately-owned land. Contact us for further details. We are preparing submissions for the first round – closes end January!

South Australia’s clusters…what worked and why

October 18, 2011

SA once ran Australia’s best cluster program. The main architects were Mick O’Neill (now an executive with Adelaide City Council) and ex-Irishman Hugh Forde. This is the last article in the series by Mick – previous clusters featured were water, defence, spatial information and multimedia – refer our blog.

 Arts, Tourism and Sports all had a government department that initiated/sponsored the respective cluster initiatives, albeit engaging industry leaders to drive the project. The process again focused on strategic initiatives, engaging local industry and building collaboration. The department took up the role of supporting the initiatives and the cluster, so again it was inappropriate to establish a new entity. Projects had a life and the degree to which they contributed in the long term was debatable.

 But one anecdote is telling. Prior to the tourism cluster initiative the state and federal bodies were at loggerheads. The engagement of the federal body in the state process led to SA being more explicitly recognised in national promotion campaigns and it enhanced ongoing collaboration.

How do you put a value on something like this? Similarly, while it may seem amazing, both Arts and Tourism sectors acknowledged that there had been only limited cooperation between the sectors. Explicit initiatives were thus developed to address this. While not all as tangible, there were numerous examples of benefits that emerged from the respective processes. While there is no evidence of the ‘cluster’ today, the Arts and Tourism sectors definitely exist and many would say the cluster initiatives were valuable.

 Healthy Ageing and Environmental Industries are interesting. They were both ten years ahead of their time (another lesson) and received limited government support although participants were tremendously enthusiastic. Again a variety of strategic projects were established and in each case an entity was established on a shoestring budget. Inevitably the burnout law applied.

 The Environmental Industries initiative was funded by the Federal government under an emerging industries program. Ironically both sectors are flavour of the month today – with environmental industries now largely rebadged as Cleantech, while healthy ageing is a massive budget issue and substantial market opportunity.

 It’s probably OK to talk about failed clusters here too, although I am currently working with a network that emerged from the environmental industries process and has survived for the past 10 years. It’s in the energy efficiency/smart grid space – an area whose time has definitely come.

 In summary – adequate funding, usually state government, is critical as is the rationale and process involved in selecting the clusters (responding to government agendas is fraught). Nevertheless we need to be careful about using the term failed clusters. We need to distinguish the clusters as they exist in the real world from the groups that we’ve facilitated as well as the entities that have emerged out of these facilitated interventions. The fact that an entity might not survive or the groups no longer meet does not mean that the sector/cluster is not healthy or growing or that the initiative ‘failed’. Any number of cluster activities may have contributed to the growth of the cluster but have their own finite life for various reasons.

 Regards, Mick O’Neill 0416 079 089


South Australia’s water and spatial information clusters

August 10, 2011

 SA once ran Australia’s best cluster program. The main architects were Mick O’Neill (until recently Deputy CEO, SA Dept. of Trade & Economic Development) and ex-Irishman Hugh Forde. In this exclusive series, Mick provides Cockatoo readers with the lowdown on the origins and performance of two more clusters.


 This is similar success story to that of defence, where state government funding and alignment with policy were also critical. The sector/cluster was chosen in conjunction with a state government project to outsource management of the water assets in Adelaide(state capital) with commitments/obligations for industry development. Cluster development had been proposed by the successful bidder (United Water) during the bid process (based on advice from consultants from Stanford Research Institute). Hence United Water readily embraced the MFP/Business Vision 2010 process.  A new entity was established (Water Industry Alliance), state government provided substantial funding, United Water provided significant leadership, in-kind resources and international linkages and the entity is still operating successfully. Exports from the industry have grown from A$40m to A$400m over the past 10 years and the industry has grown accordingly. (

 Devils advocates will say that the industry growth would have happened anyway. But United Water, theAllianceand many of its participants will say that, notwithstanding contractual obligations, the cluster model provided an effective process, a focus, an industry identity which did not previously exist, an ongoing mechanism for engaging with the existing and emerging local industry, and ongoing facilitation to make it all happen. TheAlliancestill actively uses the word “cluster” in referring to its operations and its stakeholders.

 The industry now has momentum and critical mass, despite the outsourcing contract has finished. TheAllianceis currently facing significant funding issues with a substantial reduction in government funding. Once again the ongoing sustainability of the entity is not synonymous with the health of the cluster, although many of us would argue that it will continue to add value to the growth of the sector as long as it exists.

 Spatial Information

 A similar initiative to water – off the back of a government outsourcing initiative, with industry development objectives. There was significant industry engagement and activity addressing strategic issues. An entity was formed and continued for some years, supported by Fujitsu as the lead outsourcing contractor. The anticipated level of government business was not forthcoming and Fujitsu eventually withdrew its support.

