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Click to enlarge - Savanna and blue skies of Mount Stuart

Theme Summary

Annandale suburb to western foothils of Mount Stuart
Click image to enlarge - Annandale suburb to western foothills of Mount Stuart



The three main issues that are involved in assessing the State of the Environment in Townsville as it relates to the Atmosphere are: Climate Change, Ozone Layer Depletion, and Urban Air Quality. While urban air pollution is the most obvious problem in this category to local residents – from motor vehicles or industrial sources – it is important to appreciate that Climate Change and Ozone Layer Depletion both pose very serious and specific dangers and policy challenges for Townsville and the surrounding region.

Climate Change

Climate variability has always influenced the evolution of Australia’s ecosystems. There is increasing scientific consensus that human induced greenhouse gas emissions are causing an unprecedented and potentially dangerous rate of global warming. There is also increasing scientific consensus that this increased warming could cause significant damage to the environment of the Townsville region, particularly the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef. In order to better understand the potential damage and what the community can do to minimise it, an understanding of local climate conditions and their relationships with local ecosystems is essential. It is also important to understand the contribution of Townsville City to greenhouse emissions and, albeit in a small way, to the dangers posed by global warming. Greenhouse emissions have been measured for Townsville City Council Operations and for a number of businesses in the City. However, a comprehensive assessment of greenhouse emissions for all of Townsville has yet to be undertaken.

Ozone Depletion

Our planet is surrounded by a naturally occurring layer of Ozone (O3) which helps to reduce the levels of the sun’s radiation from finally reaching the earth’s surface. We have known for a generation that releasing certain substances depletes the ozone layer and that in turn increases the levels of UV radiation reaching the earth surface. This increased exposure to radiation in areas under which most depletion has occurred is anticipated to lead to more skin cancer amongst human populations. It can also have damaging impacts on the local environment.

Urban Air Quality

Air pollution in urban communities is the most obvious sign of damage to our atmosphere. Smokestacks and motor vehicle exhaust fumes are easily recognisable for local residents. Townsville’s relatively small population does prevent the more extreme urban air quality damage endured by major cities, but urban air pollution is still a significant local issue. It is important to appreciate that a wide range of urban air pollutants from a variety of mobile and stationary or "point" sources are linked to significant adverse public health impacts – especially respiratory problems – some even at low levels. Yet, little local knowledge exists on atmospheric pollution levels in Townsville and the impacts on the health of the local population and the environment. The few exceptions include limited fine particle pollution data collected from air monitoring stations in the area of the Townsville Port Authority by the Environmental Protection Agency. There is also data measured by the National Pollution Inventory including concentrations of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, lead, particles and emission of a wide range of air pollutants. However, this data is a measure of the emissions to the environment from a small number of report facilities and is not a measure of "ambient" air quality in general.

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Townsville's first grid connect solar array - helping to offset demand for fossil fuel power
Click image to enlarge - Townsville's first grid connected solar panels - Alligator creek residence


Climate Change

Greenhouse Emissions in Townsville

Every city and town in Australia contributes pressure to the problem of global warming. Many Local Authorities now report on greenhouse emissions associated with Council operations and with the community as well. Two such Queensland Local authorities include Noosa and Maroochy shires. 

Like most Australian communities, Townsville’s economic base is associated with the generation of substantial amounts of greenhouse gases – primarily associated with the burning of fossil fuels. As with most other settlements, it is likely that the biggest contributor to Climate Change pressures in Townsville is coal-fired electricity consumption and the use of petrol and diesel for both business and domestic applications.

While there has yet to be a comprehensive LGA-wide assessment of greenhouse emissions for Townsville, greenhouse management work is underway with Townsville organisation seeking an active role. For example, about 40 local companies had greenhouse audits conducted as part of the Greenhouse Challenge program. In Townsville, Townsville Enterprise is the Third Party Recruiter for the Greenhouse Challenge Program. A Greenhouse Audit was also conducted for Townsville City Council with the Assistance of Townsville Enterprise.

Townsville City Council Greenhouse Gas emissions

In january 2002, a greenhouse report 'Greenhouse Audit and Energy Cost Reduction Plan' was conducted for Townsville City Council in partnership with Townsville Enterprise. This report identified greenhouse emissions associated specifically with Townsville City Council using 2000-2001 as a baseline year. In all, Townsville City Council operations are responsible for greenhouse emissions equivalent to approximately 120,000 tons per annum of CO2 equivalent (expressed as CO2e).

