Outgoing President's Report 2010-2011​

Delivered at Gecko's Annual General Meeting by Rose Adams

Gecko has been in operation for nearly twenty-two years, during which we have grown from a small group of individuals with a shared passion for our beautiful Gold Coast, its people and most especially its richly biodiverse environment to the mature and respected organisation the Gecko Board represents here tonight. Gecko is acknowledged at local, state and federal level as the peak not-for-profit environment group on the Gold Coast and our views and submissions are sought from these decision makers on a wide variety of topics. We have put forward our ideas, not just regarding impacts of developments on our flora and fauna but also on the broader ecological sustainability issues that affect our nation, including housing affordability, population growth, transport issues, water strategies and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Gecko’s policy positions are formulated at committee meetings and approved by the Board. Our take on issues is sought by the media, though our responses are not always accurately portrayed and the so-called greenie standpoint comes in for a lot of criticism. Come election time, candidates are suddenly keen to learn from us what the pressing environmental issues are.  Our campaigners always seek to promote policies that will enduringly and effectively protect our environment. Despite considerable challenges, persistence often pays off, which gives us great satisfaction. Gecko and its members, volunteers and staff remain resolute in their efforts to protect both our dwindling biodiversity and the amenity of the built environment. It has been an enormous honour for me to serve as President for the past three years and to work alongside so many fine, dedicated people. I will be stepping down from this role but my involvement will remain as intense as ever. Gecko’s Annual Report will describe in more detail all the many activities we have undertaken the last year but I would like to briefly highlight some standout areas:
  • Samantha Morris (Wombat Creative) kick-started the year with an intensive session of strategic planning in order to maximise our efforts. We cannot tackle everything, try as we might and the identification of key target areas has given us all a better focus.
  • A very satisfying development has been the transition of our long standing Meeting of Member Groups into the Environment Alliance. The Alliance consists of like-minded organisations and community groups across the Gold Coast who come together on a monthly basis to discuss topical Gold Coast environmental and planning issues. Our formal launch is planned shortly.
  • On the Campaigns front our key themes are climate change, sustainability, population and biodiversity and these considerations are reflected in all our submissions.
  • The tragic decline of the koala has continued here in South-East Queensland and lobbying for greater protection for this iconic Australian animal has been an important part of the Campaign Committee’s work.
  • Gecko has continued to lobby for the listing of the koala as vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act and we await the federal Environment Minister’s decision.
Other issues which have kept us busy this year include countering climate change misinformation, support for carbon reduction and the massive growth of the coal seam gas industry. Ongoing issues we have championed over many years remain as important as ever, such as protection of Springbrook National Park and the Plateau from unsuitable development and protection of our public open spaces. Gecko’s biggest project, which ran from June 2010 to June 2011, was the highly successful Schuster Park Project, a federally funded training and employment scheme that delivered six highly trained bush regenerators.  Six previously unemployed and under skilled trainees came through with flying colours and in the process transformed a neglected and weed-infested area of public open space.  All trainees gained permanent employment following completion of their studies and training and the project has been hailed as an outstanding success. Gecko Ed, our education arm, played an important role in the Schuster Park project and, as well, has continued to deliver high-quality environmental education to Gold Coast students and members of the public. Our Events Coordinator Anna had her hands full this year, successfully executing a fundraiser for the Currumbin Hospital, the Wildlife Wingding, coordinating the Clean Up Australia Day campaign on the Gold Coast, staging our annual Green Day Out to celebrate World Environment Day and running many other smaller activities throughout the year. We are thrilled that she is expecting a baby in December – the first Gecko baby in a long time. Anna will be continuing to serve on the Board, but we may have the onerous task of finding a substitute events coordinator for 12 months. Our business arm, Gecko Regen continues to grow and thrive under Mark Bibby’s expert management and has retained its place as one of the Gold Coast’s leading environmental restoration and revegetation businesses. Our ever-resourceful CEO, Ben Perkins has continued to ensure our activities and communications run smoothly and that Gecko is always presented as a professional, caring and effective organization.  Ben has been with us for 10 years and during this time has re-shaped and streamlined our day-to-day operations to be as efficient as possible. He has shared our ups and downs and played a pivotal role in all our many and varied activities. Over the past year we enjoyed the services of Michelle Wilson as a part-time Office Assistant and her cheery manner and efficiency further enhanced our interaction with the public. Sadly, Gecko has not been immune to the global financial downturn and as a result of reduced funding sources, including donations, has had to respond by undertaking a restructuring of our operations.  This means we must revert to a solely volunteer managed organisation. Ben and Michelle will be moving on to other opportunities and will be greatly missed by all who have worked with them.  We wish Ben and Michelle great success in their future endeavours. Other staff have also played an important role and I thank Jeramy Simpson who has worked on a part-time basis for several years and has done an outstanding job updating and re-designing Gecko’s website www.gecko.org.au.and our on-line newsletter, LeafTales.   Jeramy has found permanent employment and we wish him success in his new job. Our part-time Bookkeeper, Darren Herse continues to perform an exemplary job processing our day-to day financial transactions under the direction of Dot Bray. Dot started off as a volunteer in 2000 and is now a full-time employee of Gecko Regen, and is highly valued for her financial skills. Thanks also to our faithful Sue who has been with us for over 7 years, ensuring our offices are carefully maintained. One of our greatest strengths as an organisation is owning our own premises. We are all proud of Gecko House and the most recent refurbishment has been the re-painting of our stunning mural located outside the staircase.   Lynn Hargreaves and her team are to be congratulated for the many, many hours they spent scraping, pressure-cleaning and repainting this beautiful Aboriginal artwork by Megan Cope. I would like to thank the outgoing Board members for their hard work in supporting this great organization –
  • Lois Levy for her dedication to the duties of Secretary, for supporting numerous sub-committees and their projects and for providing inspiration to all of us;
  • Bardhold Blecken for his able stewardship of our finances and for building important connections between Gecko and other non-government organizations;
  • Anna Itkonen for her enthusiasm and professionalism and
  • Sam Morris for her guidance in strategic thinking and for taking Gecko forward into the world of Facebook and Twitter.
  • Dereka Ogden, Ben Perkins, Simone Gillespie and David Wyatt have all served on the Board for part of the year and we thank them for their important contributions.
I offer my thanks also to the many volunteers who work quietly behind the scenes and are always there to lend a hand, such as Lynn Hargreaves, Snowy who maintains our gardens so beautifully, Jacqui Stewart, a visiting student from Germany, Annerose Albert and the ever-faithful Linda Ray and Sheila Tierney. Our library staff Steve Johnson, Gabby, Ellie Shaw and Dee have been on hand to maintain our collection and our media files. We could not undertake any of our activities or stage our many events and public displays without our wonderful volunteers and they are highly valued. In carrying out Gecko’s work, we are supported by our growing membership and changes in community awareness as we face many challenges from sometimes hostile sectors of the community, the business world and in the political arena, from those who continue to champion a big Australia, a coal-fired or nuclear-powered future and business as usual. It has been and continues to be our role to persuade, to educate and to lead by example so that attitudes do change for the better. Thank you for the opportunity to share in this endeavour.