Undercurrent conflicts to saving the coast

Dune vandal

Another dune conflict, who is the council spokesperson, and what are their conflicts?

I have been enjoying the freedom and luxury of reading, writing and thinking about my Phd. It sounds luxurious to be spending quality time on something you are deeply passionate about, however, the sitting duck mentality does do my head in. When you identify with being a hungry person for change, perhaps a change agent, it’s intellectually challenging, as much as it is frustrating to wait for the thinking process to think-up a grand theoretical way of informing the creating change process.

In real world, I use my networks, experience, knowledge and passion to convey the best message for media to run the story that will publicly probe politicians to do something that their institutions haven’t been able to do –  “we don’t have the resources”, which is a no balls approach to saying no. While in my current Phd world, I use my scholarship to engage ideas, theories and other knowledges to better inform my interpretation/s of the world – why does it occur this way, and not that way?  

The context for understanding how to better create change that I am referring to is how do coastal professionals negotiate personal and professional conflicts (if any) in their management of the coast? I see conflicts played out everyday, and it’s frustrating. I question, why should professionals have to deal with institutional no sayers or dictators? For some, people survive by being a good public servant (e.g. imagine being the coastal professionals who had to remove sea level rise from coastal hazard maps when the Queensland Neumann Government was in?), while others just do what they are there to do (and not ask questions, imagine approving the Adani Mine?), while others, like me, don’t survive (they quit and let fate create a new path for change?)

In a self-reflexive peer-reviewed paper titled, ‘the secret life of a land-planning professional’, Joel Russell shares his insights and frustrations of finding the balance between human settlement and ecological principles with being a land planning professional. ‘It’s finding the balance’ where Russell experiences conflicts within the institutional frameworks he is conditioned to negotiate and suggests that, I quote, ‘the planning process itself just fans the flames of social, economic and political conflict, and rarely resolves anything’, unquote (Russell, 2000: 318).

Similarly, I experience conflicts with balancing inherent professional obligations with being a coastal professional in coastal management. I was confronted with a conflict experience in mid 2013, when I visited my local beach, Surfers Paradise, to witness my local council’s efforts in response to the coastal erosion in the wake of ex TC Oswald.  At the time when I approached the beach where the coastal erosion works were being carried out, I could see heavy machinery among the narrow, fragile dunes. I stood there alongside a growing crowd of onlookers in disbelief, confusion and conflict. Here was a local council that boasts clean beach and coastal management solutions, yet, I knew that extracting sand from vegetated dunes and placing it in front of an at risk coastal development was not sustainable. At the time, I was a coastal liaison officer between the local council, community, and university where I was employed, which meant continuing my day, returning to the office, and maybe talking about my conflicting experience with colleagues was the most appropriate action despite my conflicts.

And these dune conflicts never seize to go away, even though, I am institutionally positioned outside and have the luxury of blowing off my horn, or tweeting about it when or if I want to.

My colleague, Daniel Ware from Griffith University discusses this conflict experience as an undercurrent to the issues of coastal management. In his more recent work, he suggests that such personal and professional conflicts exist when ‘coastal managers’ are committed to the principles of sustainable development, which underlines the theory of integrated coastal zone management (Ware, 2017).

Alongside these ideas I question the construction process of these conflicts, and how historical, social, environmental, economics, institutional, cultural, political and institutional ideas have constructed the coastal professional, the phenomena of the coastal professional and coastal management. It is a cultural process as this phenomena is always in a state of flux, and I am pretty sure (hopefully) that my research can offer understanding and acknowledgment to the experiences of being a coastal professional, and dealing with conflict.

For instance, it is the juxtaposition between self and coastal places, the spaces where people experience the coast that draws my attention to question how do coastal experiences construct individual and personal identity and their individual ideas of the coast. Additional to this is the extension of inquiring into why people take up a professional role in coastal management. Is it to perhaps make a difference, protect their ideas of the coast, or they’ve just fallen into it?

I am at the stage of knowing (and believing) that my theoretical framework (I think of it like a coat hanger) will better inform (hang) my ideas to question and answer, well, how the bloody hell can we live, work and play along the coast without inherent conflicts? Or, perhaps what I am super pumped about at the moment is gently knowing where, when, why and how do these conflicts emerge given inherent conflicting professional identities and the spaces we engage… watch this space.

Russell, J. (2000) The secret life of a land-planning professional, Bulletin of science, technology and society, Vol 20 (4), pp: 318-320.

Ware, D. (2017) Sustainable resolution of conflicts over coastal values: a case study of the Gold Coast Surf Management Plan, Australian Journal of Maritime & Ocean Affairs, Vol 9 (2), pp: 68-80.

