Pig poo power plant set to boost jobs and energy in northern Victoria

An ambitious plan to turn pig poo and food scraps into power is being developed in northern Victoria.

The power plant, glasshouse and piggery expansion, called Waranga Green Energy, will be built at Stanhope, west of Shepparton. For over five years, it has been the dream of piggery owner John Bourke.

The project is set to transform the quiet town of Stanhope, providing an additional 30 jobs and estimated $10 million per year for the local economy. The aim of the property is to develop a closed system for power and waste on the farm.

Pig poo and straw from the intensive farming environment will be used, along with other food waste, to create power in an anaerobic digester plant to be built nearby. The plant will be used to power the piggery and provide heat to an expanded and upgraded farm.

Next to the power plant, a 4.6-hectare greenhouse will be built, using power and heat to grow leafy green vegetables, year round, to supply gaps in the seasonal markets.

The goal is to sell up to 20 million lettuces and over 20,000 pigs per year, along with liquid and solid fertiliser (a bi-product from the power plant) to the farm’s customers.

The price tag for the Waranga Green Energy and farm project is around $75million which Mr Bourke is planning to raise through superannuation and foreign investment.

He has hired a company to raise the capital needed.

An additional $1 million grant has been awarded by the Victorian State Government.

Mr Bourke is confident he will get the investment dollars he needs because of the high return from the project.

Construction is set to begin in early 2017 with Mr Bourke expecting the farm to be fully operational and sending food to market within the year.

Pigs on straw beds at a piggery at Stanhope

Pigs on straw beds at a piggery at Stanhope

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Agriculture worth half a billion dollars to Tablelands

Agriculture contributed more than half a billion dollars to the economy of the Tablelands in far north Queensland in 2015, a new agriculture profile has revealed.

The profile puts the combined value of the region’s 42 large agricultural industries at $552 million.

Agriculture has posted a 30 per cent increase in value over the last four years, despite the impact of prolonged drought in some parts of the region.

Agriculture Minister Leanne Donaldson said the impressive growth demonstrated the strength of the local industry and its importance to the Tablelands.

 Matt and Jess Fealy, Blue Sky Produce, Mareeba, are among the large number of avocado growers who make up the industry which contributed $83 million to the region's economy in 2015.

Matt and Jess Fealy, Blue Sky Produce, Mareeba, are among the large number of avocado growers who make up the industry which contributed $83 million to the region’s economy in 2015.

Ms Donaldson used a recent trade mission overseas to promote the region’s produce.

“While recently on a trade mission to Jakarta, Hong Kong and Beijing I was able to meet directly with industry and government officials and to profile Queensland produce to industry leaders, Asian importers and distributors,” Ms Donaldson said.

Dr Geoff Dickinson, a Mareeba-based senior horticulturist with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), said the department had just updated the region’s agriculture profile for the first time since 2011.

“The banana industry is the most valuable to the Tablelands, worth $91 million,” Mr Dickinson said.

“Avocado is second with a value of $83 million. Other notable industries are mango ($52 million), sugar cane ($39 million), beef cattle ($35 million), dairy cattle ($34 million) and poultry ($30 million), he said.

Blueberries, a new agricultural industry on the Tablelands, are now worth $11 million. Sweet potatoes, an old industry making a comeback are now worth $5 million.

Both these industries are highly labour intensive and have brought many new seasonal jobs to the region, Dr Dickinson said.

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Regional online shoppers drive Australia Post parcel boom

Regional and rural online shoppers are driving a parcel boom that is buoying the business of Australia Post.

Regional retail is evolving and people are buying more online, filling the regional delivery depots of Australia Post with everything from small cosmetics to car parts.

The high streets in many regional towns and cities are not the bustling centres of business they may have once been.

But in a mining region such as the WA Goldfields, even with a decline in population, online sales have increased.

Australia Post data, gathered by tracking what and where customers were buying items from, has revealed a 6.6 per cent growth in online shopping in Kalgoorlie. Popular shopping categories include: cosmetics and pharmacy items, which were up 38 per cent; media purchases, which consisted mainly of books, were up 32 per cent; and specialty food and liquor items were up 19 per cent.

Ben Franzi is the general manager of eCommerce and digital parcel services at Australia Post.

“If I’m living in Kalgoorlie, I probably don’t have as good an access to retailers as I might if I’m living in Perth,” he said.

“So that desire for products, for range and convenience and price, really lends to someone in Kalgoorlie buying a lot more online.”

Mr Franzi said the role of rural and regional communities in the future of Australia Post was “two-pronged”.

A career in the evolving postal depot

John Blake has worked for Australia Post for more than 20 years — he was once a postie and is now the manager at the Kalgoorlie delivery centre.

