By Dominique Hes
I know we don’t like to mention the wrong side of the bridge but there are some great regenerative projects happening that we can learn from and adapt for the western suburbs.
Supported by Regen Melbourne, the Sandringham community has been working together to develop a strategy that will increase the vitality and viability of their beachside village.
Regen Streets aims to downscale and localise the regenerative movement at a neighbourhood level. Portfolio Lead at Regen Melbourne Nicole Barling-Luke says it’s still in an exploration phase, working with a small number of pilot sites including Village Zero Sandringham. ‘We want to support these local movements to be as ambitious as they need to be,’ she says, ‘and learn how communities can effectively organise to build a thriving future for their people and place.’
These aren’t just airy-fairy words. Village Zero is taking action. Some of the initiatives include plans to:
- Generate and store locally produced renewable energy
- Reuse, repair, repurpose, and recycle local waste
- Increase and improve green space for connection
- Promote art and cultural activities
- Acknowledge the distinct local history
These projects won’t happen overnight but Nina Sharpe is confident that change will happen. She’s the Head of Impact at Uncommon Folk, a partner in the project, and says messaging is an important part of the process so that everyone understands what regeneration means. She predicts that within three years everyone will have embraced the concept and will be doing their bit to regenerate the village.
In ten years she hopes to see evidence of regeneration in Sandringham. ‘This will be measured by the health of Port Phillip Bay,’ she says. ‘The prominence of green space in the village which sprawls throughout the community connecting up our many areas of native heathlands, high production of renewable energy with no need for fossil fuels to power our usage and a circular economy in place.’
Nina says the concepts of regeneration provide a critical guide for their work and is more than just an interconnected approach to taking climate action. ‘It puts life at the centre of every action and decision,’ she says. ‘We acknowledge the severed connections between people and planet, and our actions are about repairing this. In doing the work, we also regenerate ourselves.’
The group is taking inspiration from zero waste movements in San Francisco, urban food production in Detroit, Bioregional Learning Hubs in England and groundbreaking community owned renewable energy initiatives in Scotland. So I asked Nina what advice she would give to folks in the inner west wanting to do something similar. She says we already have the formula to do something. ‘Once you stand up and help people see that they can work together and regenerate for better outcomes, they will join.’
But she did stress the importance of working with all levels of Government from the very start. ‘We have the local member Councillor Fiona Stitfold as part of our core group, Bayside Council officers from various departments as regular attendees to our meetings and a strong partnership with Independent Federal Member Zoe Daniel who was the spark who brought the initial group together during her first election campaign.’
‘There is not one recipe for success here; no right or wrong,’ she says. ‘Within each community there is a great diversity of skills, minds and ambitions who can regenerate. It’s not too late.’
And in an offer of east/west unity she says ‘If there is anything Village Zero can help with to get started, please reach out! We’ll be waiting for you’.
What to know more? Head to villagezero.com.au