Furusato nozei ~ Japanese citizens direct taxes to rural areas

Hometown dues

Many Japanese city-dwellers still harbour strong feelings towards their furusato ~ their home town or rural area which their forebears may have left many decades ago during the country’s rapid urbanisation.

For some rural towns, the unexpected popularity of a scheme called furusato nozei, or hometown tax, is proving a windfall.

Seven years ago the central government began allowing city residents to divert a proportion of their income-tax payments to a furusato of their choice. The response has been overwhelming. In the last fiscal year rural towns earned ¥14 billion ($1.2 billion) from such contributions.

And some people choose a furusato not on the basis of any family ties, but simply because they like the area. Many select towns on Japan’s north-eastern coast that were devastated by the tsunami of March 2011. Sonoe Hasegawa, a 47-year-old accountant from Tokyo, says she wants to help revive the countryside. She has decided to give tax to Ishinomaki, a town in Miyagi prefecture where 3,700 residents drowned in the disaster, as well as five other places.

Furusato longings are a force the government cannot ignore. It has just expanded the scheme. A household with an income of ¥8m, for example, may now donate up to ¥142,000 in return for about 7% off its tax bill, up from 3.5% before.

Re~Post: Hometown dues | The Economist

Starfish completes Youth Centre Policy & Procedure Manual resource

The Youthie Logo

Starfish has completed six months work researching and writing an open source policy and procedure manual for the Tamworth Youthie.

The overall purpose of the Manual is to detail policies which enable the Youthie to operate effectively and efficiently as well as comply with all relevant legislation and regulation.

Starfish has created the Manual as an open source resource for the youth sector as a whole, under a creative commons licence. While Starfish prepared the Manual under engagement by Tamworth Regional Council, more than $30,000 worth of pro-bono work was done over-and-above this engagement to create a valuable resource for the youth sector.

The Youthie is a drop-in facility for young people aged 12–24 years from across the Tamworth region which has recently moved to a new multi-million-dollar facility in Coledale. This is one of the all too few purpose-designed-and-built youth facilities in Australia at this time.

A copy of the 220-page Manual can be downloaded here.

Read more about Starfish’s work on the Tamworth Youth Strategy here.

Leadership & Capacity Building for UNE Clubs, Groups & Societies

2015 new students

Starfish has been engaged by UNESA to design and deliver a series of four workshops aimed at enriching the student experience and amenities at UNE by creating more dynamic, resilient, and enjoyable clubs, groups and societies.

The workshops aim to build leadership and management capacity for office-bearers and will cover four key areas:

  1. Governance Essentials
  2. Efficient, effective & enjoyable: the well-run club
  3. Financial & money matters
  4. Growing Engagement

This new engagement builds on two years of work with UNESA’s Board of Directors in developing governance and leadership skills.

UNESA  re-formed in 2013 following a period of many years in which UNE did not formally have an independent student body.

UNESA’s governance requirements are challenging due to the highly nuanced nature of representing a diverse and largely remote student population, as well as the highly dynamic tertiary education policy and political environment in Australia at this time

Today, UNE has more than 20,000 students, of whom many study via its virtual campus from right across Australia and right around the world.

In addition to student representation, UNESA also operates two student enterprises:

  1. TuneFM ~ Australia’s oldest university broadcaster
  2. Nucleus ~ UNE’s student newspaper, first published in 1947

Find out more here.

Clubs leading in sustainability

Clubs and sustainability

For not-for-profit organisations like clubs, cutting energy, water and waste bills has a double benefit. It reduces operating costs and is also a valuable tool for member and staff engagement, according to chief executive of Oak Flats Bowling & Recreation Club Matt O’Hara.

The club, located at Shellharbour in the Illawarra just south of Port Kembla NSW, was recognised as Australia’s first carbon-neutral club in 2012.

“We found it was a good way to engage staff. The people it appealed to most were the generation Y who were at that time aged 18-20, and the seniors,” O’Hara says.

He says members also responded, and that many expressed strong support for the club “doing the right thing” at the quarterly members’ meetings. It particularly resonated with senior members. Sustainability information is now part of the quarterly club newsletter.

