Set Course for the Southern Hemisphere

By Jane Canaway

Published in the Foxley Docket, UK, April 2014

TSS Earnshaw offers trips across Lake Wakatipu

From sheep farmers to gold diggers, snowboarders to bungy jumpers, Queenstown has always attracted entrepreneurs, and the current generation seems to feed off each other’s inventiveness to find ever more crazy activities.

Grass sledding? – ride up on horseback and throw in a zip-line ride while you’re there. Wine tasting? – mountain bike between vineyards, and return via jet boat or helicopter via the glaciers.

Now this creativity is also being expressed in food, wine, accommodation and service, as well as entertainment.

Declared “fit for a Queen” in Victorian times, Queenstown is still so pristine that the belches of black smoke from the grand old steamboat TSS Earnshaw as it chugs across Lake Wakatipu seem out of place. Feeding off this clean, green environment, the organic and wholefood industries are going great guns, but don’t think you have to be a vegetarian to enjoy it.

Restaurants light up Steamer Wharf at dusk

Fine wining & dining

On the hills around the town, the lush meadows are home to large, healthy herds of Merino sheep, as well as Angus and Murray Grey cattle, while the clear waters of Lake Wakatipu and its feeder rivers are teeming with introduced trout and salmon. As well as offering great fly fishing, all this tasty produce is appearing on the tables at a small coterie of restaurants that are setting an individual style in Kiwi dining.

Queenstown cuisine combines the best of the local, fresh produce – Canterbury mackerel, Fiordland crayfish, Athol lamb, and east coast oysters, gurnard and hake – prepared in a distinctive fusion style.

Michelin-starred chef Josh Emett runs the kitchen at Rata, and his menu reflects his love of slow cooking and local flavours; the NZ$60 set lunch is a great way to get a taste of his current favourites. Further out, Gantleys, set on two acres of gardens, has a stunning six-course degustation menu available with matching wines; it’s a short hop out of town, but free transport from central Queenstown is available. How’s that for service.

Another gem, buried down one of Queenstown’s labyrinthine alleyways, is Bunker, which serves a 10-course degustation Taste of the South menu with matching wines: think roasted Fiordland crayfish with house-made lemon gnocchi and crayfish bisque beurre blanc with a 2010 Amisfield Fumé Blanc. Its rooftop bar offers more casual tapas-style bites and is a great spot to enjoy a sundowner.

Shop for a drop

It is well worth making the short trip up the road to visit Central Otago’s adolescent wine industry, which is winning recognition for its clean-tasting, mineral-tangy wines. Pinot gris and pinor noir are especially fine here, as well as the sauvignon blanc and semillon that make up the bulk of the export market. There are a number of ways to explore the vineyards, but if you’re short of time you can do all your research in one location downtown.

Wine Tastes has a smart self-service system stocking more than 80 local and international wines in one shop – with comfy chairs, low tables and cheese platters for extra cosiness. Tasting notes offer some direction, then you can choose a ‘shot’ or larger measure of any wine, from the latest-vintage riesling to a Penfolds Grange, at $600+ a bottle. If you find something you like, you can order and get it shipped home (or – ahem – pop to the bottle shop next door and buy it at shelf price).

Fashionistas will be pleasantly surprised at the individuality of Queenstown boutiques. Rodd & Gunn’s has its own Southern take on green wellies and country clothing, but it’s worth hunting down the locally made knitwear.

New Zealand has devised a new wool blend – the amazing Merinosilk, made up of 70 per cent merino, 10 per cent silk and 20 per cent possum fur. Introduced from Australia, possums are now at pest levels, and Kiwis have put a lot of creative thought into ridding their islands of the cute but destructive critters, known locally known as squashums.

The end result is a totally opulent, lightweight fabric that is being dyed and used to extraordinary effect. The cost can be fairly staggering too, but you won’t find anything like it for warmth and luxury anywhere else in the world.

The hills are alive

Film-makers and skiers are drawn like magnets to the hills beyond Queenstown, and you may find you’re more familiar with them than you realise. Nearby ranges have doubled as the Swiss Alps on Milka chocolate bars; they feature as the Canadian Rockies on the front of Coors light beer and, most famously, appear as the mystical mountains of Isengard, Lothlorien and Dimrill Dale in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies.

The hills are also rich in greenstone, which drew the first maori settlers to the area more than 800 years ago. While it is no longer used for weaponry (Captain Cook described it as holding a keener edge than metal), it now inspires local jewellers to create some very fine pieces. Many artisans sell their wares at the Saturday craft market on Steamer Wharf.

One local jeweller, who owns a chain of stores in Australia, is Sir Michael Hill. His son Mark has inherited his parents’ creative talents and has applied it to his chosen field of sculpture. Many of his dramatic, large-scale pieces are dotted across The Hills, which is part golf course and partly his family’s estate at nearby Arrowtown – a beautifully preserved 1860s mining town worthy of a visit in its own right.

The Hills is an example of what happens when passion, creativity and large wads of cash collide: starting with one practice hole outside the family home, the project grew to become a golf course many regard as the best in the area, and which now hosts the NZ PGA tournament. Membership is limited to 100, but visitors can apply to play – at a price (NZ$500). While most of the work is from Australasian artists, the course is also home to a huge, 111-piece from Chinese sculptor Liu Ruowang, featuring a single man surrounded by a pack of wolves.

Matakauri Lodge – the lap of luxury

The lodge of luxury

Wherever you are in Queensland, the views – across magnificent Lake Wakapitu lake to the aptly names Remarkable Ranges – are first class, but somehow they seem enhanced when enjoyed from the stand-alone tub in the ensuite of an elegant suite or from the Matakauri Lodge’s rimless pool.

The lodge is an intimate cluster of just 11 private suites and villas dotted amid landscaped gardens in a private section of the Lake’s shoreline. It also has a private arrangement with The Hills and Jack’s Point golf courses (across the lake – water taxi available) and day visits can be arranged by the ever-courteous concierge. Ski trips are as easily arranged.

The Hills golf club recently opened its own lodge – with equally impressive views, minus the lake – catering for up for 12 guests in exclusive luxury that includes having a Michelin-trained chef on hand to prepare all your meals, yet in an open kitchen that feels more like a friend’s rather grand holiday home.

Until recently, gentlemen were required to wear a jacket for dinner at the magnificent Matakauri Lodge but with complimentary pre-dinner cocktails and canapés, degustation-style meals that change daily, and relaxed but precision-driven service, it seems churlish not to continue this fine habit.