Mr Blake has seen the transition from letters to parcels first hand, and with branded packaging, he said he could actually see buying trends in action.

Depot manager John Blake has watched how post has changed over the past 20 years.

Depot manager John Blake has watched how post has changed over the past 20 years.

He said it was not uncommon to see items coming through the post that customers would once have bought locally.

“Motorcycle handlebars is one you see — you see wheels for cars, bikes,” he said.

Mr Blake said much had changed since the 1990s, when he worked as a postie.

“It was predominantly letters, you might have seven or eight items [requiring a signature] in a day — now they’ll have 30 or 40,” he said.

Australia Post has been experimenting with using drones to deliver parcels, particularly in more remote, rural parts of the country.

Instead of having to wind their way up a country road, where conditions might vary, in the future posties may launch a drone carrying a parcel, fly direct to the property, and lower the item to the customer.

Currently Australia Post was experimenting with drones that could fly for half an hour, and carry a two-kilogram parcel.

Mr Franzi said this technology was three to five years away.

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Squandering riches: can Perth realise the value of its biodiversity?

Perth is not known as a model for suburbia and its suburban condition is similar to that of developed cities the world over. However, it does stand out in one respect: it sits in an exceptionally biodiverse natural setting. A strong, informed vision for this setting’s relationship with the city could help Perth become an exemplar for similarly positioned metropolises everywhere.

The greater Perth region has been designated the Southwest Australia Ecoregion (SWAE). This is one of only 35 “biodiversity hotspots” in the world.

Reconciling future growth with biodiversity is a key issue for urban design and planning this century. Indeed, if current trends continue, global urban land cover will increase by 1.2 million square kilometres (equivalent to half the area of Western Australia) by 2030. Much of this will happen in biodiversity hotspots.

This is important because it is estimated we will lose nearly half of all terrestrial species if we fail to protect the hotspots. We will also lose the ecosystem services upon which human populations ultimately depend.

Perth has a reputedly strong planning system and is comparatively wealthy. If it can’t control its city form to protect biodiversity – compact cities generally being recognised as the best model for protecting land for conservation – then city administrators elsewhere, particularly in the developing world, are likely to struggle.

Perth’s Green Growth Plan

The release of the state government’s long-anticipated Perth and Peel Green Growth Plan for 3.5 million may herald a shift in the relationship between the city and the biodiversity hotspot. The plan encapsulates two broad goals:

  • to protect fringe bushland, rivers, wetlands and wildlife in an impressive 170,000 hectares of new and expanded reserves on Perth’s fringe
  • to cut red tape by securing upfront Commonwealth environmental approvals for outer suburban development.

While ostensibly positive achievements, a question remains as to the implications of clearing a further 45,000ha (3% of the Swan Coastal Plain) of remnant bushland which is not protected by the conservation reserves.

Furthermore, the typically disconnected conservation reserves proposed in the Green Growth Plan lack overall legibility. This stymies the public’s ability to conceptualise the city’s edge, which leads them to care about it (like London’s greenbelt, for instance).

Finally, a question remains about how a plan that places restrictions on outer suburban development will accommodate the powerful local land development industry over time. This is a concern given the frequent “urban break-outs” – where urban development occurs outside nominated growth areas – between 1970 and 2005.

In 2003, the ABC asked revered Western Australian landscape architect Marion Blackwell, “Are we at home now in the land we live in?” She replied, “No, we’re not. We don’t know enough about it, and not enough people know anything about it.”

We still have work to do on our engagement with biodiversity in Western Australia, and Perth specifically, before we can become a model for future cities.

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Book your spot at the Australian Regional Development Conference!

The 3rd Australian Regional Development Conference is on again this September and will this year have a theme of ‘Regional Australia – Planning, Participation and Progress’ –  exploring opportunities for innovation in regional Australia. With its rich resources, diversity, and value, regional Australia is the catalyst for the future.

Attending the Australian Regional Development Conference this year so far, we have 24 local councils from throughout Australia along with representatives from 5 branches of Regional Development Australia.

Concurrent session themes include:

  • Agribusiness
  • Community Development
  • Digital Economies
  • Employment
  • Innovation
  • Investment
  • Land use Planning
  • Regional environmental sustainability
  • Sustainable Development and Urban Planning
  • Regional Tourism Development
  • Water

The conference will be held in Canberra on 5-6 September 2016 and is designed for individuals and representatives from organisations with an academic, business or professional interest in regional development.RD Small

Full registration will include all conference sessions and keynotes, morning teas, lunches, afternoon teas, conference dinner, conference materials including handbook and the on-line book of abstracts. It also includes access to the book of proceedings and presenter podcasts, post conference.

Click here to register for the conference today.