Rueben Berg (right) and Chris Chesterfield with Uncle David Wandin at the launch of the Yarra River 50 Year Community Vision and Wurundjeri Council's Water Policy, Finns Reserve, Templestowe.

Rueben Berg takes a less is more approach to his new role with Westernport Water

In the world of water, over-consumption is not just an issue of squandering the precious commodity itself, but the energy involved with getting it to the taps in the first place. 

Rueben Berg was recently named the new chair of government-owned Westernport Water, responsible for supplying drinking water, recycled water and sewerage services to Victoria’s Phillip Island and nearby districts.

The first Aboriginal person appointed as chair of a water corporation in the state, Mr Berg told The Fifth Estate he brought to the position a philosophy of only taking what was necessary that has been present in First Nations thinking for millennia. 

“One of the more powerful things that I think about in terms of sustainability and Aboriginal culture are the scarred trees — where they’ve purposely removed bark from a tree to make a canoe,” Mr Berg said.

“If you really just wanted a canoe you could just chop down a tree to make it. But over thousands of years our ancestors here in Australia have worked out the best way to do it is actually only take the bits you need, so that you can have your canoe but there’s still a tree left behind.”

“I think in the past there was this sense of water just being purely a commodity, but I think for a little bit of time now here in Australia especially in Victoria from what I’ve seen, there’s been a shift of thinking to ‘this is not just a commodity we can just use as we want it’s a really integral part of the environment and we need to make sure that it’s considered that way.” 

He said in terms of climate change and water availability, the organisation was expecting to see less predictable rainfall over the coming decades, not necessarily by amount but certainly in when and where it falls. 

“My understanding is that it’s larger amounts of water at certain times and not as much water at other times, as compared to more regular, predictable amounts of water falling through rain throughout the year,” he said. 

While catchments are currently sitting at around 100 per cent full, the organisation is nor being complacent about cutting waste. Berg said in the immediate term, the sustainability focus had been on the large amounts of energy it takes to actually treat water and waste and reduce those emissions. 

This was being done through installing solar panels on some of the treatment plants as well as purchasing renewable energy. The Westport authority recently installed 224 solar panels at its Cowes wastewater treatment plant with the aim of reducing emissions by 150 tonnes of CO2 each year. 

His organisation is also one of 12 local water authorities that are part of Zero Emissions Water, a scheme to bulk purchase clean energy and ultimately cover 20 to 40 per cent of total energy needs from those involved, eliminating 80,000 tonnes of emissions every year.

He said part of the challenge of reducing emissions in the sector was balancing customers needs and expectations on pricing, with more ambitious efforts. 

“It could be that if we want to achieve certain targets there could be a cost associated with that. But that’s the conversation we need to have with our customers,” he said. 

New Liverpool council position puts health at the heart of urban placemaking

Liverpool City Council and the Population Health South West Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) are breaking new ground by deliberately linking the work of urban design with public health

The public spaces we share like streets, laneways, parks and reserves in all city councils need to be planned and built so they positively influence physical activity levels, travel patterns, social connectivity, environmental sustainability, and mental health and wellbeing. 

With the aim of achieving better outcomes in these respects, Liverpool City Council and health services have partnered to share resources and expertise, culminating in the brand new role of senior healthy places urban designer.

It is well recognised that the way the built environment is planned and designed plays a significant role in shaping people’s health and wellbeing and while the public health sector has little control over urban growth and development, they do have insights about the impact of poorly designed built environments on human health. 

“If you think about the way people make decisions about whether to walk, cycle or drive somewhere – we get a clearer picture for example, of how to improve the way we design in active transport opportunities. Active transport is of course one of those great solutions that bring about multiple health benefits – it’s good for the planet, humans and the economy!” the council said. 

“The work of healthy Urban Designers and Placemakers will also need to consider the short and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on urban environments. We will almost certainly see a return of health issues on the political agenda and, potentially, a return of health considerations to the core of planning and design itself.”