The best thing I have done…

Me back in 2006. This area were I am standing is now beautiful rainforest. I used to water the 1000s of plants every Wednesday for a few hours during the drought.

Me back in 2006. The area were I am standing is now a beautiful littoral rainforest. I used to water 1000s of plants every Wednesday for a few hours during the drought.

Me with Joan, a lovely woman who was a huge inspiration and mentor for me in my early 20s. I am very thankful of her guidance and passion to inspire me to be a better person everyday.

Me with Joan, a lovely woman who was a huge inspiration and mentor for me in my early 20s. I am very thankful of her guidance and passion to inspire me to be a better person everyday.

… has been getting involved in Landcare. Seriously. I am not being all Landcarey or trying to convert anyone to planting trees, pulling out weeds and cleaning up kilometres of coastline but what if I didn’t get out of bed early one Spring morning in 2006. Where would I be?

Everyday I am thankful for that very experience. Getting on my once beloved Kawasaki EL 250 and cruising across the Sundale Bridge with nothing on my mind other than being eager to know what happens at The Spit and who was behind creating 93 ha of habitat, open green space and a community legacy for generations to come to enjoy and be part of. Wow, my heart just skipped a beat and eyes watered. Why? Because I am thankful for Friends of Federation Walk doing what they do.

For over 14 years the many ‘Friends of’ Federation Walk have gotten up early on a Sunday morning once a month to plant 100s of native coastal plants. Today, the number of plants amount to most likely half a million trees, shrubs, herbs and dune runners to create the littoral rainforest that buffers the narrow spit, a coastal destination loved by many and now an eco-tourism destination only a stone throw from the glitter strip.

This coming Sunday marks another monthly community planting day at Federation Walk Coastal Reserve or more famously known as The Spit. Yes, it is winter and the sun will have only just risen at 7am but now is the perfect time to be up early, enjoying the crisp clean sea breeze and planting a community legacy.

If only we all did a little bit more like the many ‘Friends of’ Federation Walk? What could be achieved? I believe and envision happier beaches. Now is the time to get up this Sunday morning and join Friends of Federation Walk to restore the coastal dunes at The Spit.

When – Sunday 28th June, 7am – 10am

Where – meet at Philip Park carpark opposite the entrance to Seaworld

Have fun!


Growing dune plants

Goodness knows how many dune plants I have planted, let alone grow to nourish the narrow dunal corridor along Gold Coast’s beaches. But I have had some time away from the dunes in more recent months while I finished off my Honours thesis so yesterday was quite the experience for me to be back on the dunes and planting native dune plants to help restore the dunes at Lacey’s Lane, Palm Beach.

A group of us got together for International Surfing Day 2015 and planted about 100 plants – 20 plants from pots grown in a local nursery and 60 or so cuttings taken straight from the beach. Most of the people didn’t know you could plant cuttings, so it got me thinking… to propagate and grow dune plants for my local beach. Cause I’ve been wanting to plant more dune plants along the foreshore at the end of my street so I am now one step closer having now propagated some dune plants at home – this morning.

As it is really easy I thought it would be handy to share my knowledge to inspire you to start growing your own dune plants (or other plants) and then even donate them to a local dune care (land care) group.

I hope this ‘how to’ is helpful for you!


Along the foredunes take cuttings from native dune plants (note: only take what you need).


I chose Yellow Beach Bean and Coastal Pig Face, it is an easy dune plant to propagate and there was plenty at Lacey’s Lane.


Cut the runners at about a metre in length so you can take further cuttings from the runner / to re-plant the entire cutting where you might need some dune plant coverage on the dune.


Be creative about what you can use as a pot. We had some left over coffee / beer bio-paper cups so I made some holes at the bottom to allow drainage.


Then fill the cup/ bottle/ pot with seed raising and cutting potting mix.


Hanging pots are great to use too! I found some extra pots in the shed and some plastic bottles in the recycling bin. It’s always best to re-use waste.


Put a teaspoon of native slow-release selective fertiliser and mix it into the soil.


Cut the runners into smaller cuttings and place in the soil and then fill up the cup/ bottle/ pot with soil to the top.


If the runners are longer and you have a bigger pot place them in a circle and cover most of the foliage with soil.


Then place the propagated native dune plants in the sun and water well once – twice a day depending on moisture. They should be ready to plant in the dunes in about 6-weeks.

Gold Coast Intrepid Landcare have a pretty neat resource about ‘how to grow plants’. Check it out below and get into it! The more plants we grow and plant the healthier our planet will be! More native dune plants planted = happy beaches.

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