Global problems, local solutions

Video transcript

Text: Victoria’s Big Build. EcologiQ Greener Infrastructure Conference 2022. Victoria State Government.

Professor Tim Flannery:

Welcome to the final two panels on our program.

Before I start though, can I ask is Jack Johnson in the room?

Put your hand up Jack if you are, you might have won a special prize.

Someone’s found your wallet so it’s at the desk but you’ll have to produce your ID before you pick it up.

So anyway, good luck with that I hope you get it.

Look our next panel is our penultimate panel, it’s on the role of local government in creating opportunities, testing materials, innovations and collaborating with the sector to make circular material solutions business-as-usual.

It’s a big ask but I’m looking forward very much to hearing this panel.

It’s going to be moderated by Vanessa Petrie who is the General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy at Darebin City Council, and she’ll be joined by local government representatives, Tina Perfrement, who is the Economic Development Manager at the City of Greater Geelong.

We’ve got Maurice Serruto, Unit Manager, Engineering, Design and Construction at City of Whittlesea, and Nina Bailey, Senior Sustainability Programs Officer at the City of Darebin.

So I’ll welcome all of our panel members onto the stage, thank you.

Text: Global problems, local solutions list of panelists.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

Thank you.

Good afternoon everyone.

I’d like to acknowledge that we are meeting on Woi Wurrung and Boon Wurrung land, and I pay my respects to Elders past and present.

And I’d also like to extend my respects to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues who are with us this afternoon.

So the Victorian State Government’s Big Build is awe inspiring, just the magnitude of it, and it’s so exciting what is being achieved in drive circularity and sustainability.

In local government a Big Build Project might happen every 10 years, and it might be in the order of $40m-$60m, but every single year we deliver a lot of little projects.

And Australian local Government in 2019-20 the value of our assets was $523 billion, so as a sector our little projects add up and can have a big impact.

So we can innovate, we can really drive sustainability, we can be a part of the solution, and many of us are committed and we’re doing that.

So here today I’ve got three amazing colleagues with some really exciting projects to share, and we’d like you to ask us questions about what can we do in the local government sector to drive circularity, and what are some of the things we need to make it BAU.

Text: Age-defying bridges.

First up is, I think, one of the best bridges I think has ever been built in Australia.

It’s made of geopolymer and I absolutely love it.

Tina, tell us about your no-maintenance bridge and what makes it so special.

Tina Perfrement, Economic Development Manager, City of Greater Geelong:

Thanks Vanessa.

Hi everyone and thanks for sticking around for this afternoon’s session.

I’ve been asked to give you an outline, a bit of a story basically in a couple of minutes, and I hope you’ll all be able to ask some questions to get down to the specifics about what I call age-defying bridge.

There’s actually a couple of them now you can see in that photo that’s on the screen, and we’re about to go out to tender for third zero-maintenance recreational bridge with 100-plus year design life.

We went out to tender for that project back in 2017, and the intention was to work with suppliers to be able to find an innovative solution to the waste problem that was being caused by bridges in our recreational spaces that weren’t lasting for as long as we needed them to.

And we went out to market to look for this zero-maintenance bridge and spent a good few years working with suppliers across the Greater Geelong region.

We had a terrific response from suppliers all over Australia actually, who came out of the woodwork to talk to us about what it was we needed and how they could help us to come up with a solution.

The thing about the method that we used is that it was the first time in Australia that we’d used an innovative procurement method.

It’s called procurement for innovation, we borrowed it from the UK, and our procurement team and our engineers who embarked on this age-defying bridges project found it a really useful methodology to work through a process so that they could figure out what was the need they wanted to take out to suppliers on the market and then work with suppliers to help come up with solutions for that need, and the supplier support was fantastic.

We were lucky enough to be able to provide grants and lots of one-on-one support to then be able to ensure that when our council went to tender that we actually knew there were going to be suppliers who rocked up and participated in that tender exercise.

So it’s been terrifically received at our council, we’ve use it a second time now, and we’ve just embarked on a third procurement for innovation project.

Thanks Vanessa.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

Thank Lisa, and I’m a huge fan of geopolymer.

I never thought I’d be so interested in cement but I am.

Text: Sustainable Road Rehabilitation.

Speaking of exciting infrastructure, this is a road, and I don’t know, we’re probably all very excited by roads in this room if we’re all honest, they’re really amazing, connecting our community, almost taking them for granted what they do what they do for us in building place for people.

