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Gifts that keep giving

At conferences around the world presenters are being thanked for the time and effort put into preparing for the event and the distances many have to travel in order to attend them. While the need to come together to tackle global challenges is unavoidable, the environmental costs to gather such an international delegation can be large. This conundrum weighed heavily on the ECOCITY World Summit organisers and so we decided to do things a little differently.

In addition to our local and interstate Australian representatives, the ECOCITY World Summit is bringing together delegates from over 30 countries making it the largest event of its kind ever to be held in Australia. One of the key principles of the Summit has been the deep awareness of the ecological consequences of running a major international gathering. As a result, global and national air transport to the conference has been based on carbon offsetting, achieved through the help of our key partner Qantas. However we wanted to do more. We wanted to provide a lasting legacy from the Summit to the citizens and visitors of Melbourne.

With the Rio Olympics ‘1 native tree seed per Olympian’ acting as inspiration, we decided that rather than provide a gift that was at worst unsustainable and at best unmemorable, the Summit would collaborate with Melbourne Water and local volunteer conservation groups to regenerate wetlands and riparian areas along the Maribyrnong River. On June 28, stage one of this idea took place. Summit presenters and organisers, along with members from Melbourne Water, Maribyrnong Shire Council, volunteers from the Friends of Newell’s Paddock and 50 year 7 students from Footscray Secondary College came together to plant 600 ground cover and shrubs. Newell’s Paddock in Footscray, a suburb in Melbourne’s inner west has long been known as a site of severe land degradation having been used for agricultural and industrial purposes since Melbourne’s early colonial settlement. Many in Melbourne’s West for example hold strong memories of the pungent smells that wafted from the abattoir, smells that pervaded commuter trains on their journey too and from the city.

Today Newell’s Paddock is a wonderful asset to the community and a beautiful habitat for native and migratory bird species. While research is ongoing as to the role wetlands play in carbon sequestration and storage, research is showing that they are valuable carbon sources, sinks and areas of carbon storage.

The planting at Newells Paddock was stage 1 of 2 organised plantings for Summit presenters. The second planting of 400 trees will take place after the Summit on July 26 at Avondale Heights bringing the total number of plants to 1000. To achieve the 1000 plants target, Summit organisers approached the Greening the West Project who, under the federally funded 20 Million Trees Program were able to source additional seedlings on behalf of Summit delegates.

We hope that in years to come, presenters and delegates will walk with pride through Newell’s Paddock and Avondale Heights knowing that their participation at the Summit has contributed locally and globally in more ways than one.