Stretching East

on 16 Dec 2013 

Through the fortnight 25 November to 6 December I contributed to two events in Suva, Fiji.  The first was a workshop convened by the UN Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity, the second the '9th Pacific Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas'.  Both events were attended by participants from throughout Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia - Palau, Solomons, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, the Cook Islands, Nauru, Niue, Tokelau, Tuvalu, and Kiribas.

At the workshop, organised to assist countries plan their conservation programs through to 2020 in such a way as to meet the 'Aichi Targets' established under the Convention, I presented on ecological restoration.  Several of the Aichi Targets involve restoration, but there is currently little restoration happening in Pacific countries, and certainly nothing at scale.

At the conference I contributed a presentation on planning for resilient biodiversity in the socio-ecological production landscape of the FitzStirling in Gondwana Link, for a parallel session hosted by the Satoyama Initiative.  Satoyama is a Japanese CBD-focused intiative concerned with the conservation of rural landscapes in which traditional approaches to farming and forestry support significant biodiversity values.

Paula Deegan, who does a lot of CAP work with Gondwana Link, and who works with ex-BHA staffer Stu Cowell on Healthy Country Planning with traditional owners across the Top End, also presented on the Open Standards at both events.  Our presentations were very well received, and generated considerable interest.  The Secretariat supported my involvement with airfares and a daily subsistence allowance, and Satoyama with a contribution towards accommodation costs.

The conference was attended by ~800 delegates.  It was opened by the Fijian President, and closed by Prime Minister Bainimarama with a rousing speech on the need for countries to take a collective and collaborative approach to global environmental issues including climate change, and to be open and fair in their consideration of the impacts on the global environment of actions undertaken to progress national agendas.  It's an interesting experience representing Australia at such international forums at the moment!

I managed to get away for the weekend between the workshop and the conference to Caqalai, a tiny coral island north-east of Suva.  And I spent the day after the conference with a group rafting a wild river in the hills north of Suva.  Our ex-CEO Doug Humann attended the conference, and joined us for the rafting trip.  On a stretch of river without whitewater and flowing between sheer rock cliffs we were able to slip overboard and swim downriver some distance, during which time Doug smiled and called out to me "I never thought we'd end up doing this together when you joined Bush Heritage 4 years ago!"

With my return flight routed via Auckland, I stopped over for 3 days to catch up with 3 generations of family - my 88-year-old Mum, daughter Sky and son Elias, and grandson Te Kahurangi, before heading home to the South Coast and summer.