City of Maribyrnong: Peak Oil Policy

Maribyrnong City Council, covering the inner suburban area west of the centre of Melbourne, is rapidly proving itself to be Australia's (if not the world's) most peak oil aware council. On Tuesday 15th April, the council unanimously endorsed a Peak Oil Policy and Action Plan.

This post summarises the Peak Oil Policy document, while a subsequent post will look in more detail at the Action Plan.

Maribyrnong Council provides 80 different services to over 63,000 residents and 3,000 businesses. The Council employs 500 staff and is responsible for maintaining over $380 million of infrastructure, including facilities, roads and footpaths.

Purpose of this Policy: To address and minimise the impact of peak oil on Council Operations and the Maribyrnong

The explanation of peak oil and evidence for it will be familiar to readers of The Oil Drum. The policy document then considers three scenarios which Maribyrnong Council may face:

Scenario 1. Long Term Transition
Scenario 2. Oil Shocks
Scenario 3. Disintegration

Maribyrnong have adopted the same approach as the Portland task force. They were of the opinion that in a Disintegration scenario there was little that could be done by local government; however, addressing the first two scenarios would mean that the most pessimistic outcomes were averted through foresight and good planning.

How will Peak Oil impact on council operations?

Maribyrnong Council has already absorbed steep fuel increases and responded by buying more fuel efficient vehicles and increasing the proportion of operating budgets spent on fuel. (The purchase of more fuel efficient vehicles has been win-win, since they have higher resale value). The largest council oil bills are associated with the following contracts and services:

  • Waste, recycling and hard waste collections.
  • Cleansing Services
  • Passenger Fleet
  • Meal Delivery Services
  • Road and Footpath Construction and Maintenance Services

A major impact of peak oil on any organisation will be getting the workers to the worksite. Maribyrnong discuss the effects of location becoming a key factor in individual decisions about where to work and when. They consider that flexible hours of work, working from home, carpooling, private buses and other novel arrangements will all need to be explored.

Council Assets
Peak Oil is likely to result in changing uses of urban and council facilities. There is likely to be a decrease in road use with an increase in demand for good quality pedestrian and bicycle paths and facilities. Decreasing oil supply along with the likely oil price increases that are predicted have the potential to throw long term planning of council assets, including roads and council facilities into disarray. Alternatively, assets planned and built in the near future may result in a waste of resources for buildings, roads and other facilities that can meet residents needs for a limited time. While it is difficult to foresee exactly how oil demand and supply will impact on uses of council assets, the risks that Council and as a result community services will be adversely impacted is significant. Scenario planning for various impacts of peak oil on Council Assets is strongly recommended.

Financing Council Operations will face greater pressure as the impact of Peak Oil is felt. The community is likely to experience increasing levels of financial stress impacting on Councils revenue. Demand for community services is likely to increase especially for the elderly and those experiencing financial pressures. In addition Council operations are likely to face significant price increases for many of the materials and energy used in providing council services.

Currently, existing costs of materials and energy costs are not reported in a format that enables us to understand the risks that council are exposed to in relation to increasing oil costs and decreasing supply. Many materials costs are bundled together making it difficult to determine which items have the greastest exposure to petro chemical inputs. This is especially the case with contractors costs. It will become increasingly important that oil based costs are reported and future forecasts developed.

How will peak oil impact on our community?

The policy document discusses food security and shelter (housing). You don't read many Government reports thinking this deeply about the longer term impacts of peak oil:

Due to the attractiveness and affordability of living closer to the city, older homeowners without debt may find that as their children living in outer suburbs find it unaffordable to travel to work or maintain debt on houses, they will leave and form multi-generational houses. This will increase the total number of residents and create an increasing demand for council services.

On Health and Safety, they weigh up the balance between increased exercise and decreased consumption of unhealthy processed foods. They consider the mental health impacts of isolation and the greater difficulty of accessing medical services. Possible public health impacts as a result of disruptions to waste collection and other services are also realised.

Economic Prosperity
The community is likely to experience increased prices for a range of commodities, impacting on overall economic prosperity. Higher levels of unemployment are also likely in the short term. Impacts will be felt on businesses with the number of business start ups but also failures increasing. Some businesses will experience significantly higher production and distribution costs, others may be more affected by changes in demand for their products and services.

Local production of previously imported goods are also likely to increase as the high cost of transportation makes locally produced goods competitive, for example food processing, textiles, footwear.

Here are the concrete and challenging targets Maribyrnong have set themselves:

  • Council commits to the Oil Depletion Protocol with a commitment to a 3% reduction in oil use per year in Councils operations starting from the 2008/09 financial year.
  • Council will commit to a reduction target for oil of 50% reduction by 2025.
  • Council will set a target of 1.5% increase per year of Eco-buy purchasing of green products.
  • Council commits to develop an annual action plan that directly address both the long term transition (gradual 3% decline in oil supply per year) and the oil shocks scenarios.

Congratulations to everybody at the City of Maribyrnong for having the foresight and courage to tackle such an overwhelming issue. You are leading a way for others to follow.

Thanks Phil, that's an impressive statement from Maribyrnong. Here's hoping they are also brave enough to circulate it well among their residents. I'm not sure many would find it on the council's website without direction. Nevertheless it encouraged me to send a copy of their action plan PDF to my own council (which is not far from Maribyrnong). I don't know if Maribyrnong's response comes from a particularly well informed council, or whether some of the recent headlines in the media are starting to make people more open to PO ideas (hopefully the latter).