But this road’s pretty special, it’s Yale Drive.

Maurice, what is it about this road that makes it special and sustainable?

Maurice Serruto, Unit Manager, Engineering, Design and Construction, City of Whittlesea:

Okay, thanks Vanessa.

So this is an ex-situ foamed bitumen stabilisation project which on the previous panel members spoke about foamed bitumen stabilisation briefly.

So we did this ex-situ, in other words we took the road pavement away and with our partner Repurpose It, produced foamed bitumen stabilised pavement.

Just as a bit of background though, firstly the road was in pretty bad shape and the easy thing was to do, it’s an industrial road in Epping.

If you know Epping it’s in Melbourne’s north in the City of Whittlesea, and the road is in pretty bad shape and what we would normally do with that would be profile it out and put in 150ml of base core cement, 40ml of wearing course.

On this occasion, around this time, Repurpose It, who is just up the road from this project actually, would talk to us about what we can do to make our roads more sustainable, what projects can we partner with.

And we were just talking informally and wouldn’t you know, Sustainability Victoria’s Sustainability Infrastructure fund popped up and said we’ve got a grant for you if you wish to apply.

So we did and we collaborated with Repurpose it and lo and behold was successful in the grant.

And when someone gives you $55,000 you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

So we looked at this and we said well, are we going to do this, we said yes we are because the easy thing is not do just do business as usually, but you’ve got to have the mindset to do it, so that’s the first barrier is to change your mindset.

Our mindset was, well we’re going to make this, we’re going to make this a sustainable road.

So what makes it sustainable, the bottom 150ml, which is the real load carrying capacity of the road is made from 95% recycled materials, and that was crushed concrete, crushed road and recycled glass sand.

And the reason this project really excited us is because supports Victoria’s [0:08:43] policy which Whittlesea has just rolled out in terms of kerbside recycling.

So it contains, I think, 9.5% glass which has been repurposed as a sand.

If you don’t know what foamed bitumen is by the way, it’s when you mix hot bitumen with aggregates, [0:09:03] and then inject with cold water.

And what happens then the foam expands, when it collapses it coats the particles, you mix it all up, binds it all up, the bitumen’s the glue and keeps the road together.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

Thank you.

I have a question.

How important are grants and financial incentives to local government?

Text: Recycled redevelopment of KP Hardiman Hockey Field.

I’m going to invite Nina to share with us, give us a magical mystery tour of KP Hardiman Hockey Reserve, which we were really fortunate to get a really generous grant from Sustainable Victoria.

So Nina, can you give us the pitch on the hockey field and can you let us know your thoughts on how important you think grants and financial incentives are?

Nina Bailey, Senior Sustainability Programs Officer, City of Darebin:

Sure.

Thanks Vanessa, good question.

So the KP Hardiman Hockey Field project was a field upgrade completed last year which is a flagship circular economy project for us because of the amount of recycled content that we used in it.

So it’s in Kingsbury on Plenty Road and it’s now the new home of the Latrobe University Hockey club and also gets used by Reservoir High School students.

The total cost of the project was $3.18m and grants were super important in allowing council to do this project because we did, we got an SV Sustainable Infrastructure Fund grant as well, for just under $300,000.

And also a DJPR Women in Sport grant as well, so yeah, grants help councils take that leap to do extra work, and when there’s something themed like, obviously the Women in Sport one is relevant for the users, but that tapping into sustainable infrastructure was of great interest for us.

So what that meant was significant amounts of recycled content were used in the new project, but also waste avoidance started from the demolition phase of the original field.

So we did things, our project manager team did – the existing metal fencing was recycled, trees which had to be removed were used as mulch, old turf was reused on schools and golf courses nearby, crusher dust fine and concrete was reused in the new project things like that.

And then in the new project we’ve got about 230 or so tonnes of recycled content products were used, so these include things, like we’ve heard about today, so there’s a rubber shock pad which was tyre from Australia, 90% recycled content from trucks and car tyres.

The asphalt through contains recycled plastic and that was PolyPave Asphalt, about 40% recycled, crushed glass in the trenching was from Repurpose It, so it’s a really good list of all these different companies that you can see out there as well.

We had re-plastic furniture, so this photo here is a nice one because it does show you quite a lot for just a small photo, but the furniture we’re pleased with because all the chairs and tables were all made from recycled hard plastic.

And then the concrete actually are also crushed glass was used in the trenching and that was Repurpose It.

