For BSFG, the review sessions held in March and April, and so well facilitated by Cath Botta, have given our organisation a new burst of enthusiasm, and new ideas to move forward and engage with the community and local government, in addition to continuing the successes of the Food Coop and REB's community energy project. Each of the focus groups established during the review sessions have already had preliminary meetings to establish their plans of action.
Also, on a very positive note, from the review sessions, was the interest shown by younger people in the work of BSFG, and this, together with ongoing contact with student leaders at Benalla College gives me encouragement that we can continue to enhance our engagement with the wider community on these vitally important issues. Some of this year's student leaders have registered for the Youth Climate Action Group sponsored by the City of Shepparton.
Just last week, we conducted a successful forum for landlords in Benalla on the topics of installing solar systems on their rental properties, along with potential energy efficiency measures to take to improve the houses. The forum was addressed by Brad Foletta from Solargain, and the audience of around 30 people were quite engaged in the discussion. A forum for renters will be held next week, and largely concentrate on the energy efficiency theme. Thankyou to Peter Maddock and Kevin Smith for leading last week's forum in my absence.
BSFG members also contributed some regular articles to the Benalla Ensign over the past twelve months - these were related to issues around the use of plastics and waste management.
I want to acknowledge the incredible amount of thought and energy that has gone into enabling the Food Coop to continue functioning throughout the pandemic. Congratulations to firstly Christine, and then Susanne, and the coop committee for developing strategies and procedures to safeguard the health of members during this time.
Congratulations also to REB for securing the funding for a second solar on kindergarten project, and now that the revolving fund is beginning to build, they can look forward to auspicing further projects very soon.
After a hiatus of 2 years, we are excited to have the Swanpool Environmental Film Festival returning next weekend. This festival has become a highlight of the annual cinema program, with the range of internationally and nationally recognised experts who have accepted the invitation to speak, and the fantastic selection of films that have informed, challenged and encouraged us over the years. Thanks and congratulations to Ian Herbert and the festival committee for providing us with yet another great program, and of course to the Swanpool catering team for their efforts in providing the physical nourishment required to see us through the 8 or 9 hour program!
Amongst all the positive achievements of BSFG during the past 12 months, unfortunately there was one large disappointment - our petition of 600 residents and submission to Benalla Rural City Council to declare a Climate Emergency and develop plans to reach net zero emissions by 2030 was rejected. We will endeavour to work closely with Council to make sure that steps are taken to reduce emissions, to help Benalla avert the worst consequences of climate change. The most obvious of these steps are the rapid uptake of renewables, the reduction in energy usage from all sectors of our community, the transition to electric vehicles, and the future-proofing against climate shock through greening and cooling our urban environment. We want to see targets and timelines developed that will ensure a safer and healthier future for all generations of the Benalla community.
In conclusion, I want to again thank everyone who has helped keep BSFG ticking - especially the committee members, David (vice President), Wendy (Treasurer), Judy (Secretary), Kevin (NERSA rep), Kay and Wendy, the website coordinators Peter and Bev, and our newsletter editor Ian. We will be welcoming new committee members this year, and as part of a longer term transition plan, we hope to coopt a few other members to join the committee as the year progresses. As Wendy Sherlock is retiring from the committee this year, I wish to acknowledge her extremely valuable insights over a number of years with her depth of knowledge in environmental management.
Finally, the whole BSFG community wishes John Lloyd and Freida Andrews a happy and successful relocation to Bendigo. John's outstanding contribution to the establishment of BSFG, and his leadership of BSFG and REB over the past approximately 14 years have previously been recognised by the conferring of a "life membership", and we feel certain that both he and Freida will soon find a cause to support in Bendigo which will add to their efforts in the Benalla community.