We got upgraded today – the practice of resilient communities


#tacklebinproject upgrades Gold Coast’s waterways

Gold Coast’s waterways got an upgrade today and it came with complimentary carrot cake and a fresh juice (we have moved beyond a latte and bagel). In all seriousness this tangent is a celebration rather than a deep inquiry (well it kind of gets deep) into how and why institutions work or not work, as today like I said, Gold Coast’s waterways got an upgrade.

The upgrade feels like a lifetime in the making. After meetings after meetings, proposals after proposals, ideas after ideas, all while watching issues become more issues, today, the community of the Gold Coast launched the Tackle Bin Project – to help deal with the marine debris issues Gold Coast’s waterways are experiencing.

The Tackle Bin Project is the latest upgrade initiative of the Gold Coast Marine Debris Network. The idea came about after years of picking up fishing line and tackle and dealing with the onslaught of entangled birds, turtles and other wildlife being caught, hooked and killed by fishing line and tackle dropped by ignorant fishers. Enough was enough. So, the many community champions and groups collaborated to design a future with less fishing line and tackle entering Gold Coast’s waterways.

The Gold Coast Marine Debris Network designed and pitched the project to funding agencies and were successful in finding enough cash and free skilled labour to make the project happen. Almost a year since initial discussions, the project is now launched and it feels so good. Now it is time to watch and monitor the project to measure the impact. 

For colleagues and friends outside the Gold Coast you may be questioning, how did this project happen? It happened for many reasons (not exclusive of below) .

  1. The sheer volume of fishing line and tackle citizen scientists collect (the Gold Coast Seaway is the worst hotspot for fishing line and tackle in Australia) can not be ignored
  2. The impressive, well-organised (30-40) community groups who are active in this space also can not be ignored
  3. The natural beauty of the area makes it to be one of the most biodiverse marine habitats in south east Queensland
  4. Connecting these groups through a central network connected their stories, needs and wants to advocate for this project to happen – again you can not ignore 30-40 community groups
  5. Partners of the project share similar values, however, I think we are now beyond the stock-standard ‘shared-value’ approach, we are friends and want each other to succeed

With a little reflection on these points, one doesn’t have to inquire that far too realise what we do and how we do it on the Gold Coast is pretty special. Of course I am going to be bias. However, with wearing my academic hat what I am discovering is that the community functions with authenticity and integrity, an incredible foundation to build a resilient community network. The community have each other’s back. It’s a pretty cool space to create from. And live in. 

So the question I ask my colleagues and friends who work in this space on the inside of the institutions responsible for ‘managing’ our waterways, do you have each other’s backs?

Being that busy-body person in the community who has their finger on the pulse, it is unfortunate to end this celebration tangent with saying, I don’t think they do – in some aspects yes, but in many cases, no. Imagine what more could be achieved for the environment if we all worked with authenticity and integrity. Next project: how to build a resilient network for our inside colleagues and friends.

In many respects this concern of mine is the essence and motivation of my Phd research. I want to understand how environmental professionals value their craft and go about their craft. Perhaps it is time for our inside colleagues and friends to engage with their own profession and seek advice from the community on how they could move beyond the latte and bagel to enjoy the cream of any cake (lets be generous) and the nutrients of fresh ideas.

Lots to inquire…inspired to inquire.

What a day, congratulations to the community of the Gold Coast for acting with authenticity and integrity to make the Tackle Bin Project happen.

The Tackle Bin Project was made possible by funding from the Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation, Healthy Land and Water, and the Gold Coast Waterways Authority.

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.

What was found by one person in 30min at The Spit?

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I usually turn a few heads when driving my Classic 1962 Beetle with my crazy dog out the window on the way to the beach. Then when I get there she leaps out the door howling with excitement leaving me coughing in the dust. But I’m not too far behind her armed with one glove on my right hand, a bag in the other and a pick up stick before I hit the pavement and sand to clean up the beach. Yep, people look at me thinking… that’s a cool car, a crazy dog or beach goer or all the above. Sometimes I get the ‘community service’ look…

But tonight I got a few more show stoppers than usual and all for good and bad reasons. After my 30min beach blitz I laid out the trash I collected from along the seawall and beach at The Spit, Gold Coast’s most northern ocean beach on the mainland. While my crazy dog was still saying hello to every person and dog in the car park, I was busy doing my thing sorting the trash. Then one, two, three, four people and soon a small crowd gathered around looking on wondering what I was doing. Firstly they were stoked that I had collected a bag of trash while enjoying a stroll on the beach, though, secondly were disgusted on what was found! Along their beach where they also leisurely walk, fish, surf and swim.

Who would leave their dog’s poo in a plastic bag on the beach? Who leaves their stubbies and cans in the dunes? Why would balloons wash up on the beach? And how did a bucket handle get to the beach?

These were all good questions that I was happy to answer, even share Tangaroa Blue Foundation’s Australian Marine Debris Initiative manual. I was able to show them how to ID the trash, then how to count what was collected and tally up the totals. But more importantly explain why I was collecting marine debris data and where it went, and its importance to enhance our understanding of marine debris impacts. In no time, being a veteran at counting trash I confirmed 99 items, separated the recycling to dispose of at home and binned the rest.

In one hour from door to door I had enjoyed a sunset, did my bit for the beach, entered the data online and my dog was happy and now tired (and got treats from the ‘cat’ lady). All it took was one hour out of my day. What can you do for your beach in 30mim or even an hour?

You can also be a Volunteer Ambassador for Responsible Runners, a Pulse up, Waste down initiative to reduce wastes ending up in waterways and the ocean. Connect with Responsible Runners to join a clean up or start your own.