At the start of the sustainability path, the club had about 2,200 members. That has grown over the decade to about 11,000 plus another 8,500 members of the recently acquired Illawarra Yacht Club, which is now itself going to benefit from sustainability upgrades during a refurbishment.

The club introduced an option for members where they can pay an extra $1 a year on membership and have the club purchase offsets on their behalf. O’Hara says the initial goal was around 250 members choosing this option ~ instead it had about 600 in 2013, the majority of them regulars.

Visitors to the club are also able to take away ideas regarding sustainability, which could be easily implemented into their own workplace or home including using biodegradable straws, harvesting rainwater for use in the bathrooms and installing energy-efficient lighting.

Starfish has worked with numerous clubs on sustainability through its role as facilitator of the Northern Inland Sustainable Business Network (NISBN), including Armidale City Bowling Club who are highlighted in this story (see below link).

Re~Post ~ The club sector – studies in sustainability  | The Fifth Estate

Farming the Sun wins Growing Community Energy grant

Grant launch

L to R: Leslie Williams, NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Renewable Energy, Kasey Clifford, Australian Radio Towers, Patrick Halliday, Juno Energy, Sharyn Hunniset, Lismore City Council, Natalie Myers, Nimbin Community Centre

Starfish’s Farming the Sun initiative is one of six community energy projects in northern NSW who have been awarded grants by the NSW government.

State-wide, there were 19 projects which shared $846,000 in the latest round of funding to help advance local renewable energy projects, as part of the NSW government’s push to assist community energy projects.

Leslie Williams, the parliamentary secretary for renewable energy, says $40,000 will go to Starfish Initiatives to help build two 100kW solar farms as part of Lismore’s 100 per cent renewable energy plan. It is being hailed as the first council-community partnership in Australia to build a community owned and run, solar farm.

The $40,000 of seed funding is designed to help to raise investment from community financiers, who will manage the project with Lismore City Council and partner organisations.

$40,000 is also going to Nimbin Neighbourhood and Information Centre to help finance a small-scale bio-gas project in a local milk and cheese producing dairy farm, and create a business model for further development of two community-owned bio-gas hubs in Murwillumbah and Casino.

$15,000 is going to help Australian Radio Towers develop a wholly community-owned project to take the entire Tyalgum Village “off the grid.” Tyalgum has a population of 300 people.

And the town of Mullumbimby will receive $34,000 to develop a feasibility study for a crowdfunding platform to aid clean energy development in the region, including a planned 75kW community solar farm.

See More:

Starfish engaged for Housing Alliance 2015 Annual Forum

Housing Alliance logoStarfish is pleased to announce that it has been engaged to design and facilitate the Annual Forum for the Housing Alliance ~ a partnership between four community housing providers: Homes North, Homes Out West, Housing Plus and North Coast Community Housing. Through their collaboration as the Housing Alliance, they are the fourth largest community housing provider in Australia, with more than 3,000 tenancies being managed.

The Annual Forum is a strategically important meeting of Directors, CEOs and senior staff from the four partner organisations. This years priorities include consideration of the outcomes from a recent CEO’s UK Study Tour looking at leading practices in estate and community renewal, tenant participation and social impact investment.

Traffid-Housing-Trust-41_Low ResCleanStart (pictured right) is a social enterprise set up by Trafford Housing Trust in Manchester, UK. It provides skill development and intensive mentoring for ex-offenders to keep them from re-offending, provide them with life alternatives and ‘turn them into great employees’. The enterprise is a stand-alone enterprise that must deliver excellent services to clients to be self-sustaining (like any business). They provide a variety of services including cleaning and lawn maintenance.

All four members of the Housing Alliance share Starfish’s passion and professional focus on strong regionally-based services. Each is an anchor in the region of focus, and of course housing is one of the most important and central foundations for social sustainability, and sustainability more generally.

Read more:

Position Available ~ Global Project Lead: Sustainable Land Management

Vista_LowResA unique opportunity to lead a Global Project and lend your expertise and passion in Sustainable Land Management (SLM).

  • Global Project Lead
  • Vital SLM initiative – Biochar
  • Passion to make a difference

Position Summary

Starfish is excited to be working on our largest initiative to date and seeking to appoint a passionate, capable and suitably qualified Project Director to lead this important global project.

