Trucking giant drives eco change

11 Nov, 2008 10:19 AM
BETTER driving techniques have made great savings for freight company Linfox, putting it well on the way to reaching its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent over three years.
Linfox is due to move to its new headquarters in Essendon Fields by March and driver training is one aspect of the transport giant’s wide-ranging plan to cut emissions by 85 per cent of 2006-07 levels by 2010. Its ultimate goal is zero emissions.

Initiatives include getting drivers to stick to a “green line” when accelerating, not leaving trucks idling when stopped and smarter planning of pick-up and delivery routes and schedules.

“Research has found that eco-driving can deliver up to 20per cent reduction of fuel. We haven’t had that yet but we have seen 10-15 per cent,” environment group manager David McInnes said as he outlined Linfox’s progress at a forum at Victoria University.

The company believes it can achieve a 10per cent reduction in emissions without any cost at all.

However, the plan includes using more B-Triple trucks to achieve efficiencies of scale, an unpopular move in the past with residents living on or near truck routes.

Mr McInnes said “a law according to Linfox” had been laid down to combat employees’ natural resistance to change and scepticism.

The “law” recognised climate change was real, that human activities were at least partly to blame, that reducing any form of pollution could only be a good thing and reducing energy use made good business sense.

A staff group of “GreenFox environment heroes” had been formed to communicate the message within the company.

At Linfox, 80 per cent of emissions come from diesel and 13per cent from electricity, so these are its two main targets.

The first step in identifying, measuring and reducing emissions has been achieved by setting up the company’s accounting system so it can monitor emissions from each vehicle, the contract it is responsible to, the customer it has been working for, and the state it has been working in.

“From this we can set weekly KPI targets for carbon emissions for individual contracts and we hope to finally get down to setting targets for individual drivers so we can reward improved behaviour,” Mr McInnes said.

By pricing emissions per tonne, they could also see the impact of a carbon price, he said.

“That helps focus people’s attention. It also helps to know the size of the problem being addressed.”

Tip parties walk from talks: discussions fail as groups scrap over cap

25 Nov, 2008 09:56 AM

TALKS between the owners of Tullamarine tip, the community and the Environment Protection Authority have broken down, with TPI Cleanaway and the EPA both boycotting meetings.

EPA executive director regional services, Bruce Dawson, said before last week’s meeting that the authority would not attend meetings until a new independent facilitator was appointed.

On the eve of Tuesday’s meeting, community members of the Tullamarine Rehabilitation Advisory Committee led a protest on the steps of the EPA’s head office in Southbank.

Committee member Harry van Moorst said the facilitator resigned in September because she felt she did not have the committee’s full confidence.

“There was no motion of lack of confidence, but one or two people on the committee said they would prefer to have a facilitator who had more knowledge of the subject.”

Mr van Moorst said that information had been requested of the EPA, but it had not been provided and it had been her task to follow this up.

“If the EPA had provided that information, it wouldn’t have come to that.”

Community members believe the type of cap stipulated by the EPA in 2001 is now “third rate” and much higher standards are expected.

Mr Dawson said last week its website was being updated, and defended the cap. “EPA is confident that the cap design is in line with best practice.

“Past practices have resulted in a legacy issue at the site that [TPI] need to deal with. EPA requires that leachate be removed from the site and treated prior to disposal. The EPA also requires the extensive monitoring of groundwater both inside and beyond the landfill.”

TPI did not return calls by press time.

Endangered moth has its day in the sun

02 Dec, 2008 09:22 AM

IMAGINE having two days left to live to find a mate, settle down and lay some eggs to ensure your time on earth was not wasted.

It’s a tough call even by insect standards, but is made harder for the elusive golden sun moth – once common across Moonee Valley – whose life cycle revolves around ever-decreasing patches of wallaby grass and waiting for perfect weather conditions.

Researchers know that its habitat is in decline but need to know more about other factors in its life.

