Celebrate Sustainable Living!

It’s that time of yeara again when we celebrate sustainable living in Australia.

Sustainable House Day 2014 will be held on Sunday the 7th and  14th of September to showcase some of the country’s most environmentally progressive homes.

Did you know that the average Australian household contributes 13 tonnes of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere every year?  That’s enough to fill more than 700 balloons every day …scary.

The event gives you the chance to tour every day Australian homes with a lowered ecological footprint and you can visit some sustainable houses in our region.  Residences in Mount Duneed, Belmont and Queenscliff will be opening their doors for anyone seeking inspiration, tips and ideas about renewable energy, recycling, and other sustainable practices.

Take a look at the gallery of sustainable homes below.  Each residence integrates various sustainable  features such as rain water harvesting, recycled building materials, photovoltaic solar panels, sustainable food production and much more!


Source: http://sustainablehouseday.com/item/rohans-house/
Source: http://sustainablehouseday.com/item/rohans-house/
Source: http://sustainablehouseday.com/item/fleurs-house/
Source: http://sustainablehouseday.com/item/fleurs-house/
Source: http://sustainablehouseday.com/item/point-lonsdale-beach-house/
Source: http://sustainablehouseday.com/item/point-lonsdale-beach-house/


For more information on Sustainable House Day 2014 or to find a sustainable house in your local area, click here.

Top Tips to Care for the Coast

Here are a few simple tips that will help you to protect our beautiful coast and ensure everyone can continue to enjoy it.

4 tips to look after the environment

  1. Understand boating practices (dispose of waste correctly including sewerage).
  2. Minimize the amount of rubbished generated by reusing bags and using recyclable materials.
  3. Use environmentally friendly cleaning products
  4. Become a volunteer. Get in touch with one of these coastal environmental volunteer groups to get involved.
Dogs are only allowed off their leash in certain areas

4 tips to look after wildlife

  1. When boating, whales, dolphins and seals stay at least 100m away – the sea is their home.
  2. Rock pools are homes to plants, so return overturned rocks to their original position and don’t disrupt the habitats of marine life.
  3. Ensure dogs are on leashes on the beach and avoid dog prohibited areas. This will ensure wildlife, such as the Hooded Plover – an endangered little Aussie bird battling to survive, are protected.
  4. If you see an injured animal the best thing you can do is call the right people immediately. If they are alive call DSE on 136 186; they have a customer service center which will direct you to the closest local animal shelter or refuge.
    – for more information on what to do with sick or injured animals click here.
Stay out of the dunes and keep your dog on a leash and you will be helping to protect nesting birds like the endangered Hooded Plover. Source: Dean Ingwersen

3 tips to look after plant-life

  1. Keep on designated pathways when walking to and from the beach to protect the vegetation.
  2. Take care to avoid sand dunes as they are fragile ecosystems which are home to precious native vegetation and many  habitats.
  3. Be sure to look out for noxious weeds – they start off in your garden and from there they invade the coast! For more information on noxious weeds click here.
Signs have been put up around the Surf Coast to ensure visitors stay off the dunes in order to protect plant-life and habitats

Inspiration for this post came from ’50 Ways to Care for our Coast’, a publication by Coast Care.

For more tips on how to protect our coast click here.

Related Blog Posts:

Don’t be a butt with your cigarette!
Who let the cats out:
Beachgoers and dunes at risk: 


Precious babies on our beaches

Sustainable careers in focus

Are you or someone you know unsure of what career path to take? Or are you just looking for a new way to increase your employability in the workforce?  It seems that careers with a sustainable focus are the next big thing.

Higher education institutions are offering an increasing number of sustainability focused courses to meet the growing demand in the job market.

The Gordon TAFE offers a number of courses that have an environmentally sustainable emphasis.

The Gordon Tafe is just one of the higher education institutions taking advantage of the trend, offering courses with an environmental emphasis such as a Diploma of Sustainability, Sustainable Tourism Management, and Carbon Accounting and Management.

All of these courses will prepare students for a greener future by incorporating valuable sustainability knowledge.