Guests have a choice of splendid spots from which to enjoy the food and views, and those seeking privacy can opt to dine in their suites or in the residents’ library upstairs. All drinks are included with meals, and it goes without saying that guests can choose from the very best of local wines, advised if need be by knowledgable sommeliers, who are in regular contact with local winemakers and often have exclusive access to limited vintages, such as some of the low-yield stickies.

Back in the action

So you’ve relaxed in the lap of luxury, and now you want to explore. Of course there’s AJ Hackett’s classic bungy jump options, but it doesn’t end there. For those who hate crowds, here’s a few suggestions for more exclusive adventures.

  • Spend a day in a Heliworks chopper exploring Fiordland in all its glory, with opportunities to get out and fish, dive and kayak in Lord of the Rings scenery – then dine on freshly caught produce. Overnight stays are an option. POA.
  • Stand in awe at the base of the millennium-old trees in the Mt Aspiring National Park – some of these trees were alive when the first humans stepped foot on this island. Dart River Jet Safari guides are experts in the area:
  • Design your own air charter trip, taking in quieter places or dropping you off for one-way bushwalks.
  • Sign up for a creative photography workshop led by award-winning photographers in some of the world’s most inspiring landscapes. Maximum group size is eight.
  • Visit the three-day air show Warbirds over Wanaka, held this Easter, April 18-20, which culminates with a mock air battle.
  • Vertigo Bikes; the name says it all. Whether you’re an overseas pro that wants to find the best runs ASAP or a beginner eager to keep the skin on your knees, these guys have the bike, tour and guide for you.
  • Nick Clark has been leading fly-fishing tours of the area for 30 years and overnight trips are an option for true addicts.
  • Luxury cruiser Pacific Jemm is available for charter, for business or pleasure trips on Lake Wakatipu, and can provide catering. It can accommodate up to eight passengers in four five-star, en-suite cabins.
  • If you’re going to try skydiving anywhere, Queenstown offers some great scenery for the ride down. NZone offers tandem jumps from 9,00ft, 12,000ft and 15,000ft.
  • If you thought heliskiing and powder were beyond you, think again. “If you can ski, you can heliski,” says Harris Mountains Heliski, which has 30 years’ experience in the business and offers and three-run day trip for blue-run skiers.
  • Dart Stables offers exclusive rides for experienced and novice riders ( while High Country Horses can arrange longer rides up to five days, travelling from hut to hut across the valleys (

A boat trip with Dart River Jet Ltd offers thrills without spills

Wine, wildflowers and wallabies

By Jane Canaway

First published in Your Garden, Autumn 2012

Sue and Sean Delaney tasting wine at Sinclair's Gully

It was a year or two after bringing in professionals to manage their vineyard that Sean and Sue Delaney noticed all the insect and aquatic life around their dam had disappeared.

“We realized all the herbicides, pesticides and fungicides the contractors were using was running off to the holding dam and killing everything off,” Sean explains.

“We thought ‘this is ridiculous’ – we’re living at the bottom of hill with this run-off heading to our house with young children and we could see the damage water-soluble sprays were doing; biodynamics was a way to find alternative method to break our reliance on chemicals.”

At this stage you may be thinking: ‘biodynamics – yes, heard of that – Rudolf Steiner’s take on organic farming, isn’t it?’ and, yes, that’s part of the story.

But biodynamics also requires planting, cultivating and harvesting according to the lunar calendar, as well as more spiritual aspects that critics have compared to alchemy and magic – such as creating compost improver from ‘Oak bark fermented in the skull of a domestic animal’, fermenting dandelions in a cow’s stomach for another preparation, stirring spray solutions in alternative directions for an hour to energise the mix, and burying a cow’s horn to improve the soil’s condition.

Such unorthodox methods might raise eyebrows in a Nimbin commune, so what was the appeal for city professionals with accounting and engineering backgrounds?

From skeptic to accept-nik

“As an engineer I was very skeptical,” agrees Sean. “But I thought ‘if it works I’ll try it and if it doesn’t I won’t’. And, you know, a lot of it works.”

Sean quotes pruning as an example.

“When you’re pruning, you’re cutting 70-80% of the plant away, creating large wounds and increasing the chance of disease; in biodynamic culture you wait until the sap is moving up into the plant so when you cut the plant the wound will be wet – if you cut at a different part of the cycle when the sap is going down, you could pull disease into plant.

“So I tried it and cut the plant when the lunar calendar says it’s good to prune and [the wound] was dripping like a tap. I tried again four or five days later and it was dry. I did it a few times with different plants and it was always the same.

“As engineer I needed to know how things work but as I’ve got older I’ve had to accept that I don’t have to understand it if it works. I don’t believe in all that life force stuff but I think there’s a lot of stuff we don’t know about soil and growth so it will probably be explained one day.”

Because biodynamic methods aim to improve the soil health, and soil plays such a key role in determining a wine’s taste, biodynamic principals are being adopted by a growing number of wine makers who believe it improves their end product.

“I can’t put my heart on my hand and say it’s a better, healthier product but the methodology of making them is healthier,” Sean says. “Others who have gone down this path do it because they say it expresses the terroir and sense of place better in their wine; I can’t guarantee that – it may well but we do it because we live at the bottom of hill below a vineyard.”

Filling a gap in the forest

The Delaneys’ winery is the Adelaide Hills’ only cellar door in the area to be “climate action innovator and advanced eco-certified” and their business model has won a slew of tourism and environmental awards.

Sean and Sue are also happy with the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay their vines are producing and their sparkling wine has been ranked an impressive 93 in the prestigious James Halliday rankings. However farming was not even on the radar when they bought their 10.5-hectare patch of bush in 1997.

“We had no horticultural or agriculture background at all, but we had been looking for a project we could work on together and we fell in love with the property,” Sean says.

Wildflower walks through the Candlebark Woodlands are nearly as popular as the Sinclair's Gully wines

The land is home to a miraculously well-preserved stand of Candlebark woodland – an endangered ecosystem that has the highest conservation rating in the Mt Lofty Ranges.

“But the trees had been cleared from the top 5 acres – it was too big to revegetate and in ’96-’97 there were good tax incentives for primary production. Soil samples suggested it would be a good site for cool-climate grapes or olives – well, olives were a weed species that we were pulling out on the other side of hill, so we looked at grapes.