Job Movements

The digital arm of engineering services firm, GHD has a new director, Steve Lennon has taken on the role having previously held a similar position with Nous Group

Mr Lennon and his team work with clients to digitally transform energy, water, property and infrastructure assets to “rapidly adapt to change and remain competitive”.

Mr Lennon was previously at Arup but well before the arrival of David Harding, most recently as business leader, NSW and ACT who has now left for a role as executive director, policy and advocacy at Business NSW. Previous roles have included with Downer EDI, Transfield, Balfour Beatty Rail in the UK and intriguingly as an officer in UK “nuclear-powered attack submarines” with the UK Royal Navy.

Investa announced the appointment of Merran Edwards as its new chief financial officer, beginning in November. She replaces Ivan Gorridge, who is leaving after 17 years with the company. 

Ms Edwards previously held the same position with AMP Capital Real Estate, responsible for all of its financial functions and reporting. 

“I look forward to working with the executive committee and the finance team to drive the

company strategy forward and contribute to the continued strong performance of Investa’s funds, operations and real estate portfolio,” she said.

After more than six years with Lendlease as sustainability manager, Lucy Sharman has left the company to join Western Parkland City Authority as director of sustainability. The move is part of a restructuring at Lendlease that we covered last week. 

Lendlease reshapes for a new challenging future

Ms Sharman was responsible for much of the innovative waste work at Barangaroo including the “Insinkerator” style of waste disposal for organic materials in the apartment towers and the maggot farm where food waste is turned into high protein fat larvae that is collected and used as animal or fish feed, through Olympia Yarger’s Goterra company.

She also managed the research in the precinct around green roofs co existing with solar panels. And it works, she told The Fifth Estate, the green solar roof “sucking up heavy metals, increasing storm water absorption and keeping the roof 20 degrees cooler than regular roofs”.

Also leaving Lendlease was Pete Wylie who joined Sydney-based fund managers, Assembly (AFM) in a newly created head of capital position. AFM formed in 2019 as a partnership between ex-Westfield chief operating officer Michael Gutman, the eminently wealthy Lowy Family Group and Alceon.

Mr Gutman said the company was looking to grow and Wylie’s appointment would allow it to launch new funds aimed at institutional investors.

“Pete brings proven capabilities in managing capital relationships, equity raising and capital markets in general. He has a strong reputation and deep relationships with domestic and international investors.”

“This will allow AFM to access larger transactions in the Australia and NZ markets as we exit lockdowns and market activity accelerate.”

Rosey McGrath has joined Mirvac as sustainability manager communications, departing international financial services firm BDO, where she worked in media and communications.

Ms McGrath praised the company for its commitment to supporting the ESG efforts of staff including offering unlimited volunteer leave and uncapped matched donations to charities of employee choice.

Tayanah O’Donnell has joined Deloitte as a partner in the risk advisory arm of their climate and sustainability team. Based in the “best city in the world”, Canberra, O’Donnell said she was pleased to see the company backing climate adaptation and mitigation as well. 

Our pick of the jobs

Most of us love a bit of pedal power as a great way to stay fit and cut emissions, but for whatever reason bike-riding is still in need of passionate advocates to ensure it is supported in policy, infrastructure and by the community. 

Peak advocacy body, Bicycle NSW is in search of a new chief executive to do just that, representing cyclists at all levels of government, as well as with the community, organisations and the media. 

It’s an opportunity to make bicycle riding more mainstream and get more people out of cars and on their bikes. 

An entry-level opportunity has come up for someone with a legal bent to help fight the fossil fuel companies alongside the good people at the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO).

As a paralegal/graduate project data tracker you will need to dig into proposals for new fossil fuel projects with significant greenhouse gas emissions, uncovering their assessment and approval processes.

The invaluable information you collate will fill a purpose built database for the use of EDO’s law teams as well as other organisations and the community.

It’s a chance to shine a light on what happens behind the scenes with the fossil fuel industry, so if you’re looking to put that law degree to good use, here’s a chance.

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