“Volunteer monitoring will give us a bit of a guide as to what’s going on and tell us a little bit about how long the [mating] season is – we think it varies between the years,” Caitlin Griffith said.

As Victorian National Parks Association’s NatureWatch co-ordinator, she will be leading some surveys this summer to count the critically endangered moth at a Derrimut site.

“Because there are only small areas of grasslands a long way apart it can’t travel from one to the next,” Ms Griffith said. “It can be found in Craigieburn and Delahey and Derrimut and some other scattered sites across to Nhill.”

Werribee Open Plains Zoo tried to reintroduce the moth to a four-hectare, specially planted habitat a few years ago; it took three summers to find two of the shy female moths.

“We put them in with a net over them to protect them from birds and we have waited to see if any young emerged – it can take about three years – but we have never seen any,” zoo keeper Kwai Cang-Kum said.

The Derrimut survey will be the first at this site, but a number of community surveys have been run at Craigieburn, where up to 800 moths have been seen.

Organised by the Merri Creek management committee (MCMC), the survey information has been passed on to RMIT, LaTrobe University, the federal Environment Department and Parks Victoria. MCMC technical officer Brian Bainbridge said volunteers were still needed for the two sites being surveyed this year: the grasslands at Craigieburn and another in Campbellfield.

Volunteers should register for December surveys; organisers will phone to confirm if suitable weather conditions are forecast. Contact MCMC at or phone 9380 8199; for Derrimut, visit, email or phone 9341 6513.

Countdown to a hard-earned cure

10 Mar, 2009 12:00 AM
SINCE her latest life-saving operation, Patty Carlyon counts her life in days.
When you have been told you are going to die as often as she has, every day is a blessing.

Last Wednesday, it had been 168 days since a bone marrow transplant operation – just one of too-many major operations Patty, 11, has endured since being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in November 2005.

Everyone’s hopes were raised when Patty went into remission in mid-2006. Then, last July, her life came crashing down when the leukaemia reappeared. Determined to make the best of the bad news, her family held a huge party and sent her off to hospital in a limousine.

“I’m really well now and, if my next tests are good, I’ll be able to go off boiled water. I’m already off the ‘clean’ diet,” she said, referring to a food regime she had been on for months.

Her diet had been limited to food prepared within half an hour and boiled water to reduce the risk of food poisoning or bacteria while her immune system was low.

Of the past 168 days, about 100 were spent in hospital, so Patty was more than happy to come home in time for Christmas. She still has fortnightly blood transfusions and goes back to hospital for regular tests, adding to the strain on her parents, Kim and Ron, and family.

Sibling Elizabeth, 8, sometimes gets fed up with the extra attention Patty receives. Yet it was Elizabeth whose bone marrow was the perfect match for Patty – and she bravely endured the pain and discomfort of donating it.

“They took out a litre of bone marrow; she’s so skinny it’s hard to imagine there was a litre in her,” Ron said. “But she was so brave – she didn’t complain at all. She really wanted to do it for Patty, but they fight like cat-and-dog the rest of the time.”

Patty is proud to have played a role in improved treatment of children with leukaemia. Because she suffered massive secondary infections from cold sores when her immune system was destroyed by chemotherapy, patients are now treated for cold sores and urinary tract infections before problems set in. A heart echo test – colloquially called the ‘Patty test’ – is also given after chemotherapy to prevent the massive heart damage that nearly claimed her life three years ago. “She is the first [patient] to show that the heart can heal with the aid of a pacemaker,” Ron said.

“And I was out of the transplant [recovery] room in just 13 days,” Patty said. “That’s a new record.”

Not that it was all plain sailing. She contracted a virus and again got a cold sore infection, which spread straight to her kidney, liver and lungs, and almost killed her.

She pulled through to keep hold of two other ‘records’: the longest time spent in intensive care (eight months) and the only child to be treated on all eight floor levels at the Royal Children’s Hospital.