Skill centre manager for sustainable innovation Darren Gray is delighted with the Gordon’s cently accredited and certified Carbon Accounting and Management course.

“We are very proud of this course and it involves the critical skills needed in order to achieve a low-carbon economy,” he said.

The Gordon Culinary School

In 2010 and 2011, the Gordon worked in partnership with Sustainability Victoria in an Australian TAFE first to encourage environmental sustainability in their culinary school’s operations through the case study- A Life Cycle Approach to Sustainable Service.

Check out their case study here for more information.

The Gordon’s ‘Life Cycle’ approach strives to create behaviour change with their culinary school students.

This initiative was established to decrease the culinary school’s environmental footprint in several areas including reduction of waste, energy, packaging and water usage.

Program manager Wayne Chrimes said the Life Cycle Approach is at the fore front of sustainability design, becoming a strong focus within many industries.

“Whilst we are minimising environmental impacts across our training facilities, the culinary school is also educating students and industry on how to employ sustainable practices for both short and long-term benefit,” he said.

“By embedding sustainability across the Gordon’s culinary school,  we are creating behaviour change with today’s students who are the up and coming industry leaders of tomorrow.”

Gordon TAFE Redevelopments

The Gordon  also planning to undertake a $26 million redevelopment of its East Geelong Campus and is now seeking funding to support the project.

The redevelopment will house the Gordon’s Centre for Sustainability along with other new facilities that include a new training patisserie kitchen, which will integrate key ideas from the Life Cycle Approach.

If you are thinking of a career with a sustainable focus, some hands on experience might be just the ticket to boost your resume.

There are a number of environmental volunteer groups on the coast who would love to hear from you and you become a regular participant, or just help out when or where you can.

Volunteering is a fantastic opportunity to build your skills and knowledge, as well as a hands on way to make a real difference to our precious coastal environment.

It’s a great addition to your resume, and for those interested in a career in environmental management or conservation, it’s the perfect way to gain experience and make valuable contacts.

Where can I find more information?

For more information of the Gordon’s courses, check out their website at www.thegordon.edu.au

If you are interested in environmental volunteering on the coast, check out all the groups operating in our region here.

Or, to learn more, watch the video below on environmental volunteering on the coast.

Think Sustainable Seafood this Easter

You can help to protect the health of our marine ecosystem this Easter simply by selecting sustainable seafood for your holiday feasts.

This week fishmongers will be hard at work to meet the demands of the many Australians who choose to eat seafood in honour of the popular Good Friday tradition.

Marine Campaigns Officer Tooni Mahto from the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) is encouraging consumers to think before they buy when it comes to seafood.

“It is a common myth that Australia has the most sustainable fisheries in the world but in 2008 a study by the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia ranked Australia as number 31 for sustainability out of 53 of the biggest fish-producing nations – an unimpressive result,” she said

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that 80% of the world’s fish stocks are now over-exploited or fished right up to their limit, and we have lost 90% of the world’s big fish from the oceans.

The AMCS is working with consumers, chefs, restaurants, seafood retailers, supermarkets and government to achieve fully sustainable, well-managed Australian fisheries.

“We work to ensure we can exist in equilibrium with our oceans for the future of our marine life and the communities and industries that depend on a healthy marine environment,” said Ms Mahto.

Consumers can assist by making the right choice when purchasing seafood by using ‘Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide’ developed by the AMCS.

“We launched the first consumer guide in 2004 in response to requests from the public for a road-map as to how to navigate the complexities of choosing seafood responsibly,” said Ms Mahto.

Since the initial publication, there have been four updates, passing on the most up to date information possible to consumers.

“In late 2010 we launched the most recent version of the guide which contains analysis of more seafood species and enable us to keep up with current information and is available on our website.” said Ms Mahto.

Sustainable seafood is a resource taken from the sea, or grown in a farm, which is harvested without harming the environment whilst maintaining a healthy population of the target item.

Individuals can make a difference to the health of our local Surf Coast Environment by ensuring they ask their fishmongers how and where the fish they are buying is caught, and choosing the sustainable option.

