By Lisa Schofield
WOLLONGONG — Under the slogan of "Wollongong — Clean and Green in the 1990s" the Active Community Team (ACT) is running three tickets in the local government elections.
The ACT has released a comprehensive environment policy that focusses on the local area. The policy covers such items as cleaning up local beaches and waterways (including Lake Illawarra), control of industrial pollution, improved recycling, development of cycleways, protection of the escarpment and removal of coal transportation from local roads.
Particular items of interest in the policy include the polluter-pays principle, especially in the area of industrial pollution. This would occur through "strict and verifiable timetables for attaining acceptable levels of emissions".
The policy seeks to protect the beautiful escarpment that backs Wollongong and runs along the South Coast of NSW. The ACT supports the establishment of a publicly funded Land Trust as a means to transfer private land on the escarpment into public ownership. The Unsworth Labor government promised the establishment of a Land Trust in an effort to win the 1987 Heathcote by-election.
Formed in 1983, the ACT is a coalition of progressive groups and individuals based in Wollongong. Current ACT candidate Kerry Christian came close to winning office in the 1989 local government by-election.
Christian states that the aim of the ACT is to increase the voice of the "ordinary residents" on a local council that is dominated by "business interests, the real estate lobby or big party power politics". Christian believes that the only way to remedy such a situation is to "get in and actually have a go at standing for council".
Since the 1983 election of its first candidate to the Wollongong Council, Dave Martin, the ACT has been striving to open up the process of local government by bringing council staff out to meetings with resident advisory groups which have direct input into local decision making.
As a formal coalition, the ACT operates on the basis of a charter that its candidates and members must support. This charter has ensured some measure of accountability within the group. There is no proscription of members of other parties from the ACT. People can also be supporters of the ACT rather than full members.
Christian believes that it is very important for activists to become involved in politics at the local level. For many people involvement in a local campaign is often their first highly politicising experience.
"All revolutions begin with an assault on awareness", Christian said. By working on local issues through such broad-based coalitions as the ACT, people can begin to see that their problems are not individual ones. The campaign also seeks to link local problems to broader environmental issues.