Connect with us

Australia

How Australia can avoid its own Day Zero

Related Story: Growing dread in parched Cape Town as city prepares to run dry Related Story: How Perth dodged its own Day Zero water crisis

Julia Snaddon was already several months pregnant when Cape Town announced that “Day Zero” was imminent.

This was the day the city would be forced to turn off the taps: Cape Town was dry, tempers were frayed, and Mrs Snaddon found herself imagining what her son Frank's future might look like.

“Frank didn't sign up for closing night,” she says. “I made that decision for him.”

'We weren't allowed to flush'
South Africa's Western Cape region had been plagued by drought for almost three years. In January, with dam levels ebbing dangerously, the city announced some of the most radical water restrictions ever seen.

Capetonians were presented with a stark choice: curb their water use or the city would ration water to 25 litres per person per day, with residents forced to queue at collection points around the city.

“Pre..

Related Story: Growing dread in parched Cape Town as city prepares to run dry Related Story: How Perth dodged its own Day Zero water crisis

Julia Snaddon was already several months pregnant when Cape Town announced that "Day Zero" was imminent.

This was the day the city would be forced to turn off the taps: Cape Town was dry, tempers were frayed, and Mrs Snaddon found herself imagining what her son Frank's future might look like.

"Frank didn't sign up for closing night," she says. "I made that decision for him."

'We weren't allowed to flush'

South Africa's Western Cape region had been plagued by drought for almost three years. In January, with dam levels ebbing dangerously, the city announced some of the most radical water restrictions ever seen.

Capetonians were presented with a stark choice: curb their water use or the city would ration water to 25 litres per person per day, with residents forced to queue at collection points around the city.

Cape Town residents have had limited access to water amid a drying climate

"Pregnant women pee a lot and we weren't allowed to flush that," Mrs Snaddon says. "It got a bit gross."

"I wondered how the hell I was supposed to queue for water when I had a newborn baby. I was honestly considering leaving town before he was born, like some kind of migrating herd animal, to avoid having to travel with him to moister pastures when he was tiny."

By March, the city had reduced its daily water usage by more than 50 per cent. Day Zero was pushed back, initially to August.

When the rains finally broke over winter, filling the city's dams to 76 per cent, it was pushed back indefinitely.

A general view of the dried up Theewaterskloof dam near Cape Town.

Watching from Western Sydney

From Sao Paulo to Bangalore, researchers and analysts have watched Cape Town's crisis unfold with a mind to their own drought-prone cities. With 98 per cent of NSW in drought, the University of Western Sydney's Dr Ian Wright is among them.

"Australia has an uncertain climate that looks like it may be becoming drier in the south, where the majority of the population live," he says.

"Perth has suffered 40 years of lower and lower rainfall, and lower flows, as its population has increased. Many inland cities also face water stress, including the fact that the accessible water — often groundwater — is of poor quality.

"There's a strong chance things will get drier and we will have more struggling communities. We must learn from Cape Town."

Measures like Cape Town's "water dashboard" — an online resource that presented citizens with usage targets, dam levels, and other relevant information in a clear way — could easily be adopted, he says.

Hay Plains rain

'Shame can be powerful'

But the water dashboard was only one of the measures Cape Town adopted to avert Day Zero. It also named and shamed heavy users, imposed tariffs, and implemented a series of behavioural "nudges".

Cape Town University professor Martine Visser worked with the city in 2015 and 2016, testing the impact of these "nudges" on households.

"Middle- and high-income groups reacted more strongly to social recognition, social norms, and public goods messaging," she says.

"For lower-income groups, messages related to financial savings were more effective."

To alter the behaviour of "water guzzlers" — those consuming more than 50 kilolitres per household per month — the city sent out personal letters, shaming them and threatening to install water-restricting devices.

"The letter itself resulted in a 3 per cent reduction in consumption amongst those households and the effect lasted for up to nine months," she says.

A mural above the harbour that says "our dam levels won't rise this easily, please save water"

Dr Wright from UWS says "shame can be powerful", and there may come a time when it should be employed in Australia.

"In Sydney in the 1990s and early 2000s, people were more than happy to dob in their neighbours," he says.

"Since we have an average water use of 300 litres per person, per day in Sydney, in a severe drought, the water authority should publicly name the recalcitrant water users that continue to have long showers and drench their gardens."

Aerial of Cape Town suburbs

More than dobbing in your neighbour

But there's more to be done besides consumer pressure.

Dr Kirsty Carden of the University of Cape Towns Future Water Institute.

Kirsty Carden, a researcher at the University of Capetown's Future Water Institute, says that bore water and other alternative sources have been adopted on a massive scale since Day Zero was announced, especially among richer Capetonians.

"What we need to focus on, if we're going to start relying on alternative sources in a more institutionalised way, is bringing those sources into the supply chain," she says.

"We need to be more like cities such as Melbourne in terms of managing our various water sources, diversifying how we collect our water and bringing all those sources onto the grid."