“If the land hadn’t been cleared we wouldn’t have had a vineyard, so it is just through serendipity that the property has been able to provide us with an income.”

Seedbank is biggest asset – and biggest threat

Aware of their land’s value in terms of habitat and biodiversity, the Delaneys have put huge amounts of time, money and passion into restoring its natural balance.

“Only 2% of remnant vegetation remains intact in South Australia,” Sean explains. “A lot of Candlebark woodland has been grazed, so you get the beautiful white trees and no understorey; our property has about 150 plant species and supports 66 birds,” he says.

However the Delaneys’ block was still under threat from weeds.

“Our biggest asset is the native seed still in the soil – it can stay viable for many decades – but our biggest liability is the weed seed that is also in the soil,” Sean says.

Their solution was to use “strip burning” techniques; burning off to sterilize the soil and create light and space to encourage seeds to germinate.

“The main weed species like broom and gorse emerge first but we can use a selective herbicide to knock that out and then the second flush is native seed.”

Some 600,000 plants have also been planted on the property and, through local Landcare group, Sue has recently won a grant to establish a biolink between Morialta to Coralinga parks, covering 260 hectares on 19 adjoining properties – an essential feature in a landscape where fragmentation is one of the greatest risks to remnant vegetation.

To complete the sustainable picture, the business has a policy of zero waste policy (“you buy differently and do a hell of a lot of washing up,” says Sean), all water is harvested and reused on the property and, to attract beneficial insects and increase biodiversity, native grasses are being replanted between the vines.

Good karma

As if repaying them, nature is rewarding their efforts.

Guided wildflower walks, live music events and the kids’ discovery trail through the bush are nearly as popular as wine tastings and South Australia’s Natural Resources Management Board uses the property as a showcase.

Interestingly, since adopting biodynamic principles, the vines’ yield has actually dropped by a third, but the quality has improved, and they save money on sprays. Plus the frogs have returned to the dam.

To help protect the local population of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, community baiting has removed at least 2,300 foxes over 13 years.

“We also have a family of Yellow Footed Antechinus living under the floor,” Sean adds.

The couple is constantly amazed by the power of the Australian bush to heal itself.

“Near here there’s a place that burnt down in 1980 and sat vacant for many years,” Sean tells. “A few years ago developers finally removed the concrete and a huge amount of native orchids and lilies came up; they had been buried for 37 years and yet the seed was still viable,” he marvels.

“Living here, you can’t help but be affected by the beauty of the place.

“We have mob of Tamar Wallabies that always give birth on same night – summer solstice – and two major insect hatchings on full moon twice a year; when you are living in the city, focused on TV, you don’t notice things like that.”

Permaculture meets capitalism in this man of the earth

Your Garden magazine, Spring 2011

From his Blundstone boots to his wild and woolly beard, Peter Allen is unmistakably a man of the earth.

His connection to his land is evident as he walks around his hilltop home in the Dandenongs, pointing out hydrangeas that remain from when the land was a cut-flower farm, describing the huge areas he and wife Silvia have reclaimed from the grip of blackberries, explaining how the geese, chickens, sheep and llamas complement each other with their techniques of ‘mowing’ lawns or scratching out bugs, and how the milk cows were the ones to conquer one particularly dense area of scrubby weeds.

It is this complementary inter-connection of life on the land that fuels Pete’s passion and led to him giving up a stellar career in retail in order to spend his days farming and learning – then passing on that knowledge.

More than 800 fruit varieties grow on the 3 hectares he cultivates (another 3ha has been returned to bush) and he can name them all, then give you a potted history of each one’s heritage to boot. Silvia’s expertise lies more with the animals, but their skills overlap a fair amount , as visitors to their farm shop or market stalls soon discover.

“It was my mum who taught me to fix the brakes on the car… so there’s none of this girl’s job, boys’ job stuff, it’s just a matter of who’s better at it – and who’s there,” he says.

Pete’s parents moved to a hobby farm in the hills when he was nine, but they had always been keen gardeners, growing much of their own food and keeping poultry, just as their own parents had.

“I didn’t have a childhood, I had an apprenticeship,” he says, only half joking.

“I like to conserve the old stuff – I’ve got apples that probably comes from Roman times but also modern varieties like ‘Pink Lady’. I like heritage things but also useful things,” he explains, going to extol the virtues of the East Friesian and Finnish sheep he and wife Silvia keep.

It is hard to believe that, for 15 years of his life, ‘Pete the Permie’ was the epitome of corporate man, working his way up the Coles business ladder and managing dozens of stores across Victoria – many of which were originally opened by his father during his own career with Coles.

“By the time I left [Coles] in 2002 I had a company Statesman and was on a six-figure salary but I gave it away to do this,” he says, gesturing to the teaching complex alongside his century-old weatherboard home.

“This” started out as a lifestyle choice, living off the land as much as possible and running permaculture and other courses to pay for the extras. However, Pete and Silvia’s constant thirst for knowledge and their enthusiasm to pursue new skills has led to an ever-evolving set of enterprises and plans.

“I probably run about four micro-businesses now, which isn’t bad considering I retired with no plans to do anything,” he laughs.

As Pete explains his different income streams it becomes clear that, alongside Pete the Permie, who loves nothing more than spreading the love about organically grown produce and age-old agricultural wisdom, sits Pete the Capitalist, master of the spreadsheet and natural entrepreneur, who can’t resist an decent business opportunity when he sees one.

Pete and Silvia’s central businesses are still running courses – the subject list grows each year – and a plant nursery, where gardeners can find hundreds of varieties of apples, pears, plums and citrus, as well as “old-fashioned” fruits, such as medlars, crabapples, quinces, figs, mulberrries and persimmons, and semi-tropical exotics, including babaco and taro.

Business Number Three is a cidery business, producing Snake Gully cider and perry, which grew out of what he calls “sly grog workshops” and a need to use the many tonnes of windfall apples that were going to waste.

Finally is his consulting business, designing passive solar home solutions and garden layouts, as well as pre-purchase land assessments for those planning their own tree change.

Added to that is his involvement with Petty’s Orchard, where he has co-ordinated the open day and run grafting sessions for several years, and other groups, such as the Heritage Fruit Society.

Then there is his writing: “English was my worst subject at school,“ he grins, loving the irony. “Now I’m paid to write for magazines and I’ve just released my first book, plus I’ve got about four more planned.”

