We got upgraded today – the practice of resilient communities

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#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.

Don’t be hooked

Jabiru Island Clean Up results In the beginning of the year I organised a coastal clean up on Jabiru Island where over 520kg of trash was removed from the mangroves and parkland, including 171 bait bags – we counted a third of what we collected so I can only imagine that figure would have been well over 200. Download the report here!

A few months ago an organisation (or more so a coalition of organisations) I am involved in released some pretty stinky results about finding 48 dog poo bags with dog poo in the bags within 45minutes on Palm Beach, a southern Gold Coast beach. The Gold Coast Bulletin ran a good media campaign naming the beach Gold Coast’s stinkiest beach – reaching the Daily Mail in the UK! Despite 6months of no action from the City of Gold Coast (which is why we went to the media) the story caused quite a stir and with no time to spare council officers were down on the beach steam cleaning the beach back to it’s award winning clean beach standard. But after the media that week I found twice as many dog poo bags on Gold Coast’s beaches, even three dirty nappies. (Please note: we are yet to do a follow up monitoring audit to see if dog owners have changed their behaviour in picking up their dog’s poo and putting it in the bin or still leaving the poop in bags on the beach or hung up in the trees).

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Gold Coast Seaway Clean Up – held in July

Then a month ago a coalition of organisations led the biggest coastal clean up The Spit has ever seen pulling up 180km of fishing line from under the Gold Coast Seaway and collected 41kg of fishing debris from along the rock wall. Another clean up is planned for 30th August – save the date and keep an eye out for the flyer to be released this week. 

Today, I had a cuppa with Rowley from Wild Bird Rescue Gold Coast who shared many stories about his efforts in single-handedly rescuing over 1500 local birds in the last three years. The majority of the bird rescues are related to fishing debris where fishing line becomes entangled around their feet or hooks hooked through their wings.

Now I am sure you are getting a bleak picture of what my coastal background looks like… but the truth is putting the what’s out of sight is out of mind issue aside it looks relatively clean and healthy. Beautiful clean waterways, clear ocean waters and we even have a pool room of clean beach awards – many thanks to the beach sweepers every morning, the canal maintenance teams and the many community volunteers who consistently pick up litter and other debris or even rescue wildlife from entanglements. But yet again, we wouldn’t need any of the above if people just did the right thing. Imagine if the council diverted funding from city-wide beach cleaning to more festivals or community volunteers actually enjoying the Gold Coast coastal lifestyle?

The sad reality is that we do have an out of sight out of mind issue! We have a major marine and fishing debris and beach litter epidemic! Now I know this cause I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for almost 10 years and the issue isn’t going away and if anything it is getting worse. Cigarette butts flicked outside car windows, plastic bags floating across roads and trash blanketing the edges of highways.

Then this afternoon this sad reality got a little too close to me. After enjoying a walk along The Spit with my dog I sat down on my towel to enjoy the beautiful sunset. As my dog loves to dig, she started digging a hole next to me. Then all of sudden she started yelping… I looked down at her front leg and she got hooked by two fishing hooks. I couldn’t believe it! There I was enjoying my beach experience and having already picked up a small bag of fishing debris from along the beach there was more, under the sand. I really couldn’t believe it! There was a whole beach to choose where to sit and me of all people chose to sit there!

I sent a message to Rowley almost immediately and he inspired me to write this blog, cause this information needs to get to out there to inspire real action. Cause if we don’t address the symptom we’ll be forever cleaning up the coast and wasting our time and money on a never ending issue, and my poor dog might get hooked again.

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The fishing hooks that hooked into my dog’s leg

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My dog, Elle digging for fun – not to be hooked!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a few solutions I want to see happen. What we need is baseline funding to support the development of such solutions, including:

– a city-wide marine debris monitoring program, approx. $30,000

– on-going scientific underwater monitoring of the Gold Coast Seaway to measure accumulation rates of fishing debris along the rock wall, approx. $30,000

– support Wild Bird Rescue Gold Coast, $10,000

– pilot a bait bag deposit scheme, $5,000

– a short film competition where finalists have their films run as TV ads to raise the issue in every lounge room

– appropriate signage to remind people that IT’S NOT OK to drop litter…

– substantially increase fines for littering to raise some revenue for the above

What’s the next step? Send an email to Council? Wait 6 more months for a response? Media? Talk with Mayor Tom Tate? 

