They say that the strength of the team is each individual member and the strength of each member is the team. This sentiment is certainly represented at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort on the Great Barrier Reef, where instead of nominating one Everyday Ecotourism Hero, Environmental Manager Chelsea Godson could not help but nominate four!
Situated in a highly protected ‘green zone,’ Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort (LEIER) is often seen as a leader in sustainable tourism. The resort runs almost entirely on renewable energy, including solar and gas technology, and has won numerous awards for its dedication and commitment to sustainable ecotourism principles and exceptional customer service. In this article, the last of our Everyday Ecotourism Heroes series*, we’re taking you behind the scenes to meet some of the team who drive LEIER’s sustainability mission and initiatives.
Robbie Thomas, (aka Bob) is the LEIER Project Manager and plays a key role in moving the resort towards its target of being powered by 100% renewable energy by 2020. Since 2009, Bob’s attitude and commitment to sustainability have proven invaluable to the resort. Ten years on and to this day, Bob has maintained incredible resolve and problem-solving abilities that inspire and energise others. When problems are presented, he says with a smile, “Oh wow! How are we going to fix this?”.
“He inspires through his ability to experiment, overcome problems through tenacity and effort, pushing boundaries and taking risks with the intent to help others or the environment with everything from renewable energy, [to] IT, to the food composting system,” explains Chelsea.
“He always finds a way of making things work even when told it’s not going to work.”
It’s the people who expect nothing in return, but deserve the most, who are often the greatest assets to our communities. John Meech has been a volunteer at