“Consumer power is massive – what we buy tells those up the seafood chain what values we hold most important,” said Ms Mahto.

“If we choose sustainably caught fish, we are telling them we care about the health of the oceans and healthy fisheries.”

For an accessible introduction into the issues surrounding sustainable seafood, visit the AMCS’s website www.sustainableseafood.org.au. The guide can be purchased on-line for $9.95.

This story was written by the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee and published in the Surf Coast Time’s Going Green Column.

The Surf Coast’s Hidden Wonderland

Most of us are familiar with the local birds who frequent our gardens and we can probably put a name to those visitor’s who fly in during summer and leave before winter begins.  Well the story is the same in the sea.

Living amongst the soft sponge gardens, seagrass meadows or swaying algal forests is a marine wonderland of colourful reef fish, spiky urchins, seastars, crabs and shellfish.  Many are resident all year, feeding and breeding within the habitat in which they live.

The cool ocean waters of Southern Australia are home to an estimated 12,000 species; over 85% are endemic and as such are not found anywhere else in the world.

Reef Watch volunteers have been recording the species they see at their favourite reefs for nearly 10 years, bringing to the surface data on the types and numbers of species found at reef sites along the Victorian coast and in our bays.  Reef Watch Victoria is a project of the Victorian National Parks Association, funded by the Australian Government through Caring for Our Country and Supported by Museum Victoria.

Along the Surf Coast, groups such as the Friends of Point Addis National Park are involved in the programme and have been surveying the parks abundant fish life during the Great Victorian Fish Count, held in December each year.  They have discovered Blue-Throated and Senator Wrasse, Sea Sweep, Banded and Magpie Morwongs, Southern Hulafish, Leatherjackets, Toadfish and Stingrays.  The diversity of fish species paints a picture of a healthy reef providing for the different requirements of the fish.

Leather jacket
Leather jacket

For the past three years, Grade five and six students from Lorne-Aireys P-12, have also been involved in the Great Victorian Fish Count and have had fun surveying the fish under the Lorne Pier.  They have been surprised to find there is quite a variety of fish living under the pier, including stripy Zebra fish, Old Wives and Six-spined Leatherjackets.

6 spine

At the Ingoldsby Reef near Anglesea, divers are able to see an abundance of marine life.  It is one of the longest shallow offshore reefs in Victorian waters and is home to over a hundred species of algae, as well as colourful ascidians, fanlike gorgonian corals and feathery hydroids.

Ocean visitors to the Surf Coast can occasionally be seen breaching the surface, including Humpback and Southern Right Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins and giant pelagic sunfish.  Below the surface, Mulloway, Australian Salmon, Wobbegongs and School sharks move through the reefs on their way to breed in the bays and inlets or to follow the migratory path of their prey as they move with the seasons of the sea.

Reef Watch volunteers also monitor the marine life at their favourite reefs during the year, providing a seasonal snapshot of the species found.  Species lists for each monitored site have been produced, providing a record of the marine biodiversity and complexity of reefs found along the coast.

For further information on Reef Watch Victoria visit

www.reefwatchvic.asn.au or to find out more about the Surf Coasts marine life and community groups, visit http://www.exploreunderwatervictoria.org.au/gallery-8/.

Or contact: Wendy Roberts, Coordinator, Reef Watch Victoria, C/- Museum Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne, 3001. E-mail: info@reefwatchvic.asn.au Tel: 03 8341-7446

An Underwater World In Decline

Imagine you are in a forest and life is teeming around you.  The forest canopy stretches metres above and as you look up into the filtered sunlight a myriad of lifeforms can be seen living in their sheltered forest home.

No, it’s not a tropical rainforest; it’s an underwater world of Giant Kelps (Macrocystis).

The exceptional biodiversity of these Giant Kelp beds was first noted by Charles Darwin who visited Australia in 1983 and proclaimed, “The number of living creatures of all orders, whose existence intimately depends on the kelp, is wonderful”.

These large, brown algae are attached to the seafloor and are an important feature of many temperate reefs.  Buoyed by large, air filled bladders, they stand up in the water, and create a forest like environment, providing shelter and food for hundreds of species.