Click here for What is CO2e?

Greenhouse emissions take a number of different forms. These include emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels, fugitive emissions from waste water treatment plants and landfill sites, and emissions associated with electricity consumption. The main source of Council emissions was methane emissions from solid waste management, emissions from electricity use, with vehicle emissions and those from wastewater treatment plants being other direct sources.

TCC solid waste management account for emissions of 90,146 tons CO2e in the baseline year. This was due to emissions of methane created in the anaerobic breakdown of organic matter in landfills. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that has 21 times the global warming impact as CO2. Methane is also produced in the Council's sewerage and wastewater treatment plants, again because of the presence of anaerobic bacteria, which generate the gas as part of a natural process. However, two of the Council’s waste water treatment plants have a methane capture facility and the gas is used to power a modified diesel generator that offsets some of the power needed to run the plant. Using Australian Greenhouse Office Factors and Methods 2004, it is estimated that emissions associated with the methane from other wastewater plants and the balance of the energy required to run the systems accounts for 2068 tons of CO2e.

TCC Vehicle fleet operations account for the use of over 1 million litres of petroleum based diesel (petro-diesel) in the baseline year 2000-2001 which released 2950 tons CO2e into the atmosphere. Council also used about 400,000 litres of petrol in the baseline year. Emissions associated with petrol consumption amount to 933 tons CO2e per year. Calculating petro-diesel and petrol together amounts to 3883 tons of CO2e for liquid fuels in the vehicle fleet.

In North Queensland, at the time of the greenhouse audit, emissions associated with mains electricity usage equalled 1.04kg CO2e for every kilowatt (kWh) hour of electricity (this figures has since been revised to 1.079kg - see Australian Greenhouse Office Factors and Methods). Using the available data, it has been assessed that Townsville City Council's emissions associated with electricity use equalled 22,831 tons of CO2e. This amounts to 23,687 tons CO2e using the new coefficient.

Without policy intervention to prevent it, under normal business operating procedures, TCC's greenhouse emissions would increase annually in a manner which is likely to parallel economic development and population growth in the City.

Ozone Depleting substances

With the creation of an international agreement known as the Montreal Protocol, impressive steps have been taken over the past 15 years to reduce the use of ozone depleting chemicals, referred to as Ozone Depleting substances (ODS). This has led to tangible improvements in the condition of the Ozone Layer. However, with increasing industrial development in poorer countries and some patchy implementation non-compliance with the Protocol, Ozone depletion remains a serious problem.

Ozone depleting substances include chlorofluorocarbons and other industrial gasses. Despite the Montreal Protocol, a number of sources of these gasses still exist. In Townsville, Council assesses approvals relating to ozone depleting substances where a development proposes to release gases to the environment.

Much of the pressure felt in Townsville relates to public health in that we have endured higher incidences of skin cancers. This is due to a range of factors, not the least of which is Townsville’s very sunny climate – with some 171 days a year with 10 or more hours of sunshine relative to less than 10 days a year of no sunshine.

However, the high skin cancer rates are also likely to be exacerbated by ozone depleting emissions elsewhere in the world.  Like Climate Change, ozone depletion is a ‘trans-boundary’ environmental threat in which pollution taking place in one part of the world impacts on the environment and human health many thousands of kilometres away.

Air Pollution Emissions

At present, Council has very little data on the effects of atmospheric pollution on the local environment in Townsville. In order to assess atmospheric emissions and pollutants, models require the collection of ambient air quality readings from a variety of locations at different times of day. They also need data on average temperatures and rainfall, and the occurrence of extreme rainfalls and temperatures events to assess the impacts. Such data has not been routinely collected in Townsville.

However, some ambient air monitoring is undertaken in Townsville in order to give an accurate view of exposure levels of particulates for Townsville residents. There are two existing ambient air monitoring stations in Townsville run by the EPA. Located at Garbutt and at South Townsville, these are monitored one week out of the month. No chemical analysis is undertaken of the particulates. Click here to see PM10 (particulate matter 10 microns) data for Townsville, for 2000 / 2001.

