• Tony Bosworth

Councils shifting into higher gear on electric vehicles, claims WSROC President Calvert

Tesla Model 3 - one of the world's best selling and most efficient electric cars

Hawkesbury councillor, ex-Mayor, and President of the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, Barry Calvert, said this week the region’s councils - including Hawkesbury Council - are working on moving their fleets to more environmentally-friendly electric vehicles.

But in the Hawkesbury today there is not a single public electric vehicle (EV) charging point in any town centre or village.

There is a Tesla charger at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Windsor but that is very much aimed at people staying there and only works for Tesla EVs.

Hawkesbury Council has an environment policy – the recently unveiled and adopted Net Zero Emissions and Water Efficiency Strategy - and it does mention EVs, but it's short on timing and specifics when it comes to what many consider the future of transport.

Council says in that Strategy it will have “a steady transition of the Council fleet to electric vehicles,” but does not say when this will begin and there's no stepped timeframe for an all-electric Council fleet.

We asked Hawkesbury Council on Friday when the first electric vehicle will join its fleet, but we haven’t had an answer.

“I have been raising the need for EV charging stations and transition to electric vehicles and electric equipment for many years now,” Deputy Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett told the Post.

The councillor herself is a convert, switching some years ago from a fuel-guzzling 4WD to an all-electric Tesla Model 3.

The section on EVs in the Council Strategy says where “parking is provided it is considered prudent to provide the infrastructure or capacity for EV charging points, including charging outlets in each parking space allocated within a development”.

Prudent, it may be – incidentally, the word means showing care for the future, it’s not a call for any action – what it doesn’t say, is how this is going to happen and when, aside from including, “provision for EV ready infrastructure in relevant precinct Development Control Plans”. It does not specify what “relevant” means.

The Strategy does mention the Liveability program which is the planned revitalisation of Hawkesbury’s main city centres, and says, “incorporate, where feasible the provision of EV charging infrastructure”, but there are not specific sites so far in the Liveability program for EV charging stations.

The renewed interest in EVs came up after NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance called for a waiving of stamp duty on EVs, access to transit lanes, subsidised parking and investment in electric car charging infrastructure – all aimed at boosting uptake of the clean-running vehicles.

Cllr Calvert says when he was Hawkesbury Mayor in 2019 he put through a Mayoral Minute that required council to draw up a schedule to commit them to a net zero emissions policy, which is now enshrined in the Net Zero Strategy.

“We [WSROC] fully support the Minister’s call to focus on incentivising electric vehicle uptake in the coming years. Investment in appropriate infrastructure and providing incentives to drivers are critical in stimulating the transition to EVs,” said President Calvert.

“Across the world countries are moving towards electrification of their transport.

WSROC President and Hawkesbury councillor,

Barry Calvert

We need to ensure Australia is not left behind,” he added.

Hawkesbury Council could arguably be much further ahead in preparing for the EV future if it had taken action earlier – and it’s had ample opportunity.

“I had the offer of a free EV charger for the Hawkesbury years ago but they [a majority of councillors] didn’t want to support my motion without a costing attached!” Cllr Lyons-Buckett said.

Back in May 2017, when she was Hawkesbury Mayor, Cllr Lyons-Buckett, put up her own successful Mayoral Minute calling on councillors to support joining the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership - an initiative to share knowledge and resources between councils across Australia about dealing with the challenges of climate change.

“I was one of the first Mayors to sign up after having the MM passed,” Cllr Lyons-Buckett said.

Cllr Mary-Lyons-Buckett when she was Mayor, with then Climate Council head Tim Flannery at the Cities Power Partnership in 2018

She went to the launch of Cities Power Partnership in Canberra in July 2017, and in 2018 attended the Cities Power Partnership summit, and when she returned, gave a report to the Council’s Environmental Sustainability Committee about various initiatives other councils were taking, including the ACT government’s successful policy of running EVs on their fleet. That meant, in time, second hand EVs also began to flow onto the wider market in the ACT.

WSROC’s President Calvert says, “Western Sydney councils are working on transitioning their fleets and agree that doing so will help instil community confidence in electric vehicles, and feed the second-hand EV car market; reducing price barriers to uptake.

“Western Sydney councils are committed to reducing their emissions,” President Calvert said.

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“Testament to this effort is the WSROC-coordinated Western Sydney Energy Program through which councils are seeking to reduce the region’s emissions by 200,000 tonnes of CO2 each year. This equates to taking 46,000 cars off the road annually,” he said.

“We look forward to collaborating with the NSW Government to ensure a speedy and equitable transition to electric transport across the city,” said Cllr Calvert.

Cllr Lyons-Buckett says, “It is good that finally the state government is getting behind the transition away from high emitting vehicles. It has been known for years that this is a necessary part of emissions reduction.

“We must incentivise the adoption of EVs because it is the future of transport.

“Ideally, getting as many cars off the road and people moving via efficient and effective public transport and cycle ways is the way of the future, but for those cars on the road, electric vehicles are best.

“The transition to electric vehicles is inevitable and although slow in this country, it seems to be gathering momentum.

“Ensuring development is only undertaken where there are public transport options is the key to reducing car dependency.”

US-built Rivian all-electric 4WD ute, on sale from next month, 750 horsepower, 0-100kph in 3.0 secs, tows 5.0 tonnes, range on one charge 480km, cost around AU$100,000

The Deputy Mayor points out that other councils have placed EV charging stations where they work for both the motorist and the local community.

“Many councils have led the way in installing infrastructure, such as the facility at the Goulburn Visitor Information Centre where there is an EV charging station, and the centre contains amenities, local information and produce – ideal for a quick stopover while your electric vehicle is recharged.

“As a destination for people wanting to visit, it is essential here in the Hawkesbury we have charging infrastructure.

“Sadly we have missed some opportunities to achieve this to date, but hopefully will in the near future.”

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