I think all the above! Watch this space!

It's time we protect every part of our coastline

It’s time we protect every part of our coastline

 

 

Randomly running responsibly

responsible runners and cafeI randomly just thought of this tangent. So, be aware that it might be a little random or rather more random than others.

Nevertheless, this afternoon I did what I’ve been doing for almost every Wednesday afternoon since the first day of summer last year. Ironically, it is now the beginning of winter, which means I’ve randomly been doing a random act of kindness for our beaches for over 6-months.

Randomly running responsibly.

Though, this tangent needs to take a step back, actually, a leap, jump, hop, skip and run, before I move on to tell you about what randomly happened this afternoon.

To be honest, I am a busy body. I’ve always have been and most likely will always be a busy body. That is how I have ended up where I am today, which I’m not going to complain about.

So, the story goes: I came across Responsible Runners on Facebook almost 18months ago. A cool group of Bondi hipsters (well, I originally thought that), picking up beach litter while running along Bondi Beach every Sunday – for 30minutes. Within no time, Sydneysiders caught on to the fast paced clean beach action and the innovative initiative ignited along Sydney’s beaches. For someone that is busy, loves coastal community action and running, I thought, wow, I want to do that!

At the time I was contemplating moving to Sydney, so I was super excited to think – I could be a Responsible Runner too! Though, the love I was chasing and the job I thought was for me didn’t come my way, so I was left liking Responsible Runners’ Facebook page almost every day and picturing myself getting fit and saving beaches with them. Yes, I am a weird busy body with a wild imagination.

And at the time I knew that I couldn’t start another coastal community group on the Gold Coast, where I live and love, because between what was already on my plate and having a crazy dog meant I really didn’t have spare time to organise more weekly beach clean ups.

Though, despite the broken heart and a lack of time, luck did come my way.

At the same time I just happened to meet Ryan Adams from Keep It Surreal on the Gold Coast – who also had a crush on Responsible Runners and their sister project, Responsible Cafes. Then boom, if it doesn’t take one busy person to get something done, why not ask two busy people?!

Pretty much straight away we sussed out our life schedules to dream up a time and place for when we could launch Responsible Runners on the Gold Coast. We really, really, really wanted to do it! As we both live up the northern end of the coast, work similar hours, busy on weekends and I need to let my dog run every afternoon … we decided we could randomly run responsibly every Wednesday after work at The Spit (the dog beach). So, by coupling my organisational skills for setting up groups, spreadsheets, insurance, equipment kits, finding free resources and funding, and Ryan’s creative flare with social media and the news, we were running in no time!

You see, initiatives like such usually take a minimum of 6 months to transform an idea into action. Responsible Runners Gold Coast took a month – from what I remember.

Today, 6-months on we have a growing group of cool coast guards protecting Gold Coast’s beaches and marine life by picking up beach litter and marine debris while running and walking three times a week at three beaches: Mermaid Beach, The Spit and Burleigh.

Above all, the best part about randomly running responsibly every Wednesday afternoon is that I’ve seen more sunsets than ever before, my crazy dog gets more beach time, I’ve met some really interesting people and more importantly, I’ve picked up more marine debris and beach litter!

And this afternoon was a classic collection of community clean beach action. I met two new people, one of the regular ambassadors gave me my favourite type of Carmans muesli bars, caught up with familiar faces – now friends – and saw an amazing sunset and a dolphin. Then as we were wrapping up the beach clean up, we asked a fisherman who probably had never used a smart phone before to take a photo of us, which left us laughing…

I have to acknowledge my random busy body nature, because all the above random series of random events probably wouldn’t have happened, and those before me that collaborate on ideas to form collaborative coastal community action.

So, I put it to you in the nicest, most random-nest way – why not randomly come along next week? You’ll be surprised with what happens.

Trust me! I’m a random Responsible Runner and super glad that I acted on my randomness.

For more information about Responsible Runners please visit responsiblerunners.org.