And then another one was reuse of recycled, we were going to use recycled glass in the concrete as much as possible but what happened during construction was noticing an odor issue, and we were unable to get a stock of recycled glass that was clean enough to use, so we switched from recycled glass to recycled soft plastics, and that was new for council to be working with that and use that company as well, so trialing new things and that worked really well, so that was recycled soft plastics from the Coles and Woolies collections.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

I love Nina, just the agility of being in the middle of delivering a project that was already quite innovative, and not the normal way you’d deliver a hockey field, and finding a way really quickly to replace the recycled content that wasn’t working with the different content.

Nina Bailey, Senior Sustainability Programs Officer, City of Darebin:

Yeah.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

So I love this next question, what is the superpower of local government compared to state projects?

Who would like to give that a crack?

Tina Perfrement, Economic Development Manager, City of Greater Geelong:

Haven’t got an idea.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

They’re so secret we don’t want to share them with you.

Tina Perfrement, Economic Development Manager, City of Greater Geelong:

I don’t know if you’d call it a superpower, but it’s definitely a motivator.

So in our local area in Geelong there’s a really big push for local content, and so in our exercise for those two geopolymer glass fiber reinforced bridges that we start with, and for the procurement for innovation projects we’ve initiated since then, our superpower has been about that intention to engage with our suppliers and use local content where and when we can, and if it’s not there, work with our suppliers so that it will be there when we go out for tender.

So I guess it’s that flexibility, I guess would be the superpower, to be able to draw in as much support as we can with our local suppliers.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

Thanks Tina.

Maurice, what are the main barriers that you think exist for local government and for us to be able to make this BAU, what are those barriers, what do we need to fix?

Maurice Serruto, Unit Manager, Engineering, Design and Construction, City of Whittlesea:

Sure.

This has been spoken about a lot today, and I went to a seminar at RMIT on Friday and one of the speakers said one of the dangers of speaking next to last is that you’ve heard it all before.

But anyway we’ll have another go.

Firstly as I said before, I think the main barriers is yourself, and you have to have that focus and that mindset.

Well, it’s easy to look for reasons not to do something, it’s harder to look for reasons to do something.

And we’re all very busy, we’ve all got big, big projects, you know, a lot of money to spend, and we’ve got to get things done, but it’s very important to do these long-term sustainable initiatives.

So other than your mind, the other barriers for me personally, and I think as a professional engineer with a code of ethics, is that things have to be safe, safe for the workers, safe for the community, they have to be environmentally safe and we don’t want to fix one problem and create another.

And somebody mentioned, you know, the road isn’t a linear landfill so it’s important that there’s no long-term environmental aspects.

Of course finally, the product has to be fit-for-purpose and has to perform for its design life.

Sorry, and so what we need there is the development of specifications to keep up with the technology, and I think we’re getting there, but maybe we’ve got to do more of a shift towards performance-based specs in the short-term to keep up.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

Thank you.

I’ve got another one, how important is it for DoT and other government agencies to lead on sustainability standards for council infrastructure programs, which is building on what you started to talk about.

Perhaps I might invite Tina or Nina, if you had any, kind of, reflections to build on this theme.

Nina Bailey, Senior Sustainability Programs Officer, City of Darebin:

A comment about the even in linking into the superpower question, one of the things I think works really nicely about linking state government and local is that with something like the bio-recycle directory, so if state government can do this work across multiple stakeholders, do all the research, do some sort of quality testing and produce guidance that we can then use because councils are time-poor and like lots of people there’s a lot of work being done in this space, so if we have a trusted source of information that’s great.

But also this can get tested at the local level, so in the KP Hardiman project, my colleagues who were working on it said that they spent some time early on using bio-recycle but then also noticing that they did their own research locally with their own local companies.

So we can take those standards and guidance and also add up, would feed up to them just from that local knowledge of the local small businesses who might be willing to try these new materials.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

Thanks Nina, and that’s so important for local governments where a lot of our businesses are SMEs and we want to be able to support them too.

Tina, how can councils work to ingrain circular economy principles on a truly local scale and reduce the transport of resources?

Tina Perfrement, Economic Development Manager, City of Greater Geelong:

I think looking at the strategic intentions that a council has, and they have committed to with their community is a really powerful way to ensure that circular economy principles are truly taken into account when the local council goes out to buy stuff.

If was one on the mechanisms that we used when we went out for the bridges was to look at what were the outcomes that we wanted to deliver on in relation to those bridges, not just bridges in recreational spaces but what strategic intentions did we have?