Macrocystis is limited to specific areas due to its preference for cool water and their need for rocky reefs to anchor themselves to.  In Australia, Macrocystis is confined to the southeastern parts of the mainland and Tasmania.

Global Distribution of Giant Kelp:

Climate change and the decline of Macrocystis:

Evidence suggests Giant Kelps are in decline.  The problem has been associated with the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate pattern, and contributing factors include changes in ocean acidity, increasing sea surface temperatures, more frequent storm surge events, and erosion of the coast.

Scientists believe the increasingly frequent ENSO phenomenon is driving warm tropical currents further south down the east coast of Australia where higher than normal water temperatures in partnership with lower nutrient availability, has seen a crash in Kelp populations, particularly in Tasmania.

Impacts on marine life are already apparent. Distributions of fish and other animals are shifting polewards and the timing of Antarctic seabird breeding and migration is changing, while some fish species previously only seen in Sydney are now being found in Port Phillip Bay.

How you can help

Everyone who cares about the health of our oceans can get involved by reducing their carbon footprint and working together to seek lasting global solutions to climate change.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee is currently undertaking a project on climate change and adaption strategies along the Surf Coast which commenced in April 2010.  You can investigate ways make a difference, and find further information at http://www.gorcc.com.au .

To get hands on in the battle against climate change, contact Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE), a local community group that conducts environmental activities in the Bells Beach Reserve, on the 2nd Sunday of each month starting at 10:00am. Contact Graeme Stockton on 0425 752 648 or go to SANE’s website at www.sanesurfers.org.au.

This article was published in the Surf Coast Times as part of the publications fortnightly “Going Green Column”.

Protein Science Conference Gets Behind Foreshore Rehabilitation

North Lorne is returned to its former glory thanks to Protein Society support.

The mouth of the Erskine River on the Lorne Foreshore has been revitalized by the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) thanks to financial support received from the annual Lorne Conference on Protein Structure and Function.

The conference runs over five days each February and has been held in Lorne since 1976. The special event attracts approximately 450 protein scientists gathering together to participate in trade workshops, displays, social events and to highlight leading edge protein science.

In 2008, the conference organising committee was inspired by growing climate change concerns to take proactive steps to reduce the conference’s environmental footprint.  In preparation for their 34th Conference in 2009, the committee chose to make an environmental contribution to the Lorne region, in recognition of the many years they had been visiting the area and made a financial donation to GORCC, the Crown Land Committee of Management for the Lorne Foreshore.

The Project Begins

In January 2009 the coastal project commenced to remove weeds and re-establish native vegetation along the coastal reserve from the Erskine River mouth to Stirling Street. The aim of the project was to rehabilitate Lorne’s native vegetation as it provides habitat for a range of native animals and gives the town its distinctive bushy character. A wide variety of weeds threaten Lorne’s natural areas, both inland and along the coast.

The above pictures are of the North Lorne site in October 2008 before the rehabilitation work commenced.

GORCC installed information signs at the site to create awareness about environmental weeds and encourage people with gardens in Lorne and other coastal towns to rid their gardens of invasive plants as many of the weeds are garden escapees.

North Lorne Rehabilitation Sign


The above pictures are of North Lorne in January 2009, this was in the early stages of the rehabilitation project.

The above pictures are of North Lorne in June 2009, after the environmental weeds were removed.

The Results

The funding has been used to purchase indigenous seedlings, planting and weed control conducted by GORCC staff, contractors and student volunteers. Native plants lost amongst the weed infestations have been restored in the process, including some beautiful old Eucalypts. The areas have been revegetated with a wide variety of local species including approximately 1200 plants in 2010, for example:

  • 200 Allocasuarina verticillata (Drooping Sheoak)
  • 100 Stylidium armeria  (Common Trigger-plant)
  • 100 Acaena nova-zelandii ( Bidgee-Widgee)
  • 200 Lomandra longifolia (Spiny-head Mat-rush)
  • 50 Dianella brevicaulis (Small flower Flax Lily)
  • 100 Leptospermum scoparium (Manuka)
  • 3 Correa alba (White Correa)
  • 19 Olearia ramulosa (Twiggy Daisy-bush)
  • 50 Leucopogon parviflorus (Coast Beard Heath)

The above pictures are of North Lorne in December 2010 after the native revegetation was completed.

