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Message from the Chair

David Gardner

Firstly can I express my appreciation for the opportunity you have given me as Chair of SWCC. It has been a wonderful journey that I have shared among passionate people, not only in the South West, but around WA and indeed Australia.

Over the eight years that I have had the privilege to chair SWCC it has been an interesting and challenging experience. It started when a friend suggested I apply for the Chair’s position back in 2008. I walked into a minefield of a representative organization with its members solely interested in maximizing the money available to each of their own organizations. As a result, you may recall that the Commonwealth Government decreed that we had to change our governance arrangements for it to continue funding SWCC. This resulted in dismissing all the staff, and starting from square one; rewriting the constitution, creating a new Association membership and re-recruiting a workforce. I was fortunate to have our CEO Damien to assist in this process. To some extent this dilemma still exists today, where our members still look for resources to tackle the NRM issues nearest and most visible to them in their own backyard. In fairness, this is entirely understandable as this is their interest and passion. The challenge is to be able to address their demands while at the same time provide equity and support for the broader community side of the equation, and the other value SWCC provides.

2015-16 has been no less challenging for natural resources management than past years. We continue to receive diminishing support from government whilst at the same time increasing expectations and direction. This is particularly so of the Western Australian Government, which no longer provides financial support for our functions as an NRM region. While Commonwealth funding is set through to 2018, we need to continue to put to government the importance of taking care of the environment and our capacity to assist in this challenge.

With reducing government support your Board has been exploring alternative sources of funding. This has been in two distinct avenues, firstly philanthropic donations and the other, developing business opportunities. Your Board is in the process of creating a not-for-profit business SWCC Consulting that will offer NRM services to business and government, particularly local government on a fee for service basis.

The challenge for the future is lifting the community’s awareness and knowledge of the consequences of climate change. There is considerable controversy over this, but it is incumbent on us to respond to the evidence available and ensure we are in a position to ensure that our natural environment has the capacity to adapt as and when change does occur. Of particular significance is the impending social and political challenges that will come with climate variability both here and globally.

In stepping down from the position of Chair I would like to thank you all for the support and enthusiasm you have displayed over the past eight years. I would like to thank the SWCC staff for their dedication and commitment to our cause. I would like to thank the SWCC Board for their help and support and our CEO Damien Postma for his contribution over my time as Chair. I would especially like to offer my successor my best wishes and sincerely hope that you give the new Chair the support that you have so generously given me.

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