Despite not enjoying school (“it was a bit regimental for me“), Pete’s overriding passion is for knowledge, and he reckons he has earned about 32 certificates on various subjects.

“I always had one night a week out studying – I didn’t know why I was studying all these weird things, they just appealed and Silvia was happy because she had one night a week on her own not listening to me,” he says. “Then when I did the permaculture class I realised it was all relevant to that, whether it was horticultural landscaping, meditation, accountancy or whatever.”

On his last trip to England, he bought about $3000 worth of books – mostly on apples and cider – and he has whole bookshelves dedicated to pet topics.

“Our trips are never really holidays, they have a theme – we spent nine weeks chasing around rare-breed farm parks in Europe and on another we did 50 cideries in four countries, including going to a festival that had been going for almost 2000 years in Spain.”

As well as making fruit wine, owning a still (he’s growing junipers to make gin soon), and producing 22 different dairy products, Pete was recently given a second-hand smokehouse, so his next project is teaming up with a local butcher to run courses such as A Pig In a Day and a preserving the harvest course.

It’s a busy lifestyle, but Pete reckons he’s never been healthier.

“When I left work I had six different health issues, and I used to work 90 hours a week don’t stop for lunch or eat properly – now I probably do more hours but the physical side of it keeps me fitter – I’ve lost about 10kg. Of course with making cheese and wine I’m never going to be skinny but the exercise balances out the love of food!

“We might do seven days a week and six nights a week … but it’s what we want to do … there’s a lot of embodied energy in me having acquired this knowledge and I believe I’m bound to pass it on, so if I don’t have kids I have to pass in on in some other way.”


Geared up

Appeared in first edition of Treadlie, December 2010


Despite mounting evidence that reduced car travel could provide a panacea for many ailments of modern life, it seems the message is too-rarely translating to action.

Last month (October) cyclists were given an armoury of ammunition to fire at recalcitrant governments by visiting Roger Geller, bicycle co-ordinator for the City of Portland, Oregon.

Once a typical, car-focused American city, the state capital has transformed itself by building the most comprehensive bikeway network in the USA.

As a result, the number of residents who consider cycling to be either their main or second means of transport is up to 18%. – higher in some areas.

Build it and they will come

Geller believes the key to Portland’s success has been extending the 10 kilometers of bike paths that existed in 1980 to a 500-kilometer network that criss-crosses the city today; paths range from lines painted on roads to separated ‘Copenhagen-style’ tracks with their own stop signals.

“We started with the easiest roads first – those wide enough to create bike lanes without it impacting other traffic – and we’ve slowly tackled harder and harder streets as we won more political momentum,” Geller explains.

Bike paths are signposted with direction, distance and approximate riding time, addressing the misconception that cycling is slow.

Portland’s building code says all new buildings must have long- and short-term bike parking and developers are given incentives to include showers and lockers.

Bikes can be carried on buses, light rail and trams.

Geller is quick to point out that while engineering is a key ingredient, other ‘Es’ of cycling are also vital: Encouragement, Education, Enforcement and Evaluation.

Good for the City

“We had a lot of complaints at the start,” Geller admits, and quotes: “ ‘Why are you wasting my taxes? – no-one is using the bike paths’ – but our data shows they are being used and the usage is growing.”

A major bonus for the city are statistics that show, in a city of many bridges, it is the bike traffic that is expanding, while car numbers stay the same.

“This means our bridges are still operating as well today for cars as they did 20 years ago – that’s huge for a growing city trying to manage transportation.”

Good for Health

Poor diet and lack of exercise is the second leading cause of avoidable disease in America.

“For the first time in history, our children are destined to have shorter life expectancies than their parents, and we have to do fix that,” Geller says.

A goal adopted by Portland city fathers is to get people out of cars and walking.

Quoting Danish statistics, Geller believes cyclists save between 25 cents and $1 on health costs for every kilometer they ride.

“This has huge ramifications for employers, who often pay health cover in US – plus fewer sick days,” Geller adds.

Safety-wise, Portland’s figures are encouraging, with the number of cycling incidents and injuries holding steady despite more cyclists.

“Cyclists today are four times safer than they were 10 years ago,” Geller cites.

Helmets are compulsory for riders under 16, but surveys have found more than 80% of all riders wear helmets – up from about 45% in the 1990s.

Good for Business

Winning support for bicycle road space became easier since businesses recognised riders as valuable customers.

Portland residents drive about 6.5 kilometres a day less than the national average – together saving US$1.2 billion a year on transport.

“We buy less gas and fewer car parts, and don’t replace cars as quickly,” Geller explains.

Of that US$1.2B, about $800 million is spent locally instead.

“People who ride bikes have more money in their pockets,” he says. “Businesses are noticing that and are asking for on-street parking to be removed and replaced with corrals for more bikes.

“There are currently 51 in city and 11 in the works, and 65 more have been requested,” Geller says.

“In a very barren economic time in US, inner Portland is doing quite well.”

New ventures have also sprung up to meet the new demand, such as a bike-friendly guest house, a community cycling centre and at least two boutique bike manufacturers.

Good Fun

An amazing 4000 cycling events are held in Portland annually, from pub crawls, mystery rides and heritage tree tours through to major events such as Peddlepalooza, Bridgepedal (20,000 participants) and the famous World Naked Bike Ride, which attracted 11,000 riders in 2010.

“There are a lot of ‘bike funnists’ in Portland,” explains Geller.

While more families and children are taking to bikes – and Portland-built cargo bikes are seeing more businesses use bikes – a challenge identified by the Community Cycling Center is encouraging cycling in Hispanic and other ethnic communities, many of whom live in outer suburbs where the bike network is weakest.

The Future

Now that the pro-bike lobby has some momentum, future plans include tripling the amount of bike lanes to 1500km, and making life harder for motorists by reducing their share of roads.

“Originally our policy aimed to make bicycling an integral part of transport.

“Now it is to make cycling more attractive than driving for trips of 3 miles [5km] or less.”

After surveying Portland residents on their attitude to cycling, city planners have identified four groups:

  • The Strong and Fearless, who will ride whatever the weather and even without bike lanes – about 1% of the population.
  • The Enthused and accomplished, who will only ride on bike lanes. This 18% are the ones the new Portland network has won over.
  • About 30% are ‘No Way, No How’ and will never cycle, whatever you do or say.
  • About 50% are Interested but concerned and want to ride but are terrified of bike lanes and traffic.

