Knowledge about Gold Coast’s waterways for the price of a latte and bagel

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My waterway the other morning 

The other week I got slightly peeved off because of the number of requests for meetings, email follow ups and phone calls to seek my input into projects, plans and strategies, as it was only week 3 of 2017. If it’s a community member wanting my input or a drink at a local pub I have all the time (well maybe a few hours) to freely-give them my knowledge, feedback and ideas. However, once it gets to high level government stuff where consultants are paid to dig their own hole of knowledge or build their own network knowledge database – argh!

But during the short and hot drive on my way to university today (post clean up with volunteers and a breakfast date with an out of town consultant), in a total of 7 minutes, I got some time to think, what I know it is actually not mine. It’s yours, it’s ours and it’s the communities and more importantly, it’s the places and species that don’t have a voice, it’s the environments. Because what I know, and the details of what I know, the personalities, dates of meetings, outcomes of reports, or no outcomes of reports, the results, the failures, the other person that knows everything and that I know they love olives and they give me mangoes, how to get cross-departments to work together, people’s and institution’s responsibilities, pipeline projects, investment ideas, strategies (I think I have already said that one), what the Mayor said when, which politician is dating who, or that they get their nails done there… and the best coffee places to take consultants. What I know is definitely not mine.

So what is my knowledge? How much is ‘this’ knowledge worth? And how do I value what I know? These questions are part of one of my five living Phd questions.

Let’s start with what is my knowledge? I have 20 years of institutionalised education. Once my Phd is done and dusted that will be 23 years, two undergraduate degrees, two postgraduate degrees, then there are the other million-and-one short courses to turn the font-size on my resume to 8 to try and fit everything on two pages. Then add up my 10 years of professional working experience (post first degree) and 10 years of volunteering experience, and at least 7 years of committee and board experience. I have acquired my knowledge through conversations, books and experiences. And I have a brain that files things in sync with the cloud, and a mind that is always in the clouds too. [I am yet to dissect the construction of my knowledge to drill deeper into the seeds of my knowledge].

Moving on.

How much is ‘this’ knowledge worth? Bucketloads more than a price of a coffee and bagel that is for sure. And here is the funny part, the consultant was seeking my input on the socio-economic values of Gold Coast’s waterways. I forgot to record it… damn it, as she was shocked to learn about the highly-networked community on the Gold Coast, who are incredibly passionate and active in caring for the waterways.

The stewardship of Gold Coast’s waterways is priceless. There about 30-50 community groups active in the waterway care network, let alone the recreational groups, there must be 500 or so of them! The ‘watch, land, science, school’ care groups that do stuff to improve the waterways are highly detailed and sophisticated. Then you have to consider their values, and then their values between and among groups. Even the years of trust-building to build trust between the community and council (not all of council). You can’t write that into a project plan, we are going to build trust with erecting 10 tackle bins. Which is why the consultant’s 6-month mission is, well, best of luck. Luckily they started with me.

The level of stewardship isn’t surprising when you admire the geography of the Gold Coast, as the Gold Coast is a water city. Soon enough the beauty of the waterways that attracts people in the first insistence rubs off on them. They could still be climate change deniers, but they care and want our waterways to be clean, and sewage and plastic free. Soon enough the waterways become part of you, as much as you become part of them. From the headwaters of the Coomera River, a world-class World Heritage destination, to the intertidal mudflats where solider crabs build sand cities twice a day, or the roosts that are home to some of the rarest migratory and resident shorebirds. Then between and among some of the most sophisticated canals and urban lakes, the emerald green fringes that are being added to with lots of tree planting, softens the checks and balances the greys, blues and golds of the Gold Coast. Gold Coast’s waterways are priceless.

But that answer isn’t good enough. Government can’t manage something that is priceless, they need a dollar figure. A dollar figure that will never reflect the values of someone in the future, which will be another limit to their study. What babies, toddlers, children, youth are they engaging in this socio-economic study?

I was then asked the comparison question, why is the  Gold Coast’s waterways better than other city waterways? Well, that is like asking why do you love your child more than the screaming baby that lives next door or your step-child perhaps? And I don’t have children.

In my words I said Gold Coast’s waterways are “prettier” because they are “special”. When I visit my local waterway I soak in the sun glitter, seek shade under the casuarinas, admire the rays, spot a few dolphins and enjoy the best latte or fish and chips. I enjoy the waterways because they are special. They trigger emotions and memories, foundation drivers that then trigger me to act to be an agent, to make them pretty. Then part of wants to make them prettier, and this is also the OCD and natural resource management junkie in me. So I come up with ways to make my waterway prettier to keep its special status, like influencing the council to control the weeds, thank the park cleaners in the morning, get on-leash signs erected to protect the birds, and have dog poop bags available…

I am one person among many more who are compelled to act as we also have a strong entrepreneurial spirit on the Gold Coast. If we see something that needs to be done, we find a way to make it happen.

So then how do I value what I know? Firstly, my time is very precious to me. If I am sharing what I know with a consultant, my mentor once said to me, make sure it is on your terms. So at 7am, on the way to university at my favourite cafe, down the road from my house, I honoured my knowledge by taking this approach (instead of meeting during business hours and in some bland meeting room too). I brain dumped everything I know that they may need for their study within an hour and a half, for you, the community and environment. They need to know what I know to ensure they capture the detailed personalities, the histories, the stories, even the characters and where to watch the perfect moonrise over the waterways. I know I can’t share everything in an hour and a half, but I can give them some leads, for a price of a coffee and bagel.

I really don’t want to sound wanky, or up myself either. But I value what I know so much I want to share it as much as I can, hence, this long tangent / Phd journal dump. I am sure there will be another socio-economic study about Gold Coast’s waterways and environment in the future, so next time I’ll be able to send the next consultant this link to save them buying me a coffee and bagel. Here are some links and leads.

Thanking for considering my knowledge to be of value to calculate a priceless part of the best city in in the world. Best of luck Gold Coast Waterways Authority! Looking forward to seeing the outcomes.


This tangent is part of a reflexive journal for my Phd (these are my opinions and ideas about institutional leadership and change). Enjoy, and credit where appropriate.

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