Action and art for conservation

Students from St. Therese Catholic Primary School have been working alongside local environmental volunteers to protect threatened Moonah trees while encouraging others to look after our coastline.

Grade 3 and 4 students from St. Therese Primary School students teamed up with with volunteers from Surf Coast Inland Plains Network (SCIPN),  Torquay Coast Action (TCA) and the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) to plant 400 Moonah and Wirildra trees near  Whites Beach.

Drawing inspiration from the latest SCIPN wildlife card collection by local artist Mark Trinham, students also created and displayed their own artwork at the planting site.

St. Therese Primary School students Mickey Cotsopoulos, Charlotte Morgan and Olivia Gross with their artwork and GORCC conservation officer Georgie Beale

Native animals such as frogs, reptiles, mammals, bats, freshwater fish and many birds from the region feature in the cards, which were developed to promote local  wildlife and conservation education.

SCIPN operations manager Mandy Coulson said students had researched Moonah Woodlands in class and also worked on their art.

“Their artwork depicts local trees and animals, and has been displayed near the planting site to raise public awareness of the coastal environment,” she said.

For more information on Moonah Woodlands, please click here.

Glenda Shomaly, a volunteer from TCA, said St. Therese Primary School plays an active role in educating its students on the importance of maintaining and enhancing the local environment.

“St. Therese Catholic Primary School students plant 400 trees a year  as a part of their carbon offset project,” she said.

The school’s sustainability coordinator, Gerard McCarthy, said students were excited to participate in the day’s activities.

“Opportunities like this allow the students to further understand their local environment and how to look after it,” he said.

“As they grow up, they will be able to appreciate their own efforts made to protect the area.”

This educational activity was made possible by a grant received from the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, which is celebrating 25 years of land care this year.

Why did the site need rehabilitation?

The area, which borders Fishermans Beach and Whites Beach, was chosen because only one per cent of Moonah trees remain there due to decimation.

GORCC coastal project manager Mike Bodsworth said GORCC was grateful to the students and volunteers for their assistance in an area requiring restoration.

“GORCC has supported their work by fencing the site to protect the re-vegetated area and give it the best chance of survival,” he said.

Our coastal ecosystem will be threatened if Moonah Woodlands are not planted in the area.

More information

Torquay Coast Action hold regular working bees along the coast.

For further information please phone 5261 6266.

Check out what other students have done to help the coast in our previous blogs:

Queens Park blitz a group effort

Plunging in for fish count

Students take lead on coast care

Interesting things that have washed up on the beach

As our Coastal Reserves Manager often reminds us, “the tide comes in and the tide goes out”. Such continual motion brings many things with it, which often wash back out with the tide but occasionally stay. Here’s some of the more interesting things that have washed up on our beaches in recent times (along with one not so recent).

  • Leatherback Turtle – A big beauty of the sea washed up on the beach near Lorne in 2007.
  • Penguins – Unfortunately it’s rare to see live ones these days and more common to find a few dead ones, especially after big storms. In 2009, unusually high numbers of the latter led to concerns that their food supplies had taken a serious hit.
  • Seals – usually alive and stopping for a rest. Occasionally a pup mightn’t make it.
  • Kangaroos – In 2008, one was rumoured to have hopped onto the beach, into the water and the path of a hungry shark. Believe it or not!
  • Shearwaters – This migratory bird species travels thousands of kilometres to the Surf Coast each spring. Unfortunately, some don’t make it.
  • Mako Shark – A dead youngster washed up at Fishermans Beach in 2009.
  • Blue Whale – Found off Cathedral Rocks in the 1990s.
  • Dead body – Courtesy of the Pong Su drama off Lorne in 2003.
  • The Joseph Scammell shipwreck off Torquay in 1891 – The valuable wreckage sparked off the largest wave of illegal looting, pilfering and smuggling in the Geelong area’s history with up to 2,000 people visiting the wreck site in one day.

Have you found something interesting or a bit out of the ordinary on one of our beaches? Share it with us – and others – by posting a comment. You can also visit our website for information about what to do if you find a dead or injured animal on the beach.

Posted by David Clarke, CEO.

Infamous coastal controversies of the past five years

As the clock ticks down on my last two months with GORCC, it seems timely to look back over the achievements and challenges of the past five years.

It will probably come as no surprise to many when I say that our work is not all plain sailing. Indeed, as the following top 10 list shows, GORCC has  weathered plenty of controversial issues. While these have been challenging at the time, they have all inevitably led us towards learning some very valuable and salient lessons.

Here are some of our most infamous controversies of the past five years. Rest assured that while the tone may be light, they each represent some very hard lessons learned!

