NBRF welcomes new Chair

NBRF chair Rowan Rafferty

After two years as a director with Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation Rowan Rafferty has taken on the role of chair after Rex Halverson stepped down from the position. This week he caught up with Noosa Today.

Why have you taken on the role as NBRF chair?

I became a Director of the Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation (NBRF) Board two years ago after a local friend encouraged me to apply, based on my experience and disposition. I had clear ideas about why I had come to Noosa initially, what I liked about it, and what I believed I could contribute as Chair of the NBRF and potentially to the already great quality of life in Noosa.

I was also excited to continue working with an outstanding multidisciplinary team to continue driving new and existing initiatives that aim to support Noosa’s future-focused sustainability agenda.

At the time we were highly conscious that we had an all-male eight-member Board, but with three vacancies coming up, we had an opportunity for better balance. Which we achieved.

What do you hope to bring to it and what do you hope to achieve with it?

The role of Chair provides the opportunity to revisit the Foundation’s governance and drive the function of the NBRF, which includes advocating for policy and legislative change through research and the presentation of scientific data.

This year, we’re already off to a strong start. With a refreshed Board in place, we’ve begun developing our new strategic framework which will help guide the organisation forward with deeper focus that we hope creates a greater understanding of and engagement with our UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status.

There are several projects underway involving threatened species protection. Namely our Wild Koala Initiative to improve outcomes for local koala populations, and innovative research that is looking to identify key Glossy Black-Cockatoo nesting sites. We’re also looking at several research projects around marine species protection.

We are commencing an Agri Hub project to enhance production in our agricultural sector. This is the natural next step of the Noosa Hinterland Rural Enterprise Plan and we’re working with local stakeholders to facilitate a process to attract regional farmers and better connect them with landowners and markets.

A significant part of the Agri Hub project that I’m particularly excited about contributing to, is looking at ways our Shire can redirect compostable material from our waste stream into soil enrichment and improved food production.

We all like our food in Noosa, the fresher and more nutritious the better!

I see you’ve had extensive experience working in the areas of government and IT? How do you expect this experience will assist you in your new role?

Knowing about how all levels of government work is, I believe, an important part of the work the NBRF does in advocating for policy and legislative changes. Having a big heart and a flat forehead doesn’t achieve much, so knowing your way around helps.

In a smart biosphere – a term we’ll start hearing more about – data is king. Facts and science make for real change.

What aspects of NBRF do you see as most important?

Noosa’s global status as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve should be a badge of pride for our residents, neighbours and visitors. We are living proof of a community living in harmony with its environment.

The Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation is tasked by Noosa Council to act as the ambassador for Noosa’s biosphere status. We’re not the governing authority. Our purpose is to create long-term value by directing decisionmakers towards enhanced biodiversity and community outcomes.

Biosphere reserves are about communities working together to test new ideas for living sustainably. At the NBRF, we work with community and partners to break down silos and collaborate on finding solutions to local challenges and gaps in knowledge. We believe this is how we can make a difference.

You’ve lived in another biosphere in Mallacoota?

Yes, and was involved in several projects, ranging from improving the power supply and making emergency generator provisions, to sitting on the Wilderness Coast (Tourism Australia) Committee, and working actively with the award-winning Kitchen to Compost: Compostable Waste project.

What do you think your time in Mallacoota has taught you about biospheres?

Declared biosphere reserve regions are special places which constantly strive towards the UNESCO Man and Biosphere program objectives. Unlike Mallacoota, Noosa didn’t just happen; many people helped shape Noosa into what it is today – a unique example of a place where people live sustainably in an area of considerably biodiverse ecosystems.

What lessons did you learn from Mallacoota that could benefit Noosa?

The biosphere reserve relationship between UNESCO and the local community must be nurtured and respected, otherwise it may be lost. The Croagingalong Biosphere Reserve is no longer; it has been de-listed by UNESCO.

Is there anything else you would like to say about NBRF and your role?

We’re really pleased with the direction we’re heading. We have three new female Directors and a new female Advisor to the Board; each of whom bring exceptional expertise to the Foundation. Along with our existing vibrant Directors, supported by a strong administrative and communications team, the new Board is highly focused, aligned and already making significant progress.

The Noosa Biosphere is already neighboured with the Great Sandy Biosphere Reserve to our north and we eagerly await UNESCO’s decision to add the Sunshine Coast to the list of Queensland biosphere reserves. Our region could soon become the only place in the world to have three contiguous biosphere reserves – now isn’t that something to be proud of!

I dislike siloing. Our Board and team recognise the incredible past and continuing efforts of many organisations across the region in caring for the place we live in. I would like to see more of us working together to support and leverage our efforts. In many ways, we are all working towards the same common goals of preserving biodiversity, enhancing lifestyle, and building our economy and resilience.

The Noosa region has so much to offer – we want to ensure these values are extended and strengthened for the next generation of custodians of this special place.