Policy documents like this don't appear and get approved by council overnight. Maribyrnong have been well ahead on the peak oil learning curve for quite awhile.

Sending it to your own council and asking them what they're doing is good move.

Done! Let's see what old Monash council has to say...

I must echo those sentiments, cheers Phil.

I also must have failed to inform you, that after your visit to Darebin City Council and after working with Michelle Bennett (Senior Environmental Policy Adviser) and Libby Hynes (General Manager, Environment and Amenity Department), Darebin City Council has now formally considered the issue of Peak Oil, and released a media statement on 20 Feburary 2008 which states:

Council responds to Peak Oil Challenge

Darebin Council is taking proactive steps to prepare for the implications of Peak Oil, a challenge that will see massive changes across the globe.

Peak Oil refers to the time at which global petrol production peaks and then begins to decline, resulting in rising costs and restricted supplies of petroleum. The exact time when this will occur is uncertain, however, there is growing consensus that it will happen soon, possibly as early as 2010.

Declining petrol production will affect many aspects of our community, including transport, food security and the production of petroleum-based products such as plastics and pharmaceuticals.

After considering the issue, Council has resolved to continue Darebin’s current programs that address Peak Oil impacts, increase community education and advocate to State and Federal Governments.

Council will also seek funding in the 2008/09 budget to develop a risk management assessment and a Peak Oil Strategy.

Darebin Mayor, Cr Peter Stephenson, said, “Addressing the impact of Peak Oil is crucial not just for our own community but for the whole world. Our current lifestyles are very dependent on petroleum products - for transport, food production and many products that we take for granted. While the world may well be a much better place when we are less dependent on oil it is how we make the transition that is critical. We need to plan now to have adequate alternatives in place and to make sure that the disadvantaged members of society aren't the hardest hit."

“At Darebin we already have many programs in place to help reduce Council's and our communities dependence on petrol. These include our comprehensive transport strategies, energy-efficiency programs for the Council fleet, food security initiatives, an environmental purchasing policy and community education programs.

“However, to effectively address the Peak Oil challenges it is essential that action also occurs at the broader levels. We will advocate to State and Federal Government regarding the urgency of the issue and the need for action,” Cr Stephenson said.

“Peak Oil will have a huge impact on everyone and we encourage other organisations and individuals to follow our lead and start planning for it now.”

So, despite my imput, I cannot claim much credit for the work done to have the council formally consider Peak Oil. However, credit where credit's due so thanks so much to ASPO and the Municipal Association of Victoria's working group on Peak Oil who provided me and therefore Michelle and Libby with the 'amo' needed to present the case. As stated in the above media release, funding will be sought in Council's next budget. But funding is not yet guarenteed. In the presentation to Council, part of what is needed is a Risk Management Assessment and the development of a peak oil strategy costing in the order of $30,000AUD. Once this is completed, the next stage is to create an Oil Depletion target and commit to reducing Council's petroleum use by 3% per year and/or set a 2020 or 2025 reduction target. The strategy would also scope gaps and opportunities, and identify additional actions for supporting the Darebin community to transition to Peak Oil. (Estimated cost $20,000). There's more in this regarding what we want and, ofcourse, the critical issues facing Council and the community including what's already being done but that can wait for another post.

So that's where we are at.
Philip Knight.

Great news Philip.

We saw Darebin's transport plans in the news, but it wasn't specifically linked to peak oil (thanks media people). Encouraging to hear that things are moving forward in Darebin too. Recent prices will provide plenty of support - everyone will wish they started a lot sooner!

The inner city ring of councils in Melbourne are all doing pretty well, with a bad egg (City of Melbourne) in the middle. Not much progress further out either, despite the fact that they will be hit hardest.

Keep us updated on Darebin's plans. Happy to make them a post here as well.


As Phil said above - I saw Darebin's transport plans in the news, and even rebroadcast that news on as an example of a good move, but didn't get a hint that it was peak oil related. Thanks for filling us in!

The Municipal Association of Victoria's working group on Peak Oil doesn't seem to have web presence beyond the conference last year. Are they working with other local governments on this issue?

Laurel, The Integrated Transport Strategy (ITS) got the press but although many of the initiatives appear peak oil related, the policy is not directly linked to the Council's consideration of the issue as per my previous post. As far as the Municipal Assoc. of Vic. (MAV) is conserned, the Peak Oil Taskforce has not been widely publicised to my knowledge. There are many other councils involved, perhaps 10 or so although having been to just one meeting, don't have a full list at the mo. But its important to note that the group were meeting unofficially as, despite its request, the MAV haven't given their endorsement that Peak Oil is 'officially' on their agenda or that they recognise it. It gets political, they are probably concerned that by saying that they believe PO is an issue, they therefore believe that world oil supply will drop affecting business confidence and our industrial economy going forward. Probably not what they want to say publically, despite the fact that it is doing the right thing.

Is there a list or register of those Australian councils and government bodies who have formally recognized/begun to prepare for peak oil? Such a list would form a valuable addition to any correspondence with slower councils as well as providing a starting point for then to contact fellow "industry" members.