Political minefield

The fissures that have long plagued South Africa race, class and economic inequality — were further highlighted by the crisis.

Some wealthier Capetonians accused Africans in the city's informal townships of wasting water, even though most, as Dr Carden puts it, "have been living under Day Zero conditions their whole lives, using about 40 litres per person per day."

Township resident walking down the street with a washing basin

Organisations such as the Tafelsig Activists Forum framed the restrictions as a money-making endeavour and a hoax.

Political differences also meant Cape Town's experience was largely ignored at the national level, according to Dr Carden. The Western Cape is governed by the Democratic Alliance, while the African National Congress, which has been in power at the national level since the end of Apartheid, remains dominant everywhere else.

"I don't think the national government has realised that this is a learning opportunity," Dr Carden says.

"Gauteng, which is the South African province with the largest population, has really pressing water issues — yet Cape Town has largely been left to its own devices."

Aerial view of Cape Town

Not out of the woods

While many Capetonians continue to be vigilant, experts have warned that consumption is again on the rise and may prove unsustainable.

By the beginning of November, usage had already increased to 593 million litres per day — nearly 100 million litres above the city's target — and dam levels will drop between 1 or 2 per cent a week over summer.

"The question is what happens next," says Dr Carden.

"If we maintain our current consumption levels, we should have enough to see us through to next season.

"If people suddenly start going mad, using water like they used to, we'll be in trouble again."

Aerial of Capetown

What lies ahead?

Mrs Snaddon says she's impressed by how Capetonians "stepped up to the plate". But she's still left wondering what sort of world her bouncing 5-month-old son is likely to grow up in.

"It plays on my mind a lot," she says.

"Firstly, because having a child is by far the worst thing you can do in terms of managing your carbon footprint, and secondly because I don't know if the world is going to be much fun a few decades from now when it starts getting hot."

"I solace myself with the thought that I can raise him to save the world. No pressure."

Original Article

Continue Reading

Australia

Bitcoin overtakes iTunes vouchers as most common payment demanded by tax scammers

Australians have reported more than 28,000 'scam' attempts to the Australian Tax Office (ATO), since July 1, and paid almost $1 million to scammers, the ATO says.

The agency said payments through Bitcoin ATMs had overtaken iTunes vouchers as the most common method of scam payment reported to the ATO.

A Bitcoin ATM is a method of transferring cash into and out of the cryptocurrency.

“November is a prime time for scammers as they know lots of people have tax bills to pay,” Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said in a statement.

She said scammers were becoming more sophisticated and exploiting vulnerable people, often using aggressive tactics to swindle people out of their money or personal information. They were known to impersonate tax agents too.

“Be wary if someone contacts you demanding payment of a tax debt you didn't know you owed,” Ms Anderson said.

“Your identifying information like tax file numbers, bank account numbers or your date of birth are the keys t..

Australians have reported more than 28,000 'scam' attempts to the Australian Tax Office (ATO), since July 1, and paid almost $1 million to scammers, the ATO says.

The agency said payments through Bitcoin ATMs had overtaken iTunes vouchers as the most common method of scam payment reported to the ATO.

A Bitcoin ATM is a method of transferring cash into and out of the cryptocurrency.

"November is a prime time for scammers as they know lots of people have tax bills to pay," Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said in a statement.

She said scammers were becoming more sophisticated and exploiting vulnerable people, often using aggressive tactics to swindle people out of their money or personal information. They were known to impersonate tax agents too.

"Be wary if someone contacts you demanding payment of a tax debt you didn't know you owed," Ms Anderson said.

"Your identifying information like tax file numbers, bank account numbers or your date of birth are the keys to your identity, and can be used by scammers to break into your life if they are compromised," she added.

External Link: ATO scam audio

The ATO would never ask a taxpayer to make a payment into an ATM or via gift or pre-paid cards such as iTunes and Visa cards, or direct credit to be paid to a personal bank account, Ms Anderson said.

But since July 1, the ATO had seen almost 6,000 taxpayers give away their personal or financial information to scammers through things like phishing scams.

"If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of a call, hang up and call us on 1800 008 540," Ms Anderson said.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has also reported more scams by people impersonating well-known businesses and the police.

In August, the ACCC said its Scamwatch website had recorded a significant spike in remote-access scams, with more than 8,000 reports recorded in 2018 (to August) and losses totalling $4.4 million.

Australian Taxation Office assistant commissioner Kath Anderson on the phone

The ACCCs Targeting Scams report said more than 200,000 scam reports were submitted to the ACCC, Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and other federal and state-based government agencies in 2017.

Australians lost $340 million – a $40 million increase compared to 2016, and more than in any other year since the ACCC began reporting on scam activity, it said.

ATOs tips to spot a scammer:

  • Scammers are often aggressive or abusive
  • They will often threaten you with immediate arrest
  • They request payment via unusual methods such as iTunes gift cards or other prepaid cards
  • They request personal security information such as your tax file number or bank details via email or SMS or social media sites
  • They ask for money in order to process a refund or other payment

Original Article

Continue Reading

Australia

Get your childs immunisation history or else face risk of exclusion: health authority

Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) is encouraging parents and carers to download their childs immunisation history statement before the start of primary and secondary schools in 2019.