  • ‘Parking Gate’
    Who can forget our attempt to install parking meters in Torquay, Jan Juc and Anglesea in 2007? It had worked in Lorne for three previous years so we thought we’d use it in other areas to generate some new funding for our work to look after the coast. After announcing our plans, we endured a massive backlash from throughout the local community, causing us to back down and even leading us to eventually remove the meters from Lorne. It still comes up from time to time in media reports.
  • ‘Pool Gate’
    The controversy continues in Lorne about the redevelopment of the Lorne swimming pool and whether it should be heated or not. We’re hopeful this will all be resolved one way or another in the near future.
  • ‘Bunker Gate’
    Our staff discovered an elaborate bunker in the sand dunes at Fishermans Beach in Torquay, which made the news on all major radio stations and ABC TV. Must have been a slow news day!
  • ‘Memorial Gate’
    Thinking we had everyone’s support, we set out to upgrade Point Danger in Torquay, which included building a new war memorial. Unfortunately we had neglected to honour Joe Walker and his mates who had built the original rock cairn, which our local war veterans still considered to be very important. After some difficult times, we worked out a compromise with Joe and the RSL to keep the old memorial while building the new one. They are both resplendent now, especially at the annual dawn service on ANZAC Day
  • ‘Camper Gate’
    Our plans to upgrade the Torquay and Lorne Foreshore Caravan Parks have certainly generated strong reactions from many of our regular campers who for many years have enjoyed staying in the parks. And continue to do so with the imminent start of stage one power upgrade works at Torquay currently attracting many questions, concerns and comments from the campers affected by these works.
  • ‘Cut/gap Gate’
    A few residents in Torquay became very concerned at what they thought were our plans to close the ‘gap’ at Whites Beach.
  • ‘Stairs Gate’
    Unfortunately the old stairs at Bird Rock in Jan Juc had to be removed because they were no longer safe and it wasn’t possible to build a safe set. Despite the danger, the signs and a fence, a few irresponsible surfers still get to their favourite wave by scrambling up and down the cliff face rather than using the stairs leading down from Little Rock car park. It seems some people never learn.
  • ‘Toilet Gate’
    The old toilet on the foreshore in Torquay has needed to be replaced for some time now. Unfortunately it is situated directly across the road from some very expensive premuim real estate. Not surprisingly the owners are concerned – and have been for some time – about how the new building  will be sensitive to their needs (i.e. views) as residents and property owners. The new facility still hasn’t been built while the existing one continues to deteriorate. Beauty certainly is in the eye of the beholder.
  • ‘Slaughterhouse’
    An unused and little-known but important bit of Crown land in Lorne has the potential to be used for accommodation or some other appropriate purpose. But should it be developed at all? And if so, how to ensure the best outcomes for the coast and the community?
  • ‘The Pong Su’
    An international drug operation gone wrong, with dead bodies washing up on the Lorne foreshore. Nothing to do with us but very interesting all the same.

Posted by David Clarke, CEO.

Change one of life’s constants

The wise person who once said, “the only thing that stays the same is change”, certainly hit the nail squarely on the head. Life is all about change – as is the coast, the community, GORCC (like all other organisations), and many other aspects of the world we live in.

Change has certainly been in the wind at GORCC over the past week since we announced the resignation of our Chair Peter Anderson along with my decision to finish up in June 2010 as Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Peter’s decision reflects a recent change in his work circumstances. After serving voluntarily on the committee since its formation in 2004 – the past three years as voluntary Chair – his leadership and invaluable contribution to the coast, its ongoing management and care will be sorely missed.

Fortunately John Carlile has agreed to step into the role of Acting Chair until the new committee comes on board later this year. Like Peter, John is passionate about the coast and its future. So much so that three years ago he volunteered for the committee and has been an active member ever since.

John will keep a steady hand at the helm over the next few months as GORCC navigates its way towards the government’s appointment of a new committee from July 2010 and the committee’s recruitment of a new Chief Executive Officer.

All of GORCC’s important work continues as usual: looking after the coast and delivering projects such as the Surf Coast Walk, the power upgrade at Torquay Foreshore Caravan Park and the start of redevelopment works at Fishermans Beach.

My own decision to resign as CEO was made after much soul-searching. I appreciate the trust the original committee placed in my capabilities to lead and shape what was then a very new organisation when it appointed me as GORCC’s inaugural CEO almost five years ago.

I will look back on my time with GORCC with considerable pride and happiness. Whilst there have been plenty of challenges, I consider the achievements to be significant; for example:

  • the caravan park upgrades are now well underway
  • more than $10 million in local, State and Federal Government funding has been secured in recent years
  • we have received external awards and recognition for our coastal management efforts, which are underpinned by our Environment and Land Management Plan
  • our relationships with government, key stakeholders and the community are robust and mutually beneficial
  • communication and engagement initiatives are ongoing and increasingly leading edge
  • we have delivered complex projects, such as the new Lorne Pier, and have a diverse project portfolio underway in the planning and delivery stages, and
  • our advocacy for the coast is well-regarded and regularly called upon.

GORCC is well positioned to achieve the key goals of significantly upgraded caravan parks that provide sustainable funding to enable ongoing protection of the coast and upgrades to its facilities and infrastructure.

The input of our staff over the last five years has been immense and I thank them for their contributions.

While it will be business as usual during my last two months as GORCC’s CEO, change is in the wind. I am excited about the changes ahead in my own life and confident the committee and new CEO will continue to lead GORCC effectively for the benefit of the coast and community.

Posted by David Clarke, CEO.