Patty has spent more time in hospital than at Sunbury Primary School in the past four years. She can rattle off medical terms with ease and has a mature approach to life.

Getting well still takes priority over schoolwork but she has a clear goal in mind – she wants to be a nurse. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, even before I got sick.”

For now she keeps counting the days: in 572 days, doctors can be sure her transplant is fully successful. In 1657 days, she will be officially cured.

Freeway fury

17 Mar, 2009 02:47 PM

JOE Garra thinks he has the best block of land in Bulla.
At night you can see the city lights. By day you can watch the planes fly in and out of Tullamarine.

But birdsong is about the loudest noise you’ll hear.

That will change when two freeways merge on his land, as VicRoads plans suggest they will in 10 to 20 years.

At 55, Mr Garra hopes to have sold off and retired by then – but he believes the value of his St Johns Road land dropped as soon as VicRoads released its route map for the proposed outer west ring road, which appears to go straight through his property.

In fact, he may get hit on two fronts, as the ring road appears to merge with a proposed extension to the Tullamarine Freeway on his 52-hectare farm.

“As soon as someone sees that on the Section 32 [notice giving property details] they’re not going to want to buy it,” he said.

The Elders Real Estate agent knows firsthand what the land was worth.

“My neighbour just sold his place for $2.25 million, and that’s for 26 hectares with an older house on. So mine had to be worth at least $2.4 million, and that’s being conservative.

“But anyone selling now is going to have problems.”

Mr Garra said other neighbours planning their dream home would end up with a nightmare.

“I sold a house on this street on 15 acres for $950k and the first thing they’ve done is pull it down to build a $500,000 house on it – what will it be worth with a freeway next door?

“Another house two doors down is at frame stage – they’ll end up looking at a freeway barrier.”

Mr Garra’s neighbour, Cathy Jones, is a third-generation Bulla resident. She’s philosophical but sad about the impact the road will have on her home.

“There’s not many places where you can be so close to the city and still in the country. They’ve certainly picked the best land to go through, with the [Wildwood] winery and so on, and there’s nothing on this street that sells for much less than $1 million.

“It’ll look like another Keilor Park Drive [industrial estate]. We had no plans to move, but now we have no choice – who would buy it now?”

Since Ms Jones moved to her six-hectare lifestyle block in 1983 to run horses on the land, the family has strived to improve it.

“We’ve worked hard on the weeds – there’s hardly any serrated tussock left on the place – and when I think of the trees I’ve planted and struggled with the drought to keep alive, it’s such a shame.

“But I look at the little farms on the edge of the Calder with the freeway on their doorstep and I’d rather the road went straight through the middle of our home.”

VicRoads has stated on its website that its maps are “schematic” and subject to consultation, but also that: “If your property is within this dotted line it is possible that your property would be affected”.

The authority has said that affected landowners will be contacted by mail this month and public meetings held in April, but dates have yet to be set.

A VicRoads spokeswoman said it was “too early” to make decisions about land reservation needs.

VicRoads has the power to compulsorily purchase land, but this will not happen until an exact route has been planned and the State Government approves the project, not scheduled to happen for many years.

In the meantime, Mr Garra thinks it is unlikely he will be able to sell his land.

Compensation claims can only be made once the route is confirmed.

“They may acquire it in 10 years’ time but the price probably won’t go up in that time,” Mr Garra said.

“I emailed VicRoads eight weeks ago.

“When they got back to me two weeks ago, a lady said it will take 20 years. I asked, ‘Why would you have a meeting now for something that’s going to happen in 20 years’ time?”‘

‘Railroaded’ : V/Line supporters call for rethink on rail plan

31 Mar, 2009 03:00 AM
“DOING nothing is not an option.” That is what Macedon MP Joanne Duncan told more than 500 residents who crammed into Sunbury’s Memorial Hall to discuss electrification of the rail line last Tuesday.
“Failure to tackle the problem now means busy rail lines will ‘hit the wall’,” she said.

