Shire of Augusta-Margaret River councillors are about to face their first fresh challenge since the reintroduction of its key sustainability advice panel, with a new overarching policy rejected by all but one of its members. The Shire’s Sustainability Advisory Committee met last month to debate the merits of a revised Overarching Sustainability Policy due to come before councillors in coming weeks, with the SAC instead putting forward an alternative. Shire president Paula Cristoffanini said the SAC recommendation went against the officers’ policy despite having “much in common”. “The latter (SAC policy) is more aspirational and gives greater emphasis to the climate crisis,” she said. “SAC has been working for some time with Shire officers to craft a draft policy.” In a preamble to the alternative provided to the Times, the committee noted it was “time to admit that the emperor has no clothes”. “The term ‘sustainable development’ suggests we can keep doing what we are doing with no lasting or cumulative effect on the environment,” the preamble said. “This is not the basis for a realistic policy. “Any policy that accommodates growth in population, production or consumption extends this overshoot and therefore cannot achieve sustainability and is likely to bring about a sudden and uncontrollable decline in population and production capacity, or collapse.” The SAC was reintroduced last year as a final intervention by now retired councillor Naomi Godden after years of back-room politics and concerns from some former members the committee – comprised of residents including some with deep expertise in environmental matters – often pushed for de facto councillor powers despite not being democratically elected. The latest split comes because the majority of SAC members felt the Shire’s new policy didn’t go far enough and risked making the local government’s pro-environment stance all talk and not enough action. SAC member Peta Goodwin told the Times specific concerns existed around the new policy failing to put a lid on the region’s rampant growth, which posed knock-on effects for the environment as well as the wellbeing of existing residents. The policy was also at odds with the committee’s environmental aspirations, Ms Goodwin said. “The (SAC’s) alternative policy was seen by some as ‘unworkable’ – which it is, under the current paradigm of growth, as it advocates degrowth to a sustainable population and lifestyle level,” she said. “We cannot call ourselves a sustainable Shire because very little of what we currently do and are planning can be sustained if we look reality in the face.” The preamble noted Shire language overlooked that existing lifestyles had to change for the sake of the planet, in the SAC’s view. “The current language of sustainability – ‘step in the right direction’, ‘more sustainable’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘renewable’, ‘carbon neutral’, ‘sustainable development’ – enables and encourages us to ignore this real and most probable scenario,” the notes said. The policy was expected to be debated next week.