“This last group is who we’re now focused on,” Geller says.

To reach them, he believes the city needs a network to the standard set by Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

“They’ve created conditions where it doesn’t feel any less safe or comfortable to be on bikes as it does getting in a car. When people are able to look at just the advantages – the cost, the enjoyment, the speed – then they will use bikes.”

PORTLAND – Key Facts:

  • Portland has a population of 580,000 people and covers 380 square km.
  • The average distance per bike ride is 5km and the average speed is 16 kph
  • About 4000 bicycle events are held in Portland each year
  • If Portland rebuilt its bike network from scratch today, it would cost $60 million – roughly equivalent to buying 1.6km of urban freeway.
  • Portland spends 0.7% of its capital money on bike infrastructure but Geller warns that you get what you pay for – currently spending is at about $2 per capita, but he would like to see it increased to $18 or $10 million more a year.
  • Metrofiets, which makes cargo bikes to order, has crafted a bike for a local brewery that stores two beer kegs under an inlaid wooden bar, and boasts pizza rack and sound system.
  • Two thirds off all trips are now made by car in Portland. About 50% are trips of 5km or less.

How Does Australia Rate?

Geller said he was particularly impressed with the level of investment and the quality of the facilities being built in Sydney.

“They have clearly recognized the importance of separation from automotive traffic and that is reflected in their designs. Their challenge will be to make sure the facilities are well-connected and that people in the outlying areas are able to access the central city.”

Melbourne reminded Geller of Portland.

“I took several long rides and walks throughout city and surrounding areas and found I was able to be in either some type of bicycle lane, traffic-calmed street or off-street pathway almost constantly. The network seemed comprehensive and well-connected – at least in the areas where I rode. I also thought Melbourne was making good progress in improving the quality of their facilities by developing buffered bicycle lanes and were looking comprehensively at improving routes in the CBD.”

While in Australia Geller met MPs and councillors in NSW and Victoria, as well as VicRoads.

“I thought there was a high level of interest among all with whom I met and they were clearly open to learning what they could from me.

“As the Lord Mayor of Melbourne said at the Bike Futures 2010 conference, he hasn’t run into any mayors who are saying that they want more automobile traffic in their central cities.”

White choice

Published in Green Magazine, Issue 17

Despite bigger houses and more electrical goods, Australia’s domestic energy use is expected to fall in relative terms. This is mostly due to more energy-efficient appliances and homes – primarily led by government ‘carrot-and-stick’ programs.

The Star Rating system helps shoppers choose the most energy efficient refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, while Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) ban the sale of inefficient goods in Australia.

But there are still loopholes and even the ‘easy-to-read’ star ratings system needs to be approached with caution.

Also, underlying all the statistics is a common truth that the way a product is used, and how often it is replaced, often makes the biggest difference to your energy bill and footprint.

Star Ratings

Energy Rating Labels for all whitegoods became mandatory across Australia in 1992.

More stars means greater efficiency (to a maximum of six or 10) – but this only works when comparing models of the same size.

A larger machine may have more stars than a smaller model, but it will almost certainly use more electricity. So decide what size you need then choose the model with most stars.

Gas-powered appliances are not star rated.


Introduced to domestic fridges and freezers in 1999, Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) were rolled out to light bulbs, televisions and set-top boxes in the past two years and will apply to computers from June 2011.

However a 2010 Federal Government report found the standards were being undermined by different interpretations of ‘supply and sell’ across state and territory laws.

Another loophole allows users to import directly from overseas; so long as the product is not on-sold in Australia, the regulations do not apply.

Total Life Cycle Assessment

Life Cycle Assessment looks at all the cradle-to-grave impacts a product has, from raw materials through processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, to disposal or recycling.

For whitegoods, the in-use phase dominates, says Tim Grant, director of Life Cycle Strategies Pty Ltd.

While white goods have a high level of embodied energy from their manufacture, he said: “there are reasonable recycling options so those materials can be reused”.

With few longevity statistics available, Choice magazine bases its recommendations on customer feedback on reliability.

Longevity statistics are hard to find, agrees Aleks Efeian, marketing and communication executive for Bosch and Seimens Home Appliances (BSH) – partly because “how a product is used will impact on its longevity so manufacturers are hesitant to release those details”.

Instead, he says “BSH aims to reduce our total energy use per tonne of product by 15% by 2013” and other manufacturers are setting similar targets.

Hot water and solar power

Most new washing machines are only plumbed to the cold tap because heating water internally, while using more energy, is more efficient than using water heated by electric systems.

But with more households now using solar power or having solar hot water systems, there is a push for manufacturers to include dual taps to access this ‘green’ resource.

Size matters

Size, sensors and smart electronics have all helped whitegoods become more efficient in their use of energy, water and, where relevant, detergent.

Generally machines with larger capacities are more efficient relative to smaller ones, but of course a single person using a family-sized freezer or washing machine is not be an efficient use of power.

Choice magazine also found some washing machines did not perform well when filled to their claimed capacity, indicating some manufacturers might exaggerate this to gain a higher efficiency rating.

Lower water use has had an unfortunate knock-on problem – detergent residue on clothes, although this happens less with liquid detergents.

No matter how efficient a machine is, if it’s only being run at half full, it will be half as efficient. However, many machines – especially washing machines and dryers – now have sensors and will reduce the cycle or water use depending on the size of a load. Dishwashers with dual drawers are a good option for small loads.

Some of the biggest energy savings have been in the field of fridges and freezers; the E3 Committee, which monitors MEPS and the Star Rating system, found that in 2003, 88% of refrigerators sold did not pass 2005 MEPS levels, while in 2009, only 0.3% models sold failed, and many of these were old stock.

But when buying a new fridge, the biggest favour you can do for the environment is to recycle your old one instead of using it for beer in the garage; the refrigerator is the single biggest power consumer in many households and about 30% of households own two. Nearly 60% of households own a separate freezer.

The star rating system has not served chest freezers well because they are rated on a different scale to upright freezers. As a result, many appear less efficient, while nearly all are inherently more efficient and cost less to run.

The next generation of dishwashers will reserve the rinse water and, if it’s clean enough, hold it for up to two days to reuse on the first rinse of the next wash.

“Our most efficient machine uses just 12.3 litres of water to do full load, compared to up to 75 litres used in hand washing,” BSH spokesman Aleks Efeian said.

However humans use less electricity.