Combined with expert opinion that electrification is the best way to solve the Sunbury line’s rail problems, it is the closest the State Government has come to declaring the plan will go ahead, despite public opposition.

The vocal crowd loudly decried those defending the plans and cheered any criticism of the Connex train service. They overwhelmingly approved a motion drafted by Sunbury Residents Association, which organised the meeting, demanding the State Government drop the $270million project and spend the money increasing the train line’s capacity instead.

A few spoke in favour of electrification.

After about two hours of debate and questions, one woman asked Ms Duncan: “Is this a done deal – are we wasting our time coming here?”

“When governments make decisions about infrastructure they don’t often do it by a plebiscite or poll,” Ms Duncan replied.

“If we don’t do this, what do we do?”

Several people left the meeting as a result.

A rail expert advising the Department of Transport, Simon Lane, said the rail line through Footscray was close to capacity at its busiest peaks, making the system “increasingly unstable”.

He said a maximum of 20 trains an hour could travel on the Footscray line, and at its busiest the system carried 17.

To carry the projected number of passengers on V/Line-style trains would mean running 22 trains an hour.

“Those sort of trains are not OK for fast, metropolitan use because it takes passengers too long to get off – we have a maximum stopping time of 30 seconds at each station,” he said.

The trains used by Connex allowed faster passenger movement, Mr Lane said.

Department of Transport director of rail projects Michelle Jackson explained the plan to the meeting, saying both Diggers Rest and Sunbury stations would be upgraded.

But when she announced 100 new parking places at Sunbury, she was jeered with calls of “Where?”

A groan went up when 500 new parking places were announced for Diggers Rest.

Ms Jackson promised double the number of weekday trains and about triple the number at weekends. Trains would start earlier and run later and also be more frequent.

“Sunbury customers will also have full access to all metropolitan train stations along the route,” Ms Jackson promised.

“We don’t want it,” came the rumble from the crowd.

Ms Jackson said V/Line trains carried only half the number of passengers of metropolitan trains.

She said the planned new service would take only three minutes longer to reach North Melbourne, and would offer passengers the benefit of going directly through the loop to Flinders Street station instead of only to Southern Cross.

“Electrification provides a long-term solution that caters for the impact of population growth.

“It will also provide Sunbury and Diggers Rest passengers with a quality transport service comparable to the rest of metropolitan Melbourne,” Ms Jackson said, to raucous laughter.

State law faulted on saving native species

07 Apr, 2009 08:30 AM

A DAMNING report by the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office on the state’s main law to protect threatened species has found it “no longer provides an effective framework” for the conservation and protection of native flora and fauna.

The findings vindicate environment groups, which have argued for nearly 20 years that the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act has failed.

The law aims to protect endangered plants and animals with action plans for their management and fines for their removal or destruction.

But the report found: “The powers in the act have not been used as intended, and parts of the act are out-of-date.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Sustainability and Environment, which administers the act, said there were two fines imposed in 2008. The offences related to the taking of protected flora.

Riddells Creek Landcare member Russell Best said the act had many weak points, including failing to automatically protect rediscovered plants that had been considered extinct.

“A geranium called ‘species 1′ was listed as extinct in about 1904 but was rediscovered in Riddells Creek a few years ago. But it’s not covered until it’s formally listed, which takes a while.”

Since the act was passed in 1988, 653 of more than 800 nominated plant and animal species, ecological communities and processes have been listed – about 37 listings a year – and many are also listed under Commonwealth legislation, which offers tougher protection.

Many species in Melbourne’s west are listed because of cats and foxes and because much of their grasslands habitat has been lost to development. These species include the eastern barred bandicoot, striped legless lizard, grasslands earless dragon, growling grass frog, Australian grayling, golden sun moth. Plants include the small scurf-pea, matted flax-lily, Sunshine diuris orchid and clover glycine.

To enforce the act, the Department of Sustainability and Environment received $4.9million in the 2008-09 state budget and $2.4million from the Federal Government. Staff working on the task were raised from six in 2004 to 12.