A third ambient PM 10 (particulate matter <10 microns) air monitoring station is planned for Townsville although it has not yet been decided where this is to be located. The location of this station will be within guidelines put forward by the NPI for ambient stations. It is possible also that this station will have a data logger. This station is planned to be installed in the near future. Under discussion is also the possibility of including equipment to monitor gases such as nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide (EPA pers com.)

Air quality guidelines for Townsville are found in the Environmental Protection Policy (Air) Schedule 1. The aims of the EPP (2000) are to maintain air quality at levels that do not present a risk to public health or the environment. The schedule lists components of air quality targets over 8hr and 24 hour periods. The data shows that Townsville air quality stays within these guidelines.

Information about emissions of pollutants from industrial point sources to air is held by the National Pollution Inventory, a nation-wide initiative administered in Queensland by the EPA. Click here for an overview of NPI reporting in Queensland and Townsville.

The number of Townsville facilities reporting under the National Pollutant Inventory has been increasing. As a consequence the community right to know of Townsville residents about emissions in their neighbourhood has been enhanced. At this stage it is difficult to establish clear improvements in emission performance by local firms. However, there is a clear indication based on their submissions to Environment Australia that local companies have in most cases implemented important emission reduction initiatives. That said, Townsville companies continue to emit significant amounts of substances which have been identified as potentially damaging to human health and the environment. Those substances of greatest concern include – as rated in order of NPI Risk Rank include:

  1. Oxides of Nitrogen
  2. Chromium (VI) compounds
  3. Carbon Monoxide
  4. Sulphur Dioxide
  5. Dichloromethane
  6. Cadmium and Compounds
  7. Particulate Matter 10.0um
  8. Sulphuric Acid
  9. Xylenes (individual or mixed isomers)
  10. Arsenic & compounds
  11. Lead & compounds
  12. Trichloroethylene

TCC strongly encourages readers to examine closely the information provided by the NPI on the dangers associated with these compounds.

It should not be assumed that the emission of substances per se poses a significant risk – the level of emissions associated with environmental and health dangers varies a great deal from substance to substance. Nor should it be assumed that these emissions amount to an overwhelming majority of emissions in the city. Smaller diffuse sources of emissions are collectively responsible for a significant proportion of emissions but are not captured in the NPI framework at present.

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Beach Landscape with Palm Island on the background
Click image to enlarge - Beach Landscape with Palm Island on the background


Climate Change - Climate and Variability

Townsville's climate is unique amongst other coastal locations along the North Queensland coast. Unlike most of tropical Queensland, the Townsville Region is appropriately referred to as the Dry Tropics because of its relatively low rainfall compared with other areas. The climate is warm and sub-humid, with a hot wet summer period of variable duration and intensity (Northern Monsoon), and a warm dry winter season (SE Trade Winds).

Temperatures vary from an average maximum of 30.7°C and minimum of 24.6°C in January to a 24.4°C maximum and 15.4°C minimum in July. Rainfall is highly seasonal and varies greatly from year to year. Rain is generally associated with tropical cyclones and depressions, south-easterly trade wind streams, and north-easterly winds during the passage of monsoon troughs. The average annual rainfall is 1,134 mm, with 80% falling during the period from December to March (i.e.. the wet season or summer monsoons).

Winds are generally light to moderate, with occasional strong to gale force winds during storms and cyclones in the wet season and intense high pressure ridges in the cooler months. The dominant wind directions are from the south-east and north-east, with a north-easterly afternoon sea breeze very common near the coast. On average, cyclones affect the region about once every two years.

Check Townsville's Weather right now!

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Satellite Image
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Synoptic Chart
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Rain Radar

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Images courtesy of the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology

Local Climatic variability is linked to global weather phenomena including the El Niño and La Nina but also to human induced global warming. These impact directly on local ecosystems as well as flood and fire patterns. Their impacts can be exacerbated by human influence such as arson and urban development. Wind effects due to storms and especially cyclones can have profound impact on local environments (e.g.. native tree damage, salt and sand in beach scrubs). Information relating to the Southern Oscillation Index and sea surface temperatures, key determinants of local climate/weather patterns are routinely updated on the DNRM "The Long Paddock" website: the Seasonal Climate Outlook.