Volunteer School Students Get Involved

In the August 2009 representatives from 24 victorian schools attended the Junior Landcare Victorian Youth Environment Conference held in Lorne. The Junior Landcare Conference promotes the environment within schools throughout Australia, encouraging students to come together and educate each other about a range of environmental topics. The funding provided opportunities for the student delegates to engage in hands on coastal care supported by GORCC staff.

Upcoming Conference

This coming February conference delegates will return for the 36th Lorne Conference on Protein Structure and Function, hosted by Erskine Mantra Resort. For more information about the conference visit their website www.lorneproteins.org.

Emerging thoughts on tackling climate change

The recent Shell EcoVolunteers Geelong Climate Change Forum run by Conservation Volunteers Australia opened with a message for us all.   David Tournier of the Wathaurong Community welcomed the attendees with the words “I have been involved in land care since birth” – a sobering thought for a group of people meeting to discuss environmental challenges created through a lack of protection for the very land he was referring to.

The forum aimed to articulate important actions to be taken locally in response to the effects of climate change on biodiversity, and gave participants a greater understanding of what others were doing to tackle climate change.

Forum Speakers
EcoVolunteers Geelong Climate Change Forum Speakers

Speakers from various facets of the community described how they were making a difference within their businesses, careers and communities.  Some of the speakers sharing their stories included:

  • Mark Schubert, General Manager of the Shell Refinery: Mark spoke about climate proofing our communities.  This included information on “integrating economic, environmental and social considerations into business decision-making”, and how Shell was tackling the issue on both a local and global stage.  Mark’s presentation can be found here.
  • Patrick O’Callahan, Director of Conservation Enterprises and the Conservation Volunteers Australia Wild Futures Program: Patrick raised the point that it is not necessarily about trying to save the world, but thinking about actions we can initiate right now, so that plans come to life and become ‘living documents’, and spoke about the animals being targeted by the Wild Futures program, including the Australian Flat Back Turtle and the Southern Bell Frog.  Patrick’s presentation can be found here.
  • Assoc. Professor Peter Waterman, Environmental Planner and Associate Professor, Environmental Science at the University of Sunshine Coast: Peter clarified ambiguities surrounding definitions of and phrases relating to climate change, and spoke about ‘climate proofing’ and how to adapt to change. Peter’s presentation can be found here.
  • Katie Gillett, President of the Geelong West Community Garden, Chair of the Geelong Organic Gardeners: Katie spoke about community gardens as a tool for tackling climate change and their ability to improve health, look after our environment, create a sense of community and increase food security.   Katie’s presentation can be found here.
  • Mark Sanders, Managing Director of Third Ecology – Third Ecology is a multi disciplinary firm focusing on sustainability in architecture, construction management and sustainability advice and ratings.  Mark focussed on tackling climate change through architecture and his presentation can be found here.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee’s Website also has information on what the organisation and others are doing to maintain the coast’s health and resilience in light of climate change impacts such as sea level rise and other threats and what you can do to help.

Below is a video clip available from The Committee’s website about climate change along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road Coast and how you can help us to look after the coast by reducing your carbon footprint.

Other topics on the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee site include:

  • A healthier future for our coast
    Why climate change is important and its likely impacts on our beautiful coastal environment.
  • Climate change snapshot
    An overview of potential climate change effects and their impacts on coastal communities.
  • Learn more
    Useful documents and links to more information about climate change and our coast.
  • Make a difference
    Simple things you can do to reduce your own carbon footprint and contribute to reducing climate change impacts on our coast.

Let’s work together to protect coastal biodiversity

The United Nations International Day for Biological Diversity this Saturday, 22 May, aims to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues across the globe.

On a more local level, GORCC, local coastal volunteer groups and many others have for some time been working hard to raise awareness of the need for everyone to do their bit to protect and care for our coast’s precious biodiversity.

