Alice Almeida-Barcos

Local council appetite for sustainability has put Ironbark Sustainability on a growth trajectory.

The most recent addition to their staff, Alice Almeida-Barcos, brings total staff to 22, according to Ironbark managing director Paul Brown.

An environmental specialist with over a decade’s experience in energy and waste management, Ms Almeida-Barcos was most recently with the waste management team at Bayside City Council.

Mr Brown said the opportunities within the local government sector were a “moving feast”, given there are over 600 councils across the country.

He said there had been growing appetite for consultants as policies like council rate capping in Victoria had led to in-house staff loss.

“Often the [in-house] sustainability staff are one of the first to go.”

That leaves councils reliant on consultants to take up the baton.

Mr Brown said there were some councils still “championing and driving” sustainability in infrastructure and asset energy efficiency, such as street lights, as well as waste management and renewable energy.

For some councils, the approach to energy efficiency is “ad-hoc”, Mr Brown said, while others have “very formal and well-managed” programs.

He expects that, over the next 10 to 20 years, sustainability will become business as usual for all councils, and systematised and built into regular processes.

Currently, councils fall into one of three broad categories.

“Leading councils tend to innovate a lot. They have a lot of interesting projects and are well-resourced for sustainability,” Mr Brown said.

“Others are best practice, and that would be the bulk of urban and regional cities’ councils.”

The third category is the “poor rural councils” that have no time or money to undertake sustainability initiatives.

“We spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the poor rural councils – those that haven’t had the time and headspace to look into things as much.”

One way the consultancy is helping struggling councils access sustainability improvements is through building multi-council regional projects.

These types of projects, such as recent street lighting initiatives, “lower the barriers to entry”.

Given the right support to achieve savings on energy and water, a saving of $10,000 a year on utilities means an extra $10,000 can be spent on what “really matters” to residents and ratepayers, Mr Brown said.

“Spending on energy and water is wasted money.”