And, while the best clothes dryers are rated at six stars (out of six), the greenest clothes dryer is still sunshine and a rack.

Further reading

Gadgets and Gigawatts: Policies for Energy Efficient Electronics, published by OECD/IEA, 2009


  • If you’re not keeping a fridge at least two thirds full or a freezer at least three quarters full, it’s probably too big for your needs.
  • Automatic ice-makers and through-the-door dispensers increase a fridge’s energy use and price.
  • Manual defrost models tend to use less energy than frost free models, but must be defrosted regularly to remain energy efficient.
  • If you have cheap off-peak power, run dishwashers or clothes dryers overnight.
  • Externally venting dryers may save energy, to avoid moist air being recirculated.
  • A ‘suds save’ option can save water and detergent if washing more than one load at a time.
  • Avoid placing a fridge or freezer where it will be in direct sun and allow plenty of air to flow around it.
  • Cool food before putting in the fridge.
  • Use a thermometer to check fridge and freezer temperature. Freezers should run at -15°C to -18°C while fridges 3°C to 4°C.
  • Keep fridge seals clean and don’t leave doors open.
  • To calculate the rough cost of running an appliance, multiply the energy consumption figure in Kilowatts by the rate you pay per kWh – approximately 18 cents.
  • For an estimate of an appliance’s emissions, each kWh equates to about 1kg of greenhouse gas.
  • Hot water entering the machine must be no hotter than 60°C, so Choice magazine recommends installing a tempering valve on solar hot water heaters if there isn’t a controller already fitted.

Rating the System

New homes reach out across the western suburbs of Melbourne - without an eave insight

New homes reach out across the western suburbs of Melbourne - without an eave insight

Published in Green Magazine, Issue 16

An eight-star energy-efficient house touted to be “Australia’s first zero-emissions home” was opened to great fanfare this April.

It’s a huge leap forward from 1990 when houses averaged about 1 star on the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) scale. Before the introduction of national energy efficiency regulations in 2003, less than one per cent of Australian houses achieved the current standard of 5 stars (which rises to 6 stars on May 1, 2011) however a 2006 study by RMIT’s Centre for Design suggested Australia was aiming too low after finding American and British homes designed for comparable climates would be rated at an average of 7 stars.

So should we be worried, ashamed, pleased or dismayed with our star rating system? Is it a relevant measure and is the Master Builders Association right to say greater efficiencies could be achieved by improving older homes first?

The CSIRO designed and built the zero-emissions (AusZEH) house with partners that include Henley Property Group and Delfin Land Lease, and its experts estimate 13% of Australia’s greenhouse emissions come from home energy use.

If all the new housing in Australia was built to the same standard for the next nine years, the country would save 63 million tonnes of greenhouse gas – equivalent to taking all of Australia’s private cars off the road for more than two and half years.

But drive around any new housing estate in Melbourne’s outer west – the third fastest growing area in Australia – and you will see row upon row of homes with heat-absorbing, dark-tiled roofs and no eaves. They may meet the 5-star standard, but they will need a lot of air conditioning to make them liveable.

“Without basing the star rating system on performance, it is meaningless,” believes Jan Brandjes, a Dutch-born, Canadian-trained expert in sustainable home design.

He is keen to promote performance-testing of houses because he believes the software used to assess star ratings assumes standards that are rarely achieved.

“The software assumes a building is (air) tight but there is no way of checking this. It addresses the design issue well but doesn’t address way a home is constructed.

“If the insulation is not put in right or it has gaps all over the place, it will be leaking air like a sieve; as long as they leak, no amount of double glazing will keep the energy out of those holes.”

Henley Homes’ energy and sustainability specialist Adam Selvay agrees.

“I have tested about 20 homes and you see a wide range of leakage rates,” Selvay said.

“I would like to see the Air Change per Hour rating given a certain star rating so there is some benefit for putting in the effort to get it right; at the moment there is no incentive to builders to do this.

“[The software] also doesn’t take into account the carbon emissions or the type of heating you use.”

Henley Homes can build the same zero-emissions four-bedroom dwelling on any suitable block for about $315,000 – that includes double glazing, a 6kW solar power, solar heating, extra insulation, retractable shading and a wafflepod concrete slab.

The wafflepod slab incorporates polystyrene under the concrete for extra insulation and adds half a star to the home’s rating. However, the home’s air-tightness adds nothing to its rating.

Brandjes feels so strongly about this he now works in the business of blowdoor testing – checking the air-tightness of homes by blowing air through the sealed up front door and checking how much is leaking out.

“I’m not saying blowdoor testing is the be-all and end-all but it’s one of the tools that can be used.”

He tested the zero emissions house, which is now spot on (if the Air Change per Hour rate drops too low, the quality of air in a home is compromised and can risk the inhabitants’ health).

However, two award-winning homes he has checked that were built to seven-star designs failed to meet even a 5-star standard – one ranked as low as 2.5-3 stars.

“We need to address two areas – the software needs to include performance-based testing, and we need to educate builders in the importance of sealing gaps.”

The Master Builders Association believes it is already addressing the issue of training builders, with the Green Living training scheme launched in Victoria in 2005 and since rolled out into NSW, Tasmania and WA.

However, the group’s vocal stance in the Federal election was due to way the star rating system is being implemented.

“With the move to Six Star it is imperative that the industry is properly consulted and allowed to prepare for any new regulations,” Master Builders Association of Victoria deputy executive director Radley de Silva said.

“The cost involved also needs to be managed (and) there also needs to be greater consumer education and incentive to reduce energy consumption – as there has been with water use.

“There seems to be this focus on increasing star ratings on new housing stock but we believe there is greater opportunity to improve the star rating on existing stock. This would be a more sensible way of improving the average star rating across the board.”

This is the area that Mandatory Disclosure aims to cover – by making it compulsory for all homes to be star rated at point of sale or lease. The scheme has been running in the ACT since 1999 and is due to be introduced nationally on May 1, 2011.

However Brandjes see the current gaps in the system as becoming potentially disastrous when mandatory disclosure starts.

“It’s bad enough that someone spends money on a 5-6-7- star home then finds their energy bills are still high, but if every home that is sold has to be star rated, on what are they going to base the assessment – on the design? How will they assess insulation? And who’s going to do this – if people sell their home every seven years then that’s about 1.2 million homes a year – we don’t have the manpower to do that.”

