After two years as Director of the Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation, Rowan Rafferty assumed the role of President after Rex Halverson stepped down. This week he sat down with Noosa Today.
Why did you take on the role of President of the FRNB?
I became director of the board of the Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation (NBRF) two years ago after a local friend encouraged me to apply, based on my experience and disposition. I had clear ideas about why I came to Noosa in the first place, what I liked about it and what I felt I could contribute as NBRF President and potentially to the quality of life already excellent in Noosa.
I was also delighted to continue working with an exceptional multi-disciplinary team to continue to drive new and existing initiatives that aim to support Noosa’s future-focused sustainability agenda.
At the time, we were very aware that we had an all-male board, but with three positions to fill, we had the opportunity to have a better balance. What we have achieved.
What do you hope to bring to it and what do you hope to get out of it?
The role of President provides an opportunity to review the governance of the Foundation and lead the function of the NBRF, which includes advocating for policy and legislative change through research and the presentation of scientific evidence.
This year we have already made a good start. With a renewed board in place, we have begun to develop our new strategic framework which will help guide the organization forward with a deeper focus which we hope will create greater understanding and commitment to our status as UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Several projects are underway concerning the protection of endangered species. Namely our Wild Koala initiative aimed at improving outcomes for local koala populations and innovative research that seeks to identify key nesting sites of the glossy black cockatoo. We are also considering several research projects around the protection of marine species.
We are launching an Agri Hub project to improve production in our agricultural sector. This is the natural next step in the Noosa Outback Rural Business Plan and we are working with local stakeholders to facilitate a process to attract regional farmers and better connect them to landowners and to the markets.
An important part of the Agri Hub project that I am particularly excited to contribute to is researching ways for our County to redirect compostable materials from our waste stream into soil enrichment and improved food production. .
We all love our food in Noosa, the fresher and nutritious the better!
I see you have extensive work experience in the government and IT fields? How do you think this experience will help you in your new role?
Knowing how all levels of government work is, I believe, an important part of the work NBRF does to advocate for policy and legislative change. Having a big heart and a flat forehead doesn’t add much, so knowing how to navigate helps.
In a smart biosphere – a term we’re going to start hearing about – data is king. Facts and science bring real change.
What aspects of NBRF do you consider most important?
Noosa’s global status as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve should be a sign of pride for our residents, neighbors and visitors. We are living proof of a community living in harmony with its environment.
The Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation is commissioned by the Noosa Council to act as an ambassador for Noosa’s biosphere status. We are not the governing authority. Our goal is to create long-term value by guiding decision-makers towards improved biodiversity and community outcomes.
Biosphere reserves are communities working together to test new ideas for living sustainably. At NBRF, we work with the community and partners to break down silos and collaborate to find solutions to local challenges and knowledge gaps. We believe this is how we can make a difference.
Have you lived in another biosphere in Mallacoota?
Yes, and has been involved in several projects, ranging from improving the power supply and setting up emergency generators, to participating in the Wilderness Coast committee (Tourism Australia) and working actively with the project award-winning Kitchen to Compost: Compostable Waste.
What do you think your time in Mallacoota taught you about biospheres?
The regions declared biosphere reserves are privileged places which constantly tend towards the objectives of UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere programme. Unlike Mallacoota, Noosa did not happen by accident; many people have helped to make Noosa what it is today – a unique example of a place where people live sustainably in an area of enormously biodiverse ecosystems.
What lessons have you learned from Mallacoota that could benefit Noosa?
The biosphere reserve relationship between UNESCO and the local community must be nurtured and respected, otherwise it risks being lost. Croagingalong Biosphere Reserve no longer exists; it was removed from the list by UNESCO.
Is there anything else you would like to say about NBRF and your role?
We are really happy with the direction we are taking. We have three new administrators and a new adviser to the board of directors; who each bring exceptional expertise to the Foundation. With our existing dynamic directors, supported by a strong administrative and communications team, the new board is highly focused, aligned and already making significant progress.
The Noosa Biosphere already neighbors the Great Sandy Biosphere Reserve to the north and we eagerly await UNESCO’s decision to add the Sunshine Coast to Queensland’s list of Biosphere Reserves. Our region could soon become the only place in the world to have three contiguous biosphere reserves, isn’t that something to be proud of!
I don’t like compartmentalization. Our Board of Directors and our team recognize the incredible past and ongoing efforts of many organizations in the area to take care of where we live. I wish more of us would work together to support and build on our efforts. In many ways, we are all working towards the same common goals of preserving biodiversity, improving the way of life, and strengthening our economy and our resilience.
The Noosa region has so much to offer – we want to ensure these values are extended and reinforced for the next generation of caretakers of this special place.