While it is difficult to separate out the climate changes associated with human induced global warming from background natural variability and patterns such as El Nino, it is clear that Townsville has experienced a significant warming trend in line with other parts of the world in recent years.

As the recent Cleveland Bay Consortium Status Report observed:

  • Sea surface temperatures (SST) around Cleveland Bay have, in keeping with the rest of the Great Barrier Reef, significantly warmed over the past century;

  • Average SSTs are 0.6 degrees celcius warmer in the last 30 years of the 20th century compared with the first 30 years of the century;

  • Air temperatures in Townsville has also been rising;

  • Annual average temperatures for the most recent 20 years of record (1979-98) are 0.5 degrees celcius warmer than the first 20 years of record (1941-60);

  • Warming has been slightly greater for minimum (nighttime) temperatures which have increased by 0.9 degrees celcius over the same period;

  • Rainfall in Townsville is characterised by considerable inter-annual and inter-decadal variability (e.g. wetter 1950s and 1970s) and shows no significant trend over the past century towards wetter or drier conditions.

Source: Cleveland Bay Status Report Section 2.1.5 Climate of the Past Century

As the report also points out,

the biggest unknown for future climate in this area is what may happen to ENSO which is not as yet readily modelled in the global climate models used to provide scenarios of future climate.”

Source: Cleveland Bay Status Report Section 2.1.7 Future Climate

Click here to see CBC graphs of Townsville/Cleveland Bay climate over the last century: Cleveland Bay Sea Surface Temperatures 1903-2000 / Townsville Air Temperature 1941-1998 / Townsville Summer and Winter Rainfall 1895-1999.

See other Cleveland Bay Status Report climate pages:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has linked human induced greenhouse gas emissions with a clear warming trend now under way. According to the IPCC “the increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest of any century in the last 1000 years.” The IPCC anticipates a further increase in temperatures over the next 100 years of between 1.4oC and 5.8oC. Such a temperature increase could have very significant consequences for the people of Townsville and the surrounding environment.

The IPCC has also foreshadowed other consequences of Climate Change which are of potentially serious significance to Townsville and the surrounding region. These include increased intensity of severe weather events (e.g. cyclones and extreme rainfall events), increase in the number of people vulnerable to vector-borne diseases (e.g. Malaria), heat-stress mortality and water borne diseases.

Coral bleaching events already observed in recent years on the Great Barrier Reef suggest the region may already be experiencing some of the consequences flagged by the IPCC.

Ozone Depletion - UV Radiation

As noted above, depletion of the Ozone layer exacerbates Townsville’s naturally occurring high level of exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Skin cancer rates in Townsville are among the highest in the world and ozone depletion therefore poses a serious health threat to Townsville residents and the local environment.

Projections of the UV intensity are calculated by the Bureau of Meteorology and presented on their website. UV intensity is an important factor in the management of skin cancer. Information on this subject is available from the BOM Sun Safety website.

Air Quality

While the data is poor in terms of ambient air quality records on the major air pollutants identified by government health authorities, available indications suggest that urban air quality in Townsville is good relative to more heavily populated regions.

The "Townsville Thuringowa Strategy Plan Natural Resources Working Group" confirmed this for the wider  region, pointing to evidence collected through monitoring carried out by the Queensland Environment Protection Agency. However there is currently inadequate data available for Townsville (Queensland State of Environment Report 1999). Historically only ‘particulate matter’ and dust at Townsville Port have been monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (QSER, 1999).

Since the Townsville-Thuringowa Regional Strategy Plan (TTSP) reports were compiled Sun Metals zinc refinery has commenced production and the Coppery Refinery has increased operations. Both Sun Metals and the Copper Refinery are regulated by the EPA and operate under stringent environmental pollution management licence requirements.

Other point-source emissions are associated with stack emissions from Australian Meat Holdings and the Townsville Hospital, although the Townsville Hospital has recently been relocated further West.

These major sources of urban air pollution are subject to reporting requirements under the National Pollutant Inventory – the current highlights of which are discussed above. It is important to appreciate in assessing NPI data that there has been an increase in the number of NPI reporting facilities in Townsville in recent years. There have also been changes in relation to the number of substances reported under the NPI and whether penalties have applied for non-compliance.  With these changes in the program, it is highly misleading to compare year to year total emission level changes in NPI data for Townsville. Over time, however, it is to be hoped that the NPI will assist in this regard.