Environment Minister Gavin Jennings commended the Auditor-General’s Office for its “frank and helpful appraisal”. “The [department] is reviewing the FFG Act and will soon provide advice on options for improvement.

“The findings are both a pat on the back and a reminder that we must continue working to protect Victoria’s unique plants and animals.”

He has asked the department’s secretary to report back in 12 months.

Towns the missing link

07 Apr, 2009 05:56 PM

LINKING townships along growth corridors – such as Craigieburn and Wallan – is the best way to plan Melbourne’s spread, according to the head of the Growth Areas Authority, Peter Seamer.

As landowners and environmentalists await the imminent release of new boundaries for Melbourne’s urban growth, Mr Seamer said last week the GAA aimed to align growth along existing rail and road corridors.

“We strongly support urban consolidation. But in Victoria there is demand for 10,000 new homes a year across the UGB (urban growth boundary).”

The expansion will eat into Green Wedge areas, set up in 2005 to protect the city’s open spaces. But Mr Seamer said the GAA’s approach should benefit the environment and developers and be less ad hoc than in the past.

“We have mapped everything inside and even some outside of the new UGB. Areas of high value we want to set aside…developers need to know in advance what they can and cannot develop.”

Farmers, however, will have to make their own choices about how to use their land.

“Toorak used to be prime farmland too,” Mr Seamer said.

“The value of land is so high that farmers are often better off going further out, but the issue is – we believe – really around water (availability).”

Cr Drew Jessop said the environment in northern Hume needed preservation, in particular the red gum forests in Mickleham and creek and water courses such as the Merri and Kalkallo creeks.

“Our environmental assets need to be preserved and enhanced whatever the outcome. The council can’t be involved in that or manipulate the market. As long as it’s clear and consistent you have a level-playing field and you can’t argue with that.”

Cr Jessop said an outer-metropolitan ring road and an extension to the Craigieburn railway line needed to be prioritised in the infrastructure. “There needs to be good transport links. Some areas are appropriate for trains while others are for buses, pedestrians and bike trails.”

Environment groups believe there is no need to move the UGB and enough land exists within the existing zones to cater for the growth.

Green Wedge Coalition spokeswoman Arnie Azaris wrote in her submission to the review: “The Calder Highway to Sunbury was not supposed to be a growth corridor and we had guarantees from ministers Delahunty, Hulls and Madden that this would not happen.”

The coalition also argues the land release will put more homes in fire-prone pastures and woodlands.

Coalition member Jenni Bundy, who died in the Black Saturday fires, had analysed Department of Planning and Community Development figures for Urban & Regional Development and had said the projections fell well short of the promised 15 lots per hectare development rates.

“For example, Hume Council shows a yield estimate of only 9.6 lots per hectare in the 6-10 year timeframe and reduces further to 8.07 lots per hectare for land in the 11 year-plus, 2019-plus timeframe,” she wrote.

Course offers help for anger

12 May, 2009 08:31 AM
YOU don’t have to hit someone to be violent – that’s one of the first lessons to be learned in the Men’s Business program at Sunbury Community Health Centre.
The program is offered to men “ready to change their violent, abusive or angry behaviours”.

In 2007-08, 213 men visited the centre, with 46 taking part in anger-management groups.

The nearest alternative centres are in Melton and Preston. The men come from as far away as Seymour, Diggers Rest, Craigieburn, Caroline Springs and Gisborne.

Some are referred to the program after a violent incident at home; others sign up voluntarily. All share the need to learn more about the way they react to stress.

“What we work on is ‘how do they change’,” counsellor Joy Fawcus says. “That includes learning that violence can be verbal, emotional, social and financial, too.”

The men’s families know all too well how a raised voice or punched wall can instill fear.

It is not unusual for Ms Fawcus to find four incidents referred to her by police on a Monday morning.

