Charlestown Anglican Parish, Newcastle NSW
Gully Restoration, Water Harvesting and Solar Panels
As Christians, we consider that we are stewards of God’s world and it is our duty to care for Earth, including other species, other human beings, and future generations, all of whom deserve to share in God’s creation. Our primary objective, based on the fifth mark of the Worldwide Anglican Communion mission: “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and renew the life of the earth” is to encourage and inspire one another to become aware at a personal and corporate level of issues affecting our environment and to take responsibility, both spiritually and practically, for our actions so that we can make a difference toward a sustainable future.
Our work has involved a variety of initiatives within our parish and diocese, as well as seeking to develop working relationships within our local community and with other churches and groups involved in seeking to promote interest and action in ecological issues. Some of the projects that have been undertaken include;
Supported by an Australian Government Water Fund Community Water Grant we restored the Winding Creek Gully and implemented a rainwater harvesting program. This project involved the installation of bladder-style tanks under St Alban’s hall to harvest rainwater to supply the toilets, wash basins and gardens. Rainwater harvested from the hall roof is stored in three 3,300 bladder tanks and has provided a practical demonstration of these types of tanks that are located out of sight. It is estimated that up to 130,000 litres of water per year will be saved. As well as saving water, the project involved rehabilitation of the Winding Creek Gully adjacent to St Alban’s church to remove lantana and improve the water quality and erosion in the creek. In addition to restoring the ecological value of the gully, a significant outcome from this project was being able to mulch and recycle the lantana that was removed. A variety of native plants were used to stabilise the bank and create an attractive area for use by the community as a quiet haven. The project has also involved reshaping the eroded creek bed to prevent ongoing erosion.
As part of the Gully restoration project, a Waterwatch program was established by our Godly Play group to monitor the quality of the runoff water from the surrounding commercial and residential properties in the area. Results are posted regularly on www.waterwatch.nsw.gov.au. One of the unexpected outcomes from the water monitoring was the identification of very high phosphate levels in the water in the St Alban’s gully area on some occasions and a campaign was developed to inform local residents and businesses in the area to reduce the contamination. Valuable partnerships have been developed with the Hunter Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority, Charlestown Square Shopping management and the Lake Macquarie City Council, who have assisted us with training and support in producing brochures and other material for distribution within the community. The Godly Play group also undertook a program to mark the stormwater drains in the area with a stencil stating that “The Lake Starts Here”.
Parish Council has undertaken an environmental audit based on the “Becoming an Eco Congregation” model to assist in identifying initiatives to reduce our environmental footprint. One example included a survey of water and energy use within households of the parish. With the assistance of a grant from the NSW Government Department of Environment and Climate Change’s Energy Savers stream of the Public Facilities scheme, we are also in the process of testing, demonstrating and installing low energy, long lasting LED lights in the church and hall as well as a solar hot water system for the hall kitchen (resulting in a potential energy saving of 8,000 kWh per year (equivalent to 8,000 kg per year of greenhouse gases).
An environmental play, “On the Sixth Day” written by one of our parish members was performed by the Godly Play group (to a packed house) and sought to encourage us all to reduce our impact on the environment. The group created fridge magnets that featured artwork that was prepared as part of the play, and that were later sold. The associated funds were contributed to the project described below.
Energy from the sun now shines on our 80 Watt photovoltaic (PV) solar panel that converts the solar energy to electricity. As this energy is collected through the day, it charges a 12 volt battery (via a controller) that supplies energy to three 11 Watt compact fluorescent security lights through the night. The solar powered lights will save 100 kWh of electricity throughout the year and approximately 100kg of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be released to the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas from the generation of this energy in a coal fired power station. The project was financed through the sale of the aforementioned fridge magnets, by other parish donations, and with an Environmental Education Grant from Lake Macquarie City Council.
Charlestown parish has participated for many years in the Clean Up Australia Day programme. In the most recent campaign, 25 parishioners collected some 30 bags of rubbish.