Other minor point sources of air pollution include laundry boilers, asphalt plants and petroleum storage facilities. Due to the dry winters experienced in Northern Australia, smoke from illegally lit wildfires and QFS/QPWS approved fuel-reduction and conservation management burns can sometimes cause small pollution episodes in the Townsville air-shed especially when colder air is trapped by air inversions or poor recirculation patterns.

Aside from point sources of urban air pollution, mobile sources are the other major contributor – in other words, cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships. The Transport sector is a significant contributor to the problem of urban air quality (and, it should be said, Climate Change as well). Click here for an insight into motor vehicle air pollution issues in Townsville including a case study.

Motor vehicles pose the most significant threat in Townsville and this is exacerbated by decentralised land use patterns in Townsville and inherent transport inefficiencies. Growth in motor vehicle registration is outstripping growth in population. Many factors encourage dominance of the car in Townsville - short trip times, and distances, low levels of congestion, and lack of public transport easy access to parking at relatively low cost. According to the 1999 census of motor vehicles in the Townsville local government area there were 45,096 passenger cars and motor cycles, 11,506 light commercials, and 2,144 prime movers and buses. This number is growing each year with another 2,916 new registrations in the year 1999-2000. Click here to see vehicle pollution on a sample road in Townsville.

There are currently 1,700 km of roads in Townsville/Thuringowa. The urban road network has developed in such a way that  people rely predominantly on  private car use.

Historic data (1991) indicates an extremely low level of historic bus use (TTSP Policy Paper Transport 1996) compared with other cities. A  new local bus service since 1996 is helping to raise the level of public transport take-up by residents. However, car usage is nonetheless projected to increase dramatically in line with the population (320,000 by 2015) and urban air pollution will rise as well without substantial improvements in fuel quality and vehicle efficiency.

Both of these areas are being addressed at a national level in consultation with the petroleum and motor vehicle industries, and the main lever available at the local level aside from encouraging public transport is the shape and management of the local road network. With the existing road network expected to serve Townsville until 2015, with the exception of the Townsville Ring Road, there is no immediate pressure in this area. However, a more than doubling of the local population will inevitably pose major challenges to the city’s planners – one of which will be maintaining urban air quality.

Projected growth in highway, railway, port and aviation traffic over the same period will further add to this pressure. Townsville is an important freight node for road, rail, air and shipping transport. It is estimated that 2.5 times as much freight is moved per capita in the Townsville region than in South East Queensland.

Townsville airport (Australian Airports Pty Ltd) has projected that civil throughput will increase by 75% by 2018 and international throughput to rise to 4% of total throughput by 2018. This could be associated with significant environmental challenges including increased greenhouse gas emissions and impacts on local air quality. However, the airport has in place an Environmental Management System and is also investigating some greenhouse management projects. These two initiatives may assist in decoupling pollutant emissions from economic throughput.

Similarly, the Townsville Port is projected to continue to grow strongly. After 12 successive years of record growth in tonnages the Port is expected to achieve 14 million tonnes of throughput by 2025 – up from 1.5 million tonnes in 1988. This is associated with significant increases in environmental pressures including atmospheric pollution. Click here to see graphs of TPA Trade 2001/02. However, as with the airport, TPA has a range of initiatives in place to reduce environmental pressure.

This rapid growth in the transport sector requires policy makers to balance freight competitiveness (and associated economic benefits) with environmental and social objectives.

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El Niño in the Pacific Ocean
Click image to enlarge - El Niño in the Pacific Ocean, Image courtesy of NOAA


Climate Change:

Greenhouse Gasses

Internationally, the major multilateral response to greenhouse emissions has been the United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol (download text of the Kyoto Protocol  .pdf). Under this framework developed nations have committed to reducing emissions by some 5% by the period 2008-2012 compared with a 1990 baseline. A wide range of multilateral emission reduction solutions are being pursued under the umbrella of the Kyoto Protocol including emissions trading.

Increasingly it is possible to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions growth. This happens by seeking opportunities for energy use reduction (through energy efficiency) and cost effective applications for renewable energy.

