Environment and climate challenges important to Cowper residents

Coffs Harbour residents are interested in environment and climate change issues. Photo: Voices4Cowper.

COMMUNITY members gathered in both Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie on Sunday at events hosted by Voices4Cowper to explore climate solutions within Cowper, and the implications for government policy and political representation.

These events were held in response to the strong theme from ‘Kitchen Table Conversations’ and a community survey conducted by Voices4Cowper, which showed the natural environment rated highly as one of the things people loved most about living in the area, and that protecting the environment, and more action on climate change were high on the agenda of concerns.

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In Coffs Harbour, Lorraine Gordon and Dr Hanabeth Luke were joined by Thomas Stanbrook, a Gumbaynggirr custodian who works in cultural regeneration of country, to speak with an audience of approximately 80 people.

Mr Stanbrook gave examples of work happening locally such as the Yuraal Native Community Garden in Bowraville, which won the Biodiversity Conservation Award in the 2023 NSW Tidy Town awards.

He described the opportunities for local landholders and consumers to learn about native foods and medicines and to manage land based on the wisdom and knowledge of First Nations custodians.

“Given the changes to our climate that are already happening and what is coming, we are going to have to learn to live differently,” he said.

Ms Gordon, the Founding Director of the National Regenerative Agriculture Alliance, said it was “a privilege to be part of these conversations”.

“It was clear that protecting the environment and acting on climate change matters to the people of Cowper.”

Dr Luke, a senior lecturer in regenerative agriculture at Southern Cross University, stated the importance of the community engaging in discussion of this kind.

“It was so great to see the community coming together to discuss climate adaptation, and what we can do through working together to achieve improved community resilience at a local and federal level,” she said.

The audiences raised questions and concerns about land management practice, planting advice for land holders, improving the incentives to change farming practices, nuclear energy, and the need to address fossil fuels and the forestry industry.

A packed room in Port Macquarie heard from Worimi/Biripi elder Uncle Wayne Anderson alongside Ms Gordon and Dr Luke.

Kerry Grace, who moderated the Port Macquarie conversation, said, “The speakers were excellent and the audience raised some great questions.

“It is clear that no matter what side of politics you sit on, we need to drive policy and programs which enable better, community led approaches to prepare for natural disasters.”

Bec Davis, Co-Chair of Voices4Cowper, who moderated the Coffs Harbour discussion, said, “Not only are we blessed with so much natural beauty in the Mid North Coast, but, given the quality of questions and discussion at tonight’s event, it is clear we are also blessed with many knowledgeable, diverse and motivated people keen to address our climate and biodiversity challenges.”

Voices4Cowper will soon be releasing a report on the key themes emerging from listening to the community, and will make this publicly available to anyone interested.

For more information about Voices4Cowper including how to get involved, visit www.voices4cowper.org.

By Andrew VIVIAN

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