July 17 -23, 2011: Issue 15

Top: Feathertail Glider. Above: Spotted Gums at Botham's Beach. Below: Sugar Glider. Below this: Glider boxes at Bothams Beach. All Images Courtesy Marita Macrae of PEF and the  PNHA

 Botham Beach History by Barbara Davies

Copyright Pittwater Environmental Foundation, 2011. All Rights Reserved. 

Pittwater Environmental Foundation 

In Pittwater around 1600 hectares of pre-European relatively untouched original bushland remains, 400 hectares of this in public ownership. We have 38 species of native plants or animals on the Threatened Species list and two, our Koala population and the small Squirrel Glider, which are considered endangered due to feral animals, habitat clearing of their special food-trees and bushfire hazard reduction. Pittwater Council lists a further eleven areas as considered as ecologically endangered. We may all dwell in a beautiful place and appreciate it as ‘God’s Country’ but due to our small population size there a shortfall in funds between what is needed and what is available.

In 2006 the Pittwater Environmental Foundation was created to address these problems. PEF’s Directors, appointed by Pittwater Council, are hands on as much as minds directed proponents of keeping the Environment in our environment. This week we gain an insight into their work and future plans.

Pittwater Environmental Foundation has a wealth of knowledge and experience in its Directors. Could you tell us a little about any area each focuses on?

Bill Rooney – trained as a Marine Scientist, he has worked in Australia as a professional environmental consultant for over 40 years; now the Principal of his own consulting practice, specialising in water quality, aquatic ecology and ecotoxicology.
Lesley Stevens – has a degree in Geography and History, worked in television, runs a film and video business producing internet-based environmental education and feature films, served as a councillor for Willoughby Council, and is a passionate Bush Regenerator.
David Poppleton – has a degree in Environmental Planning and undertaken post-graduate studies in Urban and Regional Planning and Urban Estate Management.  David is also Vice Chair of the Pittwater Sustainability Committee and the Chairman of the Careel Bay Pittwater Protection Association, and has been a passionate supporter of environmental causes, particularly in Pittwater.
Marita Macrae – after some years as a journalist and primary school teacher, she has trained to become a professional and volunteer bush regenerator.  Co-founder and current President of Pittwater Natural Heritage Association; Chairperson of Avalon Preservation Trust.  She has received many awards for her bush regeneration and local environmental protection efforts, including Pittwater Australia Day Citizen of the Year and an OAM (2004).
Jim Longley – our local Member of Parliament from 1986-1996; Chairman of the Government Environment Committee from 1989-1991; and shadow Minister for the Environment from 1995-1996; and held a number of other senior ministerial appointments from 1992-95.  He currently is a senior Vice President for Government Banking at the Commonwealth Bank.
Mia Dalby-Ball – previously Natural Resources Manager with Pittwater Council for several years until 2009. Mia has worked in the area of wetland ecology for a number of years and is now a Principal of her own environmental consulting practice specialising in wetland ecology.
Alan Yuille – trained initially as an architect, followed by a Masters in Environmental Studies from Macquarie Univ., he has been active in the area of sustainable living and buildings for a number of years.

What projects of the Foundation currently working on?

Our current projects include bush regeneration at Avalon Golf Course, Botham’s Beach (weed control and restoration of the Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest and installing nesting boxes for the threatened squirrel gliders), and Bungan Beach Reserve.  We have received government grants for two successive years for the first two projects and have been supported for a number of years by a generous benefactor for the third.

We have recently received a very large donation from a single donor for the restoration and upkeep of Currawong on Pittwater to support the restoration and environmental works program of the proposed new Board of Directors of the Currawong Reserve/State Park Trust. 
We also have received numerous donations from members of the community, which are used to enhance environmental improvement works in Pittwater, such as the bush regeneration around the YHA Hostel in Pittwater, which we have financially supported for two years as a result of a generous donor. We have recently been involved in sponsoring  funding applications by the Coast and Environment Centre for environmental improvements to their centre and grounds.

At the recent Currawong Day the Foundation was presented with a substantial cheque of Donations from Shane Withington, how do you plan to invest that money in the Environment ?

As indicated above, we have received a donation in the amount of $1.4M, from one very generous member of the Friends of Currawong, to be spent on the upgrading of the heritage building Midholme and for other improvements to the grounds and natural environment of the Currawong property, which has recently been purchased by the State Government for the people of NSW.  A Plan of Management will soon be prepared for the site, and we will use that donation to fund restoration and improvement works stipulated within that plan that meet our charter of providing money or benefits for the conservation, protection, restoration, creation, expansion and enhancement of the natural environment, or a significant aspect of these, within the Pittwater local government area. This includes the provision of access and infrastructure to ensure the enjoyment and use of the natural environment by the community. This would also include the restoration of heritage-listed buildings, and their use for environmental education and/or research, as well as for the enjoyment of the natural environment.  The financial support of the upgrading of Currawong, thanks to the extraordinary philanthropy of a very generous benefactor, will enable us to form a long-term association with the Friends of Currawong, Pittwater Council, the NSW Government, and the local community.

What are any future plans the Foundation has that you'd like to share with the Community ?

We would like to invite other members of the Pittwater Community to consider contributing to the future enhancement of our beautiful environment here in Pittwater.  We will always be looking for new projects to support, and we need donated funds to make this possible.  We would encourage philanthropy in the form of money or property, and one simple and effective way is to include the PEF in your Will by specifying a dollar amount or a portion of your estate when you no longer require it.  All donations over $2 are tax deductible, and we provide a tax deductible receipt to all donors.   Additional information can be obtained from our web site.

What is the Foundations motto you operate by?

Our motto is ‘towards tomorrow’, because we are always trying to plan for the future of our natural environment here in Pittwater. This is best done by supporting projects that begin now to protect and enhance our fragile natural environment, with its wonderful variety of plants and animals. 

About 33% (about 1600 ha excluding National Parks) of the original pre-European bushland in Pittwater remains in a reasonably natural or undisturbed condition. Of this, only about 400ha remains in public ownership.  All remaining natural bushland is subject to encroachment, illegal clearing, weed invasion, feral animals, altered drainage, bushfire hazard reduction requirements and other edge effects.  Within Pittwater 38 species of plants or animals are listed as endangered or threatened under the Threatened Species Act.  There are two endangered populations (Koala and Squirrel Glider) and eight endangered ecological communities or types of bushland.  The large area of bushland and relatively low population in Pittwater means that there will never be sufficient funds from Council rates and occasional grants to properly care for our very special natural environment.  So we, as the caretakers of our land for future generations, must make a special effort, including financial support, to ensure it can survive in a healthy condition and be enjoyed by all future generations.

Further Reading:

Gliding Possums: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/animals/GlidingPossums.htm

PEF Constitution: HERE

PEF Trust Deed: HERE

Squirrel Glider: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squirrel_Glider

Above:  Volunteer Bush Regenerators at Avalon Golf Course. Below: Swamp Wallaby at YHA. Below this; Botham Beach after Burn, June 2011. All Images Courtesy Marita Macrae of Pittwater Natural Heritage Association