The purpose of the project is to demonstrate and promote the adoption of sustainable land management practices involving the use of innovative organic amendments, based on biochar.

Funded by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Global Environment Fund (GEF), the project’s duration will be 2.5 – 3 years commencing early 2015.

Reporting to the Executive Director, with accountability to a Technical Steering Committee, the project lead will be working with six existing biochar demonstration projects in the developing world locations of: Peru, Myanmar, Aceh, China (Henan, Hunan, Anhui and Jiangsu), Kenya, Ethiopia and Vietnam.

The role responsibilities include:

  • evaluation of the role and potential of biochar in SLM;
  • building awareness, knowledge and improved understanding and establishing knowledge management dissemination systems – particularly for small landholders and farming groups; and,
  • establishing local and international networks of demonstration sites and farming groups and providing training in the use of bochar.

The position requires strengths in coordinating and delivering a global project in a complex context and establishing strong relationships and working effectively with a broad range of stakeholders including the six in-country partner organisations, the UNEP and GEF, agricultural landholders and farming groups.

For a confidential discussion and to obtain the Candidate Information Book with full application requirements, please contact Ms Bronwyn Pearson on 612 (0)412 400 206 or peoplesolutions@bronwynpearson.com.au.

Closing date for applications: Monday 23 February 2015.

Starfish engaged for Homes North Governance & Strategy Retreat

homes_north_logoStarfish is pleased to announce that it has been engaged to design and facilitate a Governance & Strategy Retreat for Homes North Community Housing. The Retreat is significant in that it coincides with the first full year of implementation of Homes North’s Strategic Plan and comes at a time of dynamic change in the social housing sector.

Homes North provides community housing throughout the New England | North West region of NSW and has grown considerably in the last 30 years. Most recently, Homes North merged with Inverell Community Housing. Like Starfish, Homes North are passionate about providing a strong regionally-based service focused on regional issues. They are an anchor in the region and a provider of one of the most important foundations for social sustainability ~ housing. Their passion for regionally-based services extends across NSW through being a founding member of the Housing Alliance ~ which includes three other regionally-based community housing providers.

The strategic context in social housing is highly dynamic. Innovation is the buzzword as is social-enterprise based solutions. Both are music to Starfish’s ears given their value to social sustainability.

Homes North are already recognised as a leading and innovative player in the sector, however they are determined to stay ahead of the curve. CEO Maree Mackenzie recently returned from a UK Study Tour to learn from some of the most advance operations in the world. The tour was an initiative of the Housing Alliance.

Starfish is honoured to be of service for Homes North in this way, especially given our passion for our professional facilitation, governance and leadership services.

Read more:

Starfish’s 2013|2014 Year & Annual Report ~ breaking challenging ground

Starfish Initiatives continues to break substantial new ground with its rural and regional sustainability initiatives, including several national and international ‘firsts’, such as:

Starfish’s sustainability services remain at the cutting-edge, particularly our methodologies for collaborative governance, creative communication and participatory processes in relation to strategic development, planning, decision-making, research and more.

Despite this, Starfish finds itself in a very challenging situation ~ a reflection of the existing external and regulatory context as well as some internal operational issues.

During the last few years, there has been a significant slowing of investment and interest in the shift to sustainability. Some of the more obvious examples are in the areas of renewable energy, sustainable farming and closing the gap (reconciliation). This has directly impaired several of Starfish’s initiatives as funding for such initiatives has not been able to be secured for some time.

Additionally, it is now three years since Starfish originally applied to the Australian Government for tax deductible gift recipient status. At the time of writing, there is still no clarity as to when this matter may be resolved, despite the clear outcomes and benefits arising from Starfish’s work. Starfish’s inability to engage with philanthropic funders or to seek day-to-day donations for its work puts a significant constraint on its operational capacity and viability.

Given all this, for the short-term Starfish will need to prioritise a few strategic initiatives which are sufficiently well resourced to be effective while continuing to market its services and seek funding, wherever possible, for initiatives that aligned with tangible rural sustainability.

The Board of Directors welcomes your continued interest, support and involvement with Starfish’s work during this challenging transition.

Download the full 2013|2014 Annual Report here (3Mb).