Various Townsville companies included in the Greenhouse Challenge program are demonstrating that they can reduce greenhouse emissions whilst maintaining economic output. Whilst not part of the Greenhouse Challenge Program, TCC presents an example of Local Government proving what’s possible in this area. A prime example is the Mt. St John Treatment Plant and Cleveland Bay STP where methane is utilised to power the plants and reduce energy requirements. Citiwater energy production from this renewable sourced methane account for 90% at Mt. St John and 30% at Cleveland Bay Treatment Plant.

Greenhouse Gas Audit

Council has also worked with Townsville Enterprise in conducting a greenhouse audit and energy cost reduction plan. The effects of this project are yet to be translated into on-ground action, but Council has policies of reducing waste and maximising reuse options for wastewater. The new waste treatment plant at Picnic Bay on Magnetic Island recognises this shift - the plant is named Picnic Bay Wastewater Recycling Plant (an recognises the plan to reuse effluent on the adjacent golf course and land).

Sustainable Townsville

Council has recently commenced a Sustainable Townsville program, an partnership project with EPA Sustainable Industries Division. This program is just commencing and will seek to identify opportunities for both development and the environmental management/recycling of waste and materials. Sustainable Townsville is reviewing and delivering a program that ensures opportunities for community growth options exist, and works to find environmental solutions to waste management and recycling under Cleaner Production principles. One of the initiatives underway is the delivery of a Powerpoint presentation called Sustainability Today (.pps 1.69Mb) prepared for Townsville City Council by SEA O2 Sustainable Development.

An overview of a process for implementing sustainability at the Local Authority level has been presented by Michael Lunn of Sustainable Management Systems, an Associate of AtKisson Inc. This information is covered by copyright, and permissions of use have been given to Townsville City Council and is constantly updated, but this 2002 powerpoint presentation reflects the proposed process at the time of going to press. Click here to see Sustainable Townsville (.pps 1.15Mb)

Sustainable Community Initiatives and Industry Involvement

The business community in Townsville has also recognised the significance of Climate Change as an issue of importance in strategic planning and many companies have seized the opportunity to get involved in co-operative partnerships to reduce greenhouse emissions. According to Townsville Enterprise, the following local businesses and organisations have signed a Letter of Intent on the Greenhouse Challenge:

  • Australian Airports (Townsville) Pty Limited
  • Battery World
  • Blue Haven Lodge (Blue Care)
  • Christine Court  (Blue Care)
  • Galilee Units  (Blue Care)
  • Garden Settlement Townsville  (Blue Care)
  • Geoff Pickering Motors
  • Great Northern Laundry Pty Ltd
  • Harbourside Services Pty Ltd
  • Homefield Hostel and Nursing Home  (Blue Care)
  • Ironside Management Services Pty Ltd (12 Oaks Poultry)
  • Koinonia Units
  • Magnetic Gateway Holiday Village
  • Mareeba Hostel (Garden Settlement)  (Blue Care)
  • Mater Misericordiae Hospital Townsville Limited
  • Northern Rail Management
  • NQ Barramundi and Aquaculture
  • Quest Townsville
  • Royal Hotel Motel
  • Seaview Hotel
  • Stockland Townsville
  • The Bank Niteclub
  • The Mad Cow Tavern
  • The North Queensland Newspaper Company Limited
  • Townsville Auto Resort and Van Park
  • Townsville Enterprise Ltd.
  • Townsville Laundries
  • Townsville Port Authority

The following companies have been recruited by Townsville Enterprise as members for the Greenhouse Challenge Program.

  • Brothers Leagues Club
  • Magnetic Gateway Holiday Village
  • The North Queensland Newspaper Company Limited
  • Southbank Hotel & Convention Center
  • Townsville Enterprise Ltd.

Holiday Inn Townsville is also a member of the Greenhouse Challenge Program however they were recruited by another Third Party Recruiter.

A number of local businesses are clearly also playing a part in assisting the reduction in greenhouse emissions in Townsville. Gough Plastics, for example, has developed a novel domestic solar hot water system. The system, known as Hot Harry, is due to be commercially launched soon. Hot Harry is distinct from other solar hot water systems by storing energy from the sun in a water reservoir and transmitting this energy to household water supply through a heat exchange pipe. This system is designed to provide a solar boost to a conventional electric hot water system. Hot Harry could reduce a household's greenhouse emissions associated with heating hot water by up to 80%.