Others are referred by local doctors’ surgeries or partners. And, yes, woman make up 98per cent of all victims.

Awareness campaigns will always bring a torrent of reports, and Christmas and Easter are busy.

“All the holidays are big – people spending more time together, and often alcohol is a factor,” Ms Fawcus says.

Each report means a phone call to both the victim and perpetrator, offering counselling.

In Sunbury, there’s only one service so, until a year ago, Ms Fawcus would be dealing with both parties.

“Now I’ve got Craig [Caple] here, too – it’s better for me and good for men to know that he’s here.”

With women meeting during the day, and sometimes off site, and men at night, she has had warring parties come face to face at the centre only twice in 20 years.

As well as working out what triggers anger, the sessions also work through the cycles of violence in a relationship.

“First there’s the explosion, then remorse, then the honeymoon period, then it builds up to an explosion again,” Ms Fawcus said.

Even after 25 years, she is amazed at how many men come from split homes where violence was an issue.

“It’s about 80per cent,” she says. “It’s just part of their lives.”

A men’s support group fills the needs of “graduates” from the 14-week course who miss the contact and feedback.

Fathers are also encouraged to spend time with their children to understand the effects their violence has on them. A major annual event is the family camp, which last year gave 65 parents and children a chance to play, enjoy time together and not worry about cooking meals, getting to work or school, or other daily stress.

Sunbury Community Health Centre is at 12-28 Macedon Street, Sunbury. Phone 9744 4455.

New high for entrepreneur

11 Aug, 2009 09:31 AM

AFTER months of hard work, Essendon Grammar graduate Aaron Hornlimann hit the headlines last week when Jetstar announced it would use his ground-breaking technology to send boarding passes via mobile phones.

Mr Hornlimann, 22, who started IT company Sissit Group, was asked by Jetstar to investigate the technology about five months ago. Last week the national carrier announced it would be trialling the high-tech SMS boarding system at Avalon Airport and hoped to roll it out across its domestic network by the end of the year.

“Retrieving a boarding pass for a domestic flight will now be as simple as receiving a standard text message 24 hours prior to travel and having that SMS message electronically scanned at the gate to produce a boarding pass if you do not have bags to check-in,” Jetstar chief executive officer Bruce Buchanan said.

The former Avondale Heights resident, who now lives in Melbourne, said that while Singapore Airlines had a system allowing passengers to check in from mobile phone-based internet, his system could be used by even the most basic mobile.

“When you put your phone to the scanner, it takes a picture of the screen when the SMS is open and it will determine the characters and transfer that information to the boarding card, as well as validating who you are and so on. You can also use it to scan in a paper printout.”

He said a lot of the hours were spent devising a portable unit that met Jetstar’s specific requirements at Avalon.

Since Jetstar announced its new technology on Tuesday, Mr Hornlimann has been inundated with media calls, as well as interest from international airlines and governments.

“I’ve aged a lot during this process – I haven’t been getting much sleep – but in the next four weeks the development cycle will have finished and I hope to get into commercial mode again from R&D.”

Mr Hornlimann, who attended Milleara Primary School before Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School, said he had always enjoyed devising new systems and processes on his computer, with early projects including his father’s online business.

He also credits two of his teachers with inspiring his technological skills.

“I did the Duke of Edinburgh award and picked computer programming for one of the activities, and two teachers took time out of their own lunch breaks to teach me the basics – they recognised I wasn’t a traditional academic and didn’t mind that I was looking at different ways to work out a career.

“And I still used my PEGS maths text book sometimes!”

While still at school he set up a company offering free SMS messaging via the website, Intazaar, then moved onto the Sissit Group in 2007, where projects included an early warning system for fire situations.

One of his next projects is an advanced object detection library, which can be used in situations where you need to be able to detect objects; for example, in a car to detect road signs or to assess how many people are in a particular area for safety or crowd control.

“It’s quite on the cutting edge to get a system that’s as good as the human eye. We’ve already started working on the first prototypes.”

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