 Today there is little evidence of a spatial information sector/cluster, although there is much spatial information activity undertaken by ICT companies, engineering services companions and government departments. Effectively Spatial Information (like multimedia and desk-top publishing before it) has proven to be a technology and a process as opposed to an industry. Here we can thus talk about a failed cluster. Arguably it was selected for the wrong reasons and technology and the market evolved to overtake it.  

 Regards, Mick O’Neill 0416 079 089

Stormwater grants (Australia)

July 8, 2011

The third and round of stormwater grants has been announced – $100 million is available, less $10.5 million for two projects in South Australia.

We rang the Department for details, and were delighted to hear that one of the two SA projects involves the innovative stormwater pipeline proposed by the Eastern Region Alliance (easternAdelaide). The ERA comprises seven collaborating councils, mostly also Cockatoo members. The federal commitment of $10m was made by then Environment Minister Penny Wong in the run-up to the last federal election. Despite being lobbied, the SA Government has not yet agreed to fund its share. The other SA project mentioned in dispatches is the Greater Goolwa feasibility study ($500k).

 There are two important aspects of this round:

  • In recognition of the recent flooding across Australia, stormwater harvesting and reuse projects that include a flood mitigation component will be eligible in this round.
  • The minimum amount of federal funding per project is reduced from $4m to $2m – thus providing for more projects to be funded. Note that the federal share is a maximum 50% of the total.

 Applications close on Wednesday 7 December 2011.

Weather radar too late to help

April 6, 2011

In 2005, Cockatoo had a whinge about the lack of weather radar coverage across central west and north west NSW, two of Australia’s key agricultural regions. Farmers were desperate to anticipate upcoming rain belts in order to time their crop sowings and harvests. The problem was that the radars at Moree and Wagga were too distant. The National Farmers Fedration shared our concern.

Anyway we’d received the Ted Whitten flick-pass from the Bureau of Meteorology until an email arrived later in 2005 indicating that the BOM had received special funding in 2003 for a new radar at Gunnedah, and the expected completion date was in 2007.

Well, the weather radar was finally commissioned at Gunnedah in September 2010! The once-in-a-generation benefits have been missed because the drought has come and gone, but the fact remains that eight years from decision to commissioning is a long time. Cockatoo has since been advised by a BOM spokeswoman that Gunnedah was 20th on the list of 21 radars for upgrading or commissioning.

Clearly BOM management never made the connection between their radar roll-out and its role in addressing the impact of the drought. This is one small example of the lack of integrated planning across regional Australia i.e. between agriculture, climate, transport, health, education, housing, community services. 

As we keep saying, we need a Department of National Development.



Copenhagen’s Cleantech Cluster – a good model

July 4, 2010

Copenhagen is a European hub for cutting-edge cleantech companies, R&D and test facilities. It obviously has global prominence too in things environmental. There are numerous reasons for this, including:

  • A pervading philosophy of being an ‘early adopter’.
  • The national goal of being 100% free of fossil fuels.
  • The Copenhagen Cleantech Cluster – basically there to coordinate resources.

This cluster is “one stop cleantech shop” offers access to cleantech sector networks, cooperation between members, workshops, seminars, research projects, and insights to the political environment. It also wants to join up with other leading clusters worldwide.

Another player is ‘Copenhagen Capacity’ (part of inward investment agency) – provides information, access to companies, associations, research institutions and assists with investment and business opportunities.

Angles for Cockatoo members

  • This is one of the agencies we want to collaborate with via the Sunrise Program. 

Peter Garrett, the left-wing right-brainer…

March 25, 2010

Aussie PM Paul Keating used to take every opportunity to label Joe Hockey a dill. Joe has since proved to be anything but.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett has got the same treatment over the last eighteen months, and things have escalated. Sure there’s a principle of Ministerial accountability, but Garrett has been hung out to dry over the home insulation program.

We knew the program was flawed. I said from the start that apart from being a blatant case of government deciding what’s best for a house-owner, the fast-tracking would cut across the safety and liability issues.

My sixth sense was based on the experience of the Building & Construction Industry Reform Strategy during the 1990s. The aim was quite different to the Rudd Government’s latest effort, but it provided some very good pointers. First, the details were thrashed out over nine months by the industry associations, the unions, the prime contractors, their sub-contractors and DAS (the feds’ own construction arm). Secondly, the states were fully on-side. Thirdly, there was a succession of federal Ministers (Beddall, Crean, Schacht, Bolkus) championing the program. Fourthly, the feds had a Board of industry/union leaders to deflect the heat.

Fast-forward to the home insulation program. No real partnerships or buy-in from the industry players. No Board. No evidence that the Department of Environment officials understood the issues. No evidence of other federal agencies helping DoE to sort things out – in any case, DAS has disappeared as has the expertise in the Industry Department.

 The main lesson from this monumental stuff-up has not surfaced, namely that people with strong right-brain tendencies like Garrett need to be appreciated, nurtured and watched. They are full of ideas and energy, but frustrated by detail and process. Whitlam, Gorton, Keating are past examples, and Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Barnaby Joyce are looming as current examples.

