Cr Sam Rowland clearly remembers one of his first debates on a topic he felt strongly about.
As deputy mayor of Goulburn Mulwaree's Youth Council he joined a team of three arguing that climate change was "a real issue."
"We won the debate, which was chaired by Rostrum's Rob Walker," he told The Post.
"It's been an issue for me for some time and it's the number one thing that young people are thinking about."
The teenager took his debating skills in several directions. He was one of Goulburn's youngest councillors when he was elected at age 20 to Goulburn Mulwaree Council in 2012. These days he's a near 30-year-old solicitor and a partner at local legal firm, Johnson and Sendall.
But he won't be hanging up his hat on council business until a sustainability working party is formed.
Cr Rowland won almost unanimous support for the move at Tuesday night's meeting. Its overall aim will be to address climate change through emissions reduction, and biodiversity loss.
"These are interconnected and you can't have one without the other," he said.
He cited statistics that at the end of 2019/20 Australia had lost 12 million hectares of bushland to fire and World Wide Fund for Nature estimates that 1.2 billion animals had been killed as a result. The climate was changing, with warmer temperatures, heavier rainstorms and prolonged droughts, all of which placed flora and fauna at risk of extinction.
"Our (council area) is not immune to those statistics and it represents a huge challenge," Cr Rowland said.
"We need to acknowledge that and once we do, put in place strategies that are affordable, achievable and measurable."
Rather than "reinventing the wheels," he wants the working party to examine what other councils are doing, what works and how it can be built upon.
Nor did he want it to be "hijacked" by different philosophical and political views on climate change: Cr Rowland argued the science was settled.
He wants a cross section of membership, including youth, older people, the business community and those with expertise in the area.
"The council is in a position to provide the community with leadership on this issue," Cr Rowland said.
Most of his colleagues agreed. They voted to further discuss the working party's make-up, ensuring a spread of skills and ages, at a briefing session. Expressions of interest are likely to be called afterwards.
Cr Alf Walker pointed out the council had disbanded a sustainability committee early in his term.
Nevertheless, general manager Warwick Bennett believed the initiative was an ideal opportunity to gain feedback and refresh the council's "outdated" sustainability plan. Deputy Mayor Peter Walker hoped it would also address weed infestations and feral animals, among other aspects.
Cr Carol James said climate change remained a hot topic for the Youth Council today. She mentors the group and says it is regularly discussed.
"I'm sure they would like to have representative on this working party,' she said.
But Cr Denzil Sturgiss maintained that while installing solar panels on public facilities were "reasonable" measures, there was no need to panic.
"There were comments in 1997 that we should get ready for an ice age," he said.
"It was (also) on the news yesterday that last year was the coolest one in a 100-year average. I think we should be careful in how we approach it and what we do."
Cr Sturgiss said if the nation had practised indigenous cultural burns, as his family had done for years on the Sassafras Range, bushland wouldn't have been ravaged in the same way by fire.
Meantime, Cr Rowland hopes the working party will tap into the work of other communities like the Hunter region in its efforts to reduce emissions and Queensland councils, which are tackling heat and drought impacts.
With work commitments increasingly eating into his time, he says "at this stage" he won't be nominating for the council in September.
"There are still a few things I want to achieve," he said.
"If progress on this (working party) is slow, I may just change my mind."
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