Healthy Cities Illawarra is concerned about the loss of public open, green space areas in the Illawarra because of the impacts on public health as well as the natural environment. Australia leads the world in the number of native species forced into extinction. The main pressures on native habitats are: the loss of habitat for native plants and animals resulting from land clearing (now listed as a ‘Key Threatening Process’ by both NSW and Federal Governments); the invasion of natural areas by weeds and pest animals; and human-induced global warming.
Each of these threats to biodiversity are present and increasing within the Illawarra. The pressure for urban development can result in the loss and degradation of large areas of native vegetation. The high rainfall and rich soils of the Illawarra allow the rapid establishment and invasion of weed species. Exotic animals such as deer, foxes, cats, dogs and Indian mynas are common, affecting native animals by predation or competing with them for food and space.
HCI has worked with many local groups campaigning against development proposals which would threaten our biodiversity and open spaces, such as at Killalea State Park, Sandon Point, Farmborough Heights, Calderwood Valley and Helensburgh.
One of the greatest challenges to the world’s people and natural environments is human-induced global warming. HCI’s Position Statement on Climate Change and Renewable Energies sets out our goals on this issue.
Our main aims are to promote:
- a whole-of-government alternative energy strategy to shift the emphasis from fossil fuels to renewable energies
- energy efficiency and demand reduction in commercial and private buildings, industry and transport
- a shift from private road transport to public transport, freight rail and active transport
- improved natural resource management to stop clearing native vegetation, institute large-scale reforestation, and change the quantity and species of meat produced
HCI does not support biofuels, nuclear power, and carbon geosequestration as major components of an alternative energy strategy, as they all impose unacceptable risks.
Air pollution can cause a range of respiratory and other health problems, and residents of the Illawarra are particularly vulnerable because of the proximity of so much heavy industry. Amongst the pollutants that we are exposed to in the Illawarra, radionuclides pose a potential health risk.
In the early 2000's, HCI convened the Illawarra Radionuclide Investigation Committee, which looked at radiation exposure. The report found that the levels of public exposure to radiation from industrial sources were very low compared to natural background sources, and the annual public dose limit.
HCI has also been involved with government and other community-based campaigns to reduce the pollutants in our environment. These include the Dioxins Action Campaign in the late 1990s, the State Government’s review of the Clean Air Regulation and local air quality education campaign.
Indoor air pollution can create a dangerous cocktail within our homes. Chemicals from cigarettes, solvents in buildings and furnishings, cleaning products, polishes, room fresheners, dust and pesticides, can all create long-term health problems.
Waste is also a major environmental health hazard, but could be one of the easiest to prevent. It risks people’s health through increasing the exposure to toxic chemicals, and is also a growing problem in the marine environment. In particular, plastic waste damages and kills marine life.
During 2009 HCI joined with the Illawarra Seabird Rescue squad, the Ocean Conservancy and Wollongong City Council’s Rise and Shine program, to pick up rubbish at Port Kembla boat ramp, easily filling 13 large bags. The rubbish was mainly plastic, and the main items collected were plastic bags and plastic, glass and aluminium drink bottles.