Raving right-brainers should not be anywhere near program delivery. So who are the left-brainers who love the detail and the process? Well John Faulkner and Greg Combet currently fit the bill, hence it’s good to see Combet now in charge of the insulation clean-up.

On the Opposition side, the three former Howard Government Ministers – Kevin Andrews, Bronwyn Bishop and Philip Ruddock – exhibit strong left-brain tendencies. I suspect Greg Hunt is in their team too.

And some fortunate folk have a balance of left and right brain tendencies. Rudd, Hawke and Turnbull would be my nominations. Perhaps even Howard.

But getting back to Garrett, he showed fortitude and eloquence under pressure during Question Time and countless media interviews. He is passionate about the environmental cause, and has great empathy with our youth. Let’s appreciate him for what he is.

This article appeared in Silverhawk’s ‘Good Oil’ column in Local Government Focus, March 2010.

Recycled rubber (BEST PRACTICE?)

November 22, 2009

On 5 November, Federal and State Ministers announced that a tyre recycling scheme will commence in 2010 – but Ministers backed off a legislated scheme due to pressure from the cement industry (which burns tyres in kilns) and general concerns re Big Brother. Hence there is STILL no agreement on the details.

This week we explained our thinking to the feds (Dept of Environment), following which we’ve been invited to a ‘Tyres Roundtable’ – others involved are Australian Tyre Industry Council, Australian Tyre Recyclers Association, Minerals Council of Australia, Cement Industry Federation, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Motor Trades Association of Australia, Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce.

The approach we are pursuing is:

  • Big opportunity for councils to attract facilities to manufacture rubber crumb and downstream products e.g. rubber matting; footpaths; underlay for soccer, hockey grounds; road safety barriers.
  • Recent improvements in processing technology (UK, Germany) indicate that a viable processing plant can be established with feedstock of one million tyres annually. Long distance haulage of used tyres is not viable, so regions of 1 million plus should be able to sustain a vertically-integrated recycled rubber industry.
  • City councils (e.g. in Adelaide, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) thus have real potential to establish a greenfield processing plant – also regional centres with ‘road transport competitiveness’ should also be attractive e.g. Shepparton, Parkes, Orange, Port Macquarie, Wagga etc. And Newcastle has an opportunity to expand its facility.
  • Other councils have potential to be first-movers in the uptake of recycled tyre products – and we have begun discussions re how a grant program might be developed to facilitate this.

 If you would like your council or company to be introduced into these agendas, please contact us ASAP.


Recycled rubber (BEST PRACTICE)

October 7, 2009

 Interest in the recycled rubber sector will be sparked on 4 November when the feds and states announce a revolutionary tyre recycling system.

It has taken close on 4 years. The new arrangements will involve a $1 tax on imported passenger tyres, with the proceeds (possibly $12-15m per year) being spent on R&D for local firms. The aim of the new program is to increase the recycling rate to 95% or thereabouts. Currently old tyres are burned in cement kilns, buried at tip sites or thrown into dams.

 The big opportunity is for councils and development agencies to attract companies to establish facilities to manufacture rubber crumb and the downstream products such a rubber matting and footpaths, underlay for soccer, hockey grounds etc, road safety barriers. In rough terms, developed nations generate one tyre/head of population per year.

Recent improvements in processing technology (UK, Germany) mean that a viable processing plant can be established with feedstock of one million tyres annually. Long distance haulage of used tyres in not economically viable, so regions of one million plus should be able to sustain their own vertically-integrated recycled rubber industry. Regional towns will be attractive locations for downstream product manufacture – Warragul (Vic) is a first-mover.

 The proposal for a $1/tyre tax to stimulate R&D and processing activity is new to Australia, and other nations should track our progress. Contact us if you’d like to develop a recycled tyre activity.


Green Jobs – relevant to many members

August 20, 2009

Cockatoo members should note the 30 July announcement of 50,000 new green jobs and training opportunities for a greener Australian economy – involves $94 million pump-priming exercise as a ‘major reform of Australia’s training system to help support jobs and communities being hit by the local consequence of a severe global recession’.

Leaving aside the hyperbole, there is an opportunity for readers to access some of this funding, and to leverage federal support for other submissions to the feds. The components are:

  • 10,000 member National Green Jobs Corps – long term unemployed youth take part in 26 weeks of green job training and work experience.
  • 30,000 apprentices trained with new Green Skills -tradies complete their training with practical job-ready green skills.
  • 4,000 training places for insulation installers – to help long term unemployed or disadvantaged people into the workforce (Shudder at this waste of public funds!)
  • 6,000 new local green jobs – focus on environmental sustainability in priority local economies.

The National Green Jobs Corps is most relevant to local government because it involves a 26-week environmental training program for 18-24 year-olds in bush regeneration and planting native trees; wildlife and fish habitat protection; walking and nature track construction/restoration.

We have made some preliminary enquiries – no Department has yet put their hand up, but DEEWR is the obvious candidate. Contact us at for more details.