The not-for-profit Association of Building Sustainability Assessors – which trained the home assessors for the now-defunct Green Loans scheme – believes its 6500 members across Australia can do the job – but agrees the federal government needs to hurry up and decide precisely what the job is.

“It’s a federal scheme but the states will be implementing it … at the moment there are a lot of different schemes and checklists – it all gets a bit messy,” ABSA chairman Wayne Floyd said.

ABSA has already released its concept model for mandatory disclosure, which states: “It is imperative to improve the existing housing stock … as new homes only contribute 2-4% of the total market. Existing homes can be rated using the NatHERS tools if a plan is readily available, and if not, there is already innovation that will allow this to be done without a plan.”

In the ACT, assessments take into account features such as building fabric, window design, orientation, air leakage and cross ventilation.

Another useful tool, Floyd suggests, are infrared cameras.

“It shows straightaway which windows are leaking air or where there’s no insulation in the walls without being invasive,” he said.

However, when this is sorted out, an even greater challenge looms – how to assess energy used by household appliances.

“When you look at appliances it gets really messy,” Floyd said. “Because it comes down to not just what you have in the house, but how you use those appliances.”

Further reading:



Imagine a way to reduce erosion and pollution in waterways and help water and fertilise your garden too. The solution might be as simple as disconnecting your home’s downpipes

and letting the water flow into an “ephemeral creek” – if you have a large enough block and the right soil.

For the rest of us, rather than risk flooding your garden and those of your neighbours, consider building a simple raingarden to capture and treat run-off before it hits the drains.

But don’t creeks and rivers need more water to stay healthy? The idea of reducing water flows might seem counter-intuitive, but the fast growth of Australia’s cities – and with it increased amounts of hard, impermeable surfaces – has resulted in waterways in urban areas across the country damaged by fast and too frequent stormwater flows and pollutants.

“The problem we have is the quantity and quality of stormwater flowing into our waterways,” says Phil Edwards, Melbourne Water’s team leader for stormwater quality.

“It flows into waterways too frequently, causing erosion; and the run-off from roofs and driveways also carries a degree of pollution and sediment, which is deposited in our waterways.”

Raingardens are designed to collect water from any hard surface – roads, driveways, footpaths or roofs – and to filter and clean it before it hits the nearest river. The filtering is largely done by the soil structure and microbes as well as through absorption by the roots of plants in the raingarden – a process called biofiltration.


As well as obvious pollutants such as oil, litter and animal faeces that are swept into stormwater drains from the street, dust, leaves and airborne pollution can also flow in from house roofs. Nitrogen and phosphorus are the main culprits, but the good news is that both are essential for plant growth. The goal is to feed raingarden plants rather than encourage algae in waterways.

Surprisingly, tiny amounts add up to make a huge difference even in large bodies of water. According to Phil Edwards, in 1999 Port Phillip Bay received 7000 tonnes of nitrogen – 1000 tonnes more than it is able to process. In Western Australia the Swan River has been hit by algal blooms and in NSW in July there were 11 “red” alerts for algal blooms in various waterways.

South-east Queensland has had an especially bad 12 months, with rains last summer washing high levels of pollutants into waterways.


Stormwater harvesting programs are being introduced in most major cities as planning departments adopt the principles of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD).

“We’re looking at alternative technologies such as small-scale filters that can fit into urban streets,” says Edwards. “In all major cities you’ll see these appearing, built by local councils or water authorities.”

In Sydney more than 80 stormwater harvesting projects should save about two billion litres of water a year. The city of Orange has devised a scheme to supplement its drinking water supplies with stormwater. The scheme captures some of the high flows in Blackmans Swamp Creek during storms and transfers these into the nearby Suma Park Dam to augment the city’s bulk water supply.


At its simplest, a raingarden can be a swale or depression alongside a driveway or footpath, or even at a low point in your garden, where rainwater can collect and gradually soak into the soil. (Swales created close to buildings should be lined like a pond to avoid damage to the foundations.) We covered this style of raingarden in “Rainwater Gardens” in Sanctuary 4.

If you have installed rainwater tanks plumbed to your laundry, bathroom, or kitchen, you have already reduced the amount of water that’s going to the stormwater drain. Depending on the capacity of your tanks, during wetter months your tank may overflow. By absorbing and filtering the overflow water, raingardens can help ensure all or most of the water that falls on your home and garden remains on-site.

According to Anjali Brown, the Alternative Technology Association’s water projects manager, “Filtering the overflow from your tank into a raingarden will help you get the most out of the rainwater on your roof. Keep in mind, however, that a raingarden which only receives irrigation through overflow will need highly drought resistant plants. One way to provide more water to your raingarden in this situation is to divert your first flush device into the raingarden as well. A first flush device diverts the first flow of water from your roof, which may contain pollutants, away from your tank each time it rains. Usually the first flush water gets sent down the stormwater drain but by diverting it to the raingarden, your filtering plants will get a little extra water every time it rains which will help them survive.”

The best type of raingarden to work in conjunction with a water tank is a plant bed raingarden. Plant bed raingardens are either an above-ground planter box or an in-ground lined trench. Inside the plant beds are layers of gravel and sand that slow water flow, filtering out sediment and pollutants from the water as it passes through. The filtered stormwater is collected via a slotted drainage pipe at the bottom of the filtration bed, and can then be discharged into your garden or the stormwater system.

Raingardens should be planted out with species that are particularly good at removing pollutants, such as Lomandra longifolia or Carex appressa, and hardy, indigenous species that will survive the dry periods between rainfalls such as other Lomandra species and Dianella species.

It is important to remember that any run-off needs to be kept out of neighbouring properties and a registered plumber is needed to connect your raingarden back to the main stormwater drain. Some WSUD principles may clash with local council by-laws, while other councils may have incentive schemes that are worth registering with first, so check before you build.


Melbourne Water is campaigning to get 10,000 raingardens built across the city by 2013. Its website ( raingardens) has a range of information sheets about above- and in-ground raingardens, including the materials you will need to make them yourself, as well as which plants to select, and how to work out the size of raingarden you’ll need for your situation. These information sheets would be applicable to conditions around the country (though it would be best to seek local information about indigenous plantings).

If you would prefer an above-ground raingarden you may need to buy or make a lined raised garden bed or buy a water tank and have a drainage hole installed – see the details on the Melbourne Water site to find out the size of the drainage hole you need.