A WNSWLHD spokesperson said principals of primary and secondary schools must request an immunisation history statement when children enroll.

“If children do not have an immunisation certificate on file, or whose certificate shows they are incompletely vaccinated, they may be excluded from school in the event of a serious vaccine preventable disease outbreak, for example, measles,” the spokesperson said.

However, parents are not required to show the certificate if their children are transferring straight from a public primary to a public secondary school.

“The immunisation history will transfer with their other records, so parents do not need to show the certificate again,” the spokesperson said.

Parents of other students are encouraged to download their childs statement from the Australian I..

Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) is encouraging parents and carers to download their childs immunisation history statement before the start of primary and secondary schools in 2019.

A WNSWLHD spokesperson said principals of primary and secondary schools must request an immunisation history statement when children enroll.

“If children do not have an immunisation certificate on file, or whose certificate shows they are incompletely vaccinated, they may be excluded from school in the event of a serious vaccine preventable disease outbreak, for example, measles,” the spokesperson said.

However, parents are not required to show the certificate if their children are transferring straight from a public primary to a public secondary school.

“The immunisation history will transfer with their other records, so parents do not need to show the certificate again,” the spokesperson said.

Parents of other students are encouraged to download their childs statement from the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR).

Read also:

WNSWLHD provides health services in most of the Central West cities, including the Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo local government areas.

NSW Health director of communicable diseases, Vicky Sheppeard, said the new requirements are crucial in stopping the spread of diseases.

“It's important for schools to have an immunisation history statement for each enrolled student to help manage disease outbreaks,” Ms Sheppeard said.

The immunisation history statement includes all vaccines given to the child and reported by the provider to the AIR.

All children registered with Medicare can obtain their immunisation history statements, including those who have had no vaccines, or those who have medical exemptions to certain vaccines.

Parents and carers can obtain their childs immunisation history statement by:

• using their Medicare online account through myGov

• using the Medicare Express Plus App

• calling the AIR General Enquiries Line on 1800 653 809.

NSW Health said it has achieved its highest vaccination rates through the immunisation programs.

It will spend a record $22.75 million on state-wide immunisation programs in 2018-19.

This story Get your childs immunisation history or else face risk of exclusion: health authority first appeared on Western Advocate.

Continue Reading

Australia

West Busselton public house left trashed

West Busselton public house left trashed
A public housing home in West Busselton was left trashed after tenants vacated the property several weeks ago leaving the home in disarray.

An old mattress, doors, junk, and rubbish littered the property with items sprawled across the front lawn and backyard, including a destroyed bicycle which had been hung from a tree out the front of the home.

Neighbour Steve Sewell said it was unacceptable the tenants were allowed to live in the home in such an unkept state and it was frustrating the Department of Communities did not conduct more regular inspections.

“It is a typical case of the department not doing their job, it is the only house which has not been looked after in the whole street, as you can see,” he said.

Mr Sewell said several complaints had been made to the department against the tenants including the number of people who lived at the home.

“If they were having regular house inspections, which we pay for, it would not be the way i..

West Busselton public house left trashed

A public housing home in West Busselton was left trashed after tenants vacated the property several weeks ago leaving the home in disarray.

An old mattress, doors, junk, and rubbish littered the property with items sprawled across the front lawn and backyard, including a destroyed bicycle which had been hung from a tree out the front of the home.

Neighbour Steve Sewell said it was unacceptable the tenants were allowed to live in the home in such an unkept state and it was frustrating the Department of Communities did not conduct more regular inspections.

“It is a typical case of the department not doing their job, it is the only house which has not been looked after in the whole street, as you can see,” he said.

Mr Sewell said several complaints had been made to the department against the tenants including the number of people who lived at the home.

“If they were having regular house inspections, which we pay for, it would not be the way it is today.”

In a letter, obtained by the Mail, from the Minister for Housings office about the property it stated that the department expected public housing tenants to maintain properties to a standard consistent with the community.

The letter, dated July 13, stated routine inspections were conducted at the property from 2016 to 2018 and the department found the property to be neat, tidy and undamaged with no cause for concern.

“The department does not consider that the property would require significant maintenance work that is beyond general wear and tear should it become vacant in the future,” the letter stated.

Department of Communities acting assistant director general regional and remove service delivery Brad Jolly said inspections for public housing were conducted annually or more frequently if a problem was identified.

“Where a tenant vacates a property, inspections are conducted shortly after and any cleaning and maintenance works will generally be completed within 28 days,” he said.

“The department does not condone tenants damaging properties. Where damage can be attributed to the actions of tenants, they are billed for repairs and carry that liability even after they vacate a property.”

Mr Jolly said terminating was a last resort and was decided by a Magistrate.

Continue Reading

Trending