The coastal environment along the Great Ocean Road includes sandy beaches, dune systems, shore platforms, reefs, estuaries and lowland forests – all of which provide important habitat for many indigenous flora and fauna species.

While much of the coastal vegetation is in excellent condition, ongoing degradation is severely compromising and destroying biodiversity values. Here are 10 major threats to coastal biodiversity.

  • Environmental weeds – several native species are outside their natural range, which is causing damage to our indigenous species. Coast Tea Tree and Coast Wattle are the two main offenders.
  • Other weeds – Pittosporum, Mirror Bush, Agapanthus, African Boneseed, Sweet Hakea, Cotoneaster, Bridal Creeper, African Boxthorn, Cape Ivy and Myrtle-leaf Milkwort. Need we go on? Most of these are common in residential gardens along the coast. Time to replace them with more appropriate indigenous species.
  • Litter – brings nutrients, which encourages weed species, and is harmful to wildlife.
  • Erosion – damages native vegetation and encourages weeds species to colonise.
  • Pest animals – rabbits, foxes, feral cats, noisy miner birds and the like.
  • Access – creation of informal tracks, clearance of vegetation, damage to vegetation, soil disturbance, access to sensitive areas.
  • Climate change – some species will adapt better than others to climate change. Indigenous species may cope worse than pest plants and animals.
  • Fire – some of our landscapes need cool, safe burns to encourage regeneration of indigenous species and remove weed species (which are often fire intolerant). Bushfires, on the other hand, burn fast and hot, which threatens biodiversity.
  • Development – development on or near the coast often involves degradation or removal of native vegetation. Whilst efforts are made to protect, rehabilitate and regenerate areas, the cumulative impacts of development are significant.
  • Dog poo – nutrient-rich dog poo washes off walking tracks into sensitive bushland areas where indigenous species are intolerant to the high nutrient levels.

You can find out more about these and other threats, and the work we are doing with local volunteers and others to protect coastal biodiversity, by downloading our latest webclip Protecting the Great Ocean Road Coast’s biodiversity. Tell us what you think by posting a comment on this blog.

Enter our brave new online world and join the conversation

Today marks the start of a brave new world for GORCC with the launch of our new website and associated social media tools, including this GORCC Talk Blog.

For some time now, we’ve recognised that our existing website, which was launched in November 2005, was in need of an overhaul if we were to achieve our objective of improving the way we communicate and engage with people online.

This view was reinforced by a research project undertaken between April and June last year, which identified a strong need to redevelop the website as a resource where people can learn and discover our coastal environment, and local groups and others can share information online.

We also saw – perhaps somewhat belatedly – the multitude of exciting opportunities offered by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, FlickR and other social media tools in terms of informing, educating, connecting, interacting and engaging with people in the online environment.

Over the past few months, we’ve been exploring some of these tools and are now ready to make our first real foray into social media in conjunction with the new website.

The development of the new website has been funded from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country program and is part of our Helping communities help the coast along the Great Ocean Road program, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of caring for the coast in the face of population growth, climate change and other threats.

As such, our new website provides an interactive and dynamic tool that enables people to learn about our organisation and its work, the issues confronting our coast and the simple things we can all do to help look after it. We want people to enjoy the coast but to also respect and care for it.

Our new Facebook and Twitter pages build on these themes by providing regular real-time updates about what we’re up to and allowing users to interact directly with us online.

YouTube and FlickR enables people to access and comment on our offerings – and to share their own video and photographic resources – while this GORCC Talk Blog provides a space for generating ongoing commentary and dialogue about various aspects of the coast and pertinent issues.

It’s still early days for our new website and social media tools, and we’re still very much on our training wheels in this regard. However, we see these tools continually evolving as people start to use them to communicate and engage with us.

I encourage you to visit www.gorcc.com.au, to have a look around the site to see what’s there and to get the conversation going by telling us what you think, either by clicking on the homepage links to Facebook or Twitter, or by posting a comment here.

Over to you!

Posted by David Clarke, CEO.