Water Sensitive Urban Design
Melbourne Water, including links to instruction sheets for building
Stuart McQuire’s book, Water Not Down the Drain
Healthy Waterways
Alternative Technology Association capture/
Some tank suppliers include:

Volcanic awakening

volcanoPublished in Green magazine, July-August 2010


One of the positive things to come out of the decade- long drought in Southern Australia has been the development of some innovative water-saving plans. One of the most impressive is that of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Jane Canaway meets its senior designer, Andrew Laidlaw.

After being held in the fierce grip of drought for the best part of a decade, the “wasteful” sound of running water has become a distant memory in much of southern Australia.

In Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, the Fern Gully has been dry for many years, except after occasional rain, and visitors have grown used to ducks dabbling in muddy puddles where lakes used to be. However, a solution is in sight, and a key to its success lies in the recent re-awakening of a long-dormant volcano in the Gardens’ south-east corner. That landscaping project – completed this March – is stage one of a longer-term plan to create a sustainable water supply for the RBG, starting with approximately 68 megalitres of stormwater harvested from the nearby suburb of South Yarra. This water will enter the gardens through two stormwater pipes that will deliver the water into the Gardens’ lakes where it will be filtered on-site through a series of wetlands. This has the added benefit of removing 68 megalitres of diluted oil, dog faeces, salt and other pollutants washed from nearby streets that would normally run into the Yarra River.

In 1876 William Guilfoyle designed a reservoir in the shape of a bluestone-lined volcano that appeared to rise from the highest point of the Royal Botanic Gardens, with lawns created to mimic the lava flows between massed planting of shrubs, representing outcrops of land. For nearly 70 years it was filled with water from the Yarra River, which was then gravity fed to the rest of the gardens.

“It was possibly inspired by Guilfoyle’s plant collecting trips around the South Pacific,” senior designer Andrew Laidlaw said. “The Volcano was designed as a ‘Garden Folly’, a feature that visitors would come across in their meanderings around the gardens. “It holds 1.4 megalitres of water, which is enough for one cycle of our current irrigation.” However, Guilfoyle’s plan was plagued with many problems – including the loss of fresh water in the lower Yarra after waterfalls at Queens Street were blasted in 1879 to alleviate flooding and allow larger boats upstream. By the 1950s the irrigation system was attached to mains water and the volcano was locked up and slowly forgotten. Hidden by dense stands of olive trees, eucalypts and weeds, it was passed by generations of joggers and walkers without its being noticed – until a 1997 master plan called for its redevelopment.

Then drought hit. Toxic blue-green algae became a regular problem in the Gardens’ lakes, and mud flats were a common appearance in the Ornamental Lake – so a rescue plan seemed more appropriate than a simple redevelopment.

Laidlaw considers himself “very lucky” to be the one who landed the “plum job” of revitalising the feature – and he believes the timing was perfect, too. “If I’d been doing this five years ago we would probably have just done a pretty water feature, but now with the current water crisis it’s become an integral part of the Gardens’ water system,” he said. Along with Richard Barley, Peter Symes and Stephen Paterson, Laidlaw is part of a highly water-smart team that meant the RBG was one of the first Australian Botanic Gardens to develop an award- winning irrigation management plan that has been used overseas as a blueprint for other gardens.

While working on a revamped layout and drought-friendly plantings, Laidlaw consulted with both hydraulic and civil engineers about the possibility of filling the volcano with stormwater. “It was discovered that large amounts of stormwater from nearby suburbs was going straight into the Yarra [River] or to Albert Park and into the sea. Because stormwater hits the river fast it stirs it up and affects the flow rate, as well as carrying road rubbish and pollutants. By redirecting water through the gardens first, it reduces the water flow rate and cleans it. “The extra 68 megalitres is not enough to water the whole gardens but eventually, as part of stage 3, we hope to siphon off 120–150 megalitres of water required through a sewerage–water harvesting scheme,” Laidlaw said.

Becoming totally water-sufficient will be expensive, but Melbourne City Council wants all its parks off potable water-irrigation. Revamping the volcano cost $1.5 million and the next stage is to build the Working Wetlands in the Ornamental, Central and Nymphaea Lakes, which will cost about $2.5 million. Project Manager Stephen Paterson said tenders have been called for and it is hoped the 12-month project will start later this year.

Of the 68 megalitres captured, allowing for evaporation and overflow, “the modelling indicates we will be able to substitute about 40% of potable water with harvested stormwater,” Paterson said. The sewerage-harvesting scheme – if funding can be found for it – will cost at least $10 million. By contrast, water costs the gardens between $100,000 and $120,000 a year – and that is after spending $4 million on a new irrigation system in 1993, which has cut water use by more than half to 130 megalitres a year. “What’s exciting is we’ve got a whole new way of working with water that is environmentally friendly. And we’re actually bringing water to Fern Gully for the first time in years and bringing water to the parts of the garden that need reinvigorating. All based around the volcano.”


Two stormwater pipelines will be diverted to the RBG, carrying about 68 megalitres of water a year into the Ornamental Lake and a receiving wetland in Nymphaea Lake. The water goes through a gross pollutant trap to remove larger pieces of rubbish and sediments before flowing through a series of wetlands where less visible pollution is removed. Wetlands will be constructed in the Ornamental, Central and Nymphaea Lakes. The lake silt will be removed and clay used to line the area and build levees, creating pools of varying depths to hold the stormwater and selected wetland plants, which will grow in different depths of water. A bio-film of bacteria and fungi will grow on the large plant surface area and act as the engine of the wetland, removing nutrients from the water as it slowly flows through the wetland. Plants are also chosen for their ability to take up nutrients and top growth will be harvested and composted to remove the nutrients from the system.

Water from the Nymphaea Lake then flows through the Fern Gully – where waterfalls and mini rapids aerate the water – and into the Central and Ornamental lakes. Water will be circulated through the lakes and wetlands and pumped to the highest point in the Gardens, Guilfoyle’s Volcano. From this reservoir, garden beds on the Volcano slopes will be watered by sub-surface irrigation. The water will then flow back to the Nymphaea Lake and so will circulate through the wetlands; the whole cycle takes about 30 days. By pumping water from the deeper parts of the lake any layers of warm and cool water are mixed, which helps reduce the frequency and duration of Blue-Green algae blooms. Floating garden beds will be installed in the lakes and act as treatment wetlands, as the plants’ bio film-covered roots remove nutrients and improve the water quality.

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.”