And if they’re around circular economy then you describe that in your tender documentation, if they’re around positive social impacts then you explain those strategic intentions in your tender documentation.

These are all outcomes that often we’ve found suppliers can help you to deliver on, can help us councils to deliver on, but we’ve just never asked them for it before, and so if you describe these kinds of strategic intentions in the documentation that they have to respond becomes a really powerful feedback look.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

Thank you.

Maybe one for the Yale Drive project, looking here about that project, have there been any state government guidelines or tools that have been easily transferable to Whittlesea in how you’re looking to drive circularity in your roads and other infrastructure?

Maurice Serruto, Unit Manager, Engineering, Design and Construction, City of Whittlesea:

Yeah.

Certainly the DoT specs have been helpful in the Yale Drive project.

We were able to adapt one of the existing specifications in situ foam spec to the ex-situ, so that was good.

I think it could be more improvement from say the likes of, I think the EPA or Worksafe to ensure these products are environmentally sustainable, and also safe for workers and the community.

So if the EPA could give its stamp of approval to a product, I’m not sure if that’s feasible or if that can be done, but I know that attending, as I said a Plastics in Asphalt seminar at RMIT on Friday, there’s been a huge amount of work done by RMIT for Australia’s project, and there’s a framework being developed there for all these new products that go through that framework of safety, environment and performance.

So I’m not sure if that’s answered but …

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

Thank you.

This is a nice one for you Nina. How did Darebin overcome internal barriers, for example with asset management engineers concerned about products?

Now I’ll just quietly add that’s a bit of an assumption about asset management engineers that perhaps we shouldn’t have, but over to you Nina.

Nina Bailey, Senior Sustainability Programs Officer, City of Darebin:

I think a good question.

It also reminds me of what Maurice was just saying about wanting to be reliant on the safety of these products as well.

So if we can have guidance coming from outside about whether the new products are, you know, whether we can use them without feeling the need to trial and test, and do very small scale work to then scale up that’s really great, so whatever we can look to for that.

I think what’s happening at Darebin is that each time one of these projects happens the people who’ve worked on it then talk to others, and others have already started using new amounts of say recycled asphalt or recycled footpaths with recycled concrete.

So talking, linking up parks and recreation facilities, capital works teams, so one of the things that my area is doing in Darebin, so we focus more on sustainable consumption and so facilitating work across council and forming things like sustainable infrastructure working groups, so if someone has just finished a project they can talk their colleagues.

So that work that we’re doing we will also feed up that happening elsewhere because other councils are doing that, state government’s doing that with councils, so I think all of that helps people overcome concerns.

Also, at somewhere like Darebin, there’s top-down, there’s social procurement policies that’s getting updated now to have more sustainability and circularity and all of these things as well, so you know, by having policies that we do need to follow that’s there, but then also just having that confidence by seeing others doing it and knowing that you can ask questions of colleagues, all of that helps.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

Thank you.

And I’d just like to share like Nina and I are in the sustainability division but it’s actually our colleagues in Public Works and Capital that are driving this, and that’s when you really get success when you’re not relying on the environment people to pull something off.

This is a really important question.

How are we bringing regional indigenous organisations along the journey and building capacity and opportunities for Aboriginal-owned and controlled businesses and the community groups?

Tina Perfrement, Economic Development Manager, City of Greater Geelong:

I’ve got an example that I can share.

So in our bridges tender documentation we wrote into that document that we wanted to provide employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainees, and so we offered to make connections to suppliers to the training programs that existed on our patch in Geelong for indigenous trainees to be able to be brought into those businesses so that they could then become part of the supply of products that we were buying.

So we were fairly specific about that in our tender documentation which meant that suppliers who engaged with us were then able to get access to the information.

So we asked and the suppliers responded and it was really terrific to see that feedback loop.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

Thanks Tina.

And that’s just another example of the innovation method, like really giving the market and the community a chance to innovate.

I think this might be our last or our second last question, we’ll see how we go.

Are local governments including sustainability strategies into their master plans, should this be a target so industry knows what motivates each unique local government organisation, and I’m really pleased that you’ve recognised the word unique, you really get, yeah, that captures the sector?

Maurice Serruto, Unit Manager, Engineering, Design and Construction, City of Whittlesea:

Yeah, I might have a go at this one first, but certainly yes, Whittlesea has a very comprehensive sustainable strategy and it certainly motivates the employees within Whittlesea, and I know there’s a lot of internal pressure to look at sustainable options, so this comes from the community however, and the community wants to see us develop sustainable options, sustainable not just environmentally sustainable but financial sustainable as well and to use people’s money wisely, so yeah, very much so.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

Thank you.