Another company, FNQ Solar, a division of Battery World is also assisting in renewable energy initiatives in Townsville. FNQ Solar installs solar panels (grid-interactive  photovoltaic systems - GIPV). Battery World took the lead in this regard by installing a 1kW system on the roof of their Ingham Road workshop - the first in North Queensland.
Click here to see picture of Battery World Solar Panel.

To date, FNQ Solar has installed two other solar systems in Townsville. One of these is on a house in Alligator Creek and another, part of a larger renewable energy program, at Townsville High School. FNQ Solar is importing a small scale (1KW) vertical axis wind turbines for installation on Townsville State High School roof tops (what is a vertical axis wind turbine).

Towsville State High School instals Solar Panels
Click image to visit TSHS - Townsville High School instals Solar Panels

Townsville High School is developing an innovative renewable energy system that has three parts. The first part includes a 1kW polycrystalline solar system. The second stage of the project includes a 1kW amorphous system, similarly connected to the grid. For the third part of the system it is proposed to install a 1kW vertical axis wind turbine adjacent to the solar panels. Each of these systems will have their energy out put independently monitored providing a valuable insight into the potential power output of hybrid renewable energy systems under Townsville conditions. This is a significant program for Townsville as it demonstrates the City's capacity to lead the field in innovative mechanisms to generate renewable energy and reduce greenhouse emissions.

Freedom exhaust generators
Roof mounted wind turbines


As a signatory to the Montreal Protocol, in 1989, the Australian Commonwealth Government passed the Ozone Protection Act from SCALEplus. This act calls for a gradual phase-out of the most harmful ozone depleting substances (ODS) (Click here to see Science of Ozone Depletion). Townsville City Council is in compliance with the existing ODS regulations. For example, all council vehicles now have ozone friendly HFC 134a as the refrigerant in their air conditioner systems.

Townsville City Council buildings' air conditioning system still contain ozone depleting refrigerant gases. However, under current law these are not required to be replaced by the 'ozone friendly' gases unless the air conditioning system is drained of its refrigerant gas. In this instance, the ozone depleting gas should be sent to Refrigerant Reclaim Australia for destruction.

Local Air Quality

As the National Pollutant Inventory continues to expand, the Townsville community will continue to benefit from access to information about local air pollution emissions by industry and government. This initiative, which is supported by the Townsville City Council, provides people with easy access (via the Internet) to  statistics on pollution levels in their own local neighbourhoods.

In addition, the state Government has undertaken some limited modelling studies as part of the Townsville-Thuringowa Regional Strategy Plan (TTSP) and TILP studies in an attempt to understand the impacts of air pollution on the local environment. It is anticipated that the model will be broadened with data from the introduction of an ambient air quality monitoring station in the Townsville area (pers com EPA). This data will provide valuable information for the future planning of the area.

TCC Initiatives

In addition to the greenhouse audit and as part of the sustainable Townsville Project, Townsville City Council undertakes a range of initiatives that reduce greenhouse emissions and improve air quality. Click to see a summary a few of Council's Air Pollution initiatives, and more details below.

TCC also makes a modest but positive contribution to lowering greenhouse and other air pollution by continuing to provide subsidies to bus and ferry transport in order to improve access to and utilisation of public transport. This scheme has been running for about 8 years. Under this scheme, Council funds a subsidy to Commonwealth Pension Card holders and a limited number of ferry passes for those pensioners who live on Magnetic Island. The funding, about $170-180,000 per annum is largely focussed on mainland bus services. Pensioners present a Council issued pensioner discount bus ticket which allows the holder a 30% discount on the fare. For pensioners resident of Magnetic Island, Council issues 20 ferry tickets per annum.

Since 1996 there has been an upgrade in Townsville bus services. This has included the provision of minimum service levels and the requirement that 95% of residents are within 800m of a primary bus route and within 400m of a service which operates during peak and shopping hours Monday to Saturday. This amounts to 227 bus stops in the Townsville area.