Do we have – we’ve got time for maybe one last question, is there anyone that would like to ask us something?

Here we go, is there any state or federal government support to regional councils to motivate them to use recycled products in capital works delivery?

Nina Bailey, Senior Sustainability Programs Officer, City of Darebin:

I would say that SV Sustainability Infrastructure Fund that we both, you know, maybe all three of us, like that’s definitely top of mind.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

And possibly having those standards in place too.

So I know you would have worked so hard to do something that is not standard, it’s has extra risk, you’ve got to work extra hard, you’ve got to spend more time working with your colleagues, so just touching on that standard point that we had earlier.

Maurice Serruto, Unit Manager, Engineering, Design and Construction, City of Whittlesea:

Sure.

So as I said before, there wasn’t an established standard for this but, you know, nothing ventured nothing gained, we have to start somewhere.

We were able to adapt another standard.

I was able to research the required performance of the product and I was satisfied that Repurpose I supplied the product that met the particular performance requirement, and subsequent to that we’ve done a series of testing on the road.

We did testing on the day to achieve compaction which we did, and then we’ve done subsequent, three lots of deflection testing, and I’m please to say that each subsequent test we did the deflections were getting lower and lower which means the pavement was actually really starting to perform to its intended purpose.

And the latest information we have is that it will fulfil a 20 year design life.

So I will say that early on, as George from Repurpose It mentioned earlier, that we were concerned that perhaps this trial wasn’t as successful as what we would have liked, but as time went on the product has proved to be successful.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

Thank you. And we have probably the last question.

So Darebin, yes, we were the first council in the world or government jurisdiction in the world to declare a climate emergency and now one billion people worldwide are represented by the jurisdiction that has declared, how do you manage this and sustainability, are they interconnected?

I’ll give you a short answer they are absolutely intertwined and connected.

They go climate emergency response in Darebin really goes hand in hand with everything we do.

Nina, would you like to add a little bit more to that?

Nina Bailey, Senior Sustainability Programs Officer, City of Darebin:

Yeah.

And to link in the circular economy side of it as well, our colleagues in the climate emergency team right now are revisiting community consultations to marry up a community vision for climate emergency with what council has been doing and can keep doing.

And so we see circular economy of course is entwined with climate emergency, so there’s a lot of different words, you know, we’ve been using sustainability for a while, climate emergency encompasses everything as well.

So having that to-down constant reminders which do trickle constantly to staff so we’re always reminded of it.

So there’s these public pledges which mean that’s married up with strategies and policies and it’s part of our everyday work.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

Thank you.

Our last question’s almost an existential one but we’re going to have a go, what are your views on insourcing versus outsourcing?

Do you believe that outsourcing may offer benefit for a sustainability future that may be unachievable insourced?

Tina Perfrement, Economic Development Manager, City of Greater Geelong:

I’ve got an answer for that one.

I think that it’s a balance between the two.

There are lots of really clever folks who work in local councils, but we can’t do it on our own, because we don’t make stuff and we don’t provide services from our own jobs within our councils, so we have to outsource stuff.

But what we have learned is it’s really important to share what it is we do with our colleagues and with our practitioners, and so we’ve created a training course around our procurement for innovation method, for example, to train other folks about how to do it so that we can continue the insourcing that’s needed to be able to get suppliers to help us achieve what our strategic intentions are.

So I would say existential as it is, it’s a balance of the two to achieve sustainable outcomes.

Vanessa Petrie, General Manager, City Sustainability and Strategy Darebin City Council:

Thank you so much and thank you for all your excellent questions.

If you think of something after today or we haven’t covered ground, we’re really happy for you to reach out to us on our email or LinkedIn where, you know like you, we don’t just work in sustainability and circular economy it’s a lifestyle choice so we’d be really happy to keep chatting with you, thank you so much.

Text: Victoria’s Big Build. EcologiQ Greener Infrastructure Conference 2022. Victoria State Government.

Professor Tim Flannery:

Well thank you Vanessa and the rest of the panel for that, that was fantastic.

I think that, you know, often you find amazing leadership in local government and we’ve seen that very clearly today.

Text: Victoria’s Big Build. EcologiQ Greener Infrastructure Conference 2022. Victoria State Government.


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