Problems remain in getting people on buses – in addition to attractiveness of cars, there are still lack of direct service, fare, and awareness issues. With regard to public transport on ferries, some 30,000 passengers annually including tourists and commuters take advantage of the fast and reliable service to Magnetic Island.

As well, Townsville City Council has invested heavily in a network of bike paths to encourage residents to take a more environmentally friendly and healthy alternative to cars. The network includes some 100km of on road bicycle lanes and 40km of off-road bicycle paths, and 10km of bicycle routes. Continuity and connectivity remains a concern of residents, as are lighting, and end-of-trip facilities. Townsville has reasonably good bike use levels compared with other cities, but there is room for improvement and the TCC continues to invest in improvements to the system. This TCC initiative is an important component of the Ross River Parkway Project. This project aims to have a off-road bikeway from the Upper Ross to the Townsville CBD.

Finally, TCC is working to lead by example in purchasing more energy efficient transport alternatives in its own vehicle fleet. TCC is the only council in North Queensland to purchase a Toyota Prius. Click here to see TCC Prius press release and news story.

The Prius is a hybrid car - it has a petrol/electric engine. This modern technology allows the Prius to use 50% less fuel and produce 50% less greenhouse emissions than an equivalent sized car. It also reduces by 80% the emission of air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide. Click to see what is special about the Prius.

TCC is one of only a few owners of the energy efficient Prius in North Queensland. In Townsville, for example, only Ergon Energy, Correctional Services and TCC have purchased a Prius. Click here for 'Who else drives the Prius in Queensland'.

As part of Sustainable Townsville initiatives, discussions have also commenced with Council's fleet services about a trial of biodiesel in the council trucks. Negotiations with biodiesel manufacturers are currently under way. At present the proposed trial is quite small (about 4-800 litres), Council could reduce its greenhouse emissions by 2,360 tons of CO2e per annum by swapping from petrodiesel to biodiesel. Besides the environmental benefits, this action would have health benefits for Townsville (i.e.. reduction in the toxicity of exhaust emissions). This initiative would illustrate TCC to be an early adopter of sustainable fuels. (Click here for more information about biodiesel).

TCC is also considering range of actions as part of the new 'Sustainable Townsville' partnership project with the Sustainable Industries section of the Queensland EPA (Sustainable Industries). Whilst most are not specifically aimed at addressing atmospheric pollution they would provide a positive contribution in this area. These actions include:

  • Developing a total waste management strategy to provide cradle-to-grave control over all aspects of pollution, waste generation and disposal;
  • Assessing options for new green industry and technologies to locate to Townsville (clean green image);
  • Conducting a review of current procedures for controlling air pollution addressing such issues as personnel, training, funding and equipment required to monitor pollutants and sources. This will enable Council to efficiently apply the responsibilities devolved by EPA and co-operate with other state and federal agencies to ensure a coordinated approach to pollution problems;
  • Addressing possible pollution sources at the planning stages of developments would include: emission standards; promoting waste minimisation and waste management plans to be included in the processes of the development; and, recommending processes and procedures within operations that preclude or reduce certain wastes;
  • Encouraging awareness within industries and develop educational programs directed at all sectors of the community with regard to responsibilities in reducing pollution sources and emissions;
  • Promoting research into the types of pollution associated with different land-use practices and how industries can aid in reducing pollution loadings.

Finally, TCC is also pursuing the priorities established in the "Townsville Thuringowa Integrated Transport Plan" - Draft version of Plan here (.pdf 565kb) - which will also contribute to a better environmental outcome on atmospheric pollution issues. Among others, these priorities include:

  • promoting compact forms of urban development to increase the efficiency of the transport system;
  • ensuring land use patterns encourage the use of public transport, walking and cycling;
  • pursuing alternative public transport models which utilise existing infrastructure and offer a viable alternative to car travel;
  • exploring alternatives to restrain heavy vehicle traffic growth, reduce the impact of heavy vehicles on the existing system and improve urban freight efficiency;
  • identifying opportunities to reduce the environmental impacts of transport and promote the environmental, economic and health benefits of public transport, cycling and walking; and
  • ensuring there is adequate infrastructure for viable, convenient and safe walking, cycling and recreational boating.

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Eroded coastal forest at Cungulla
Click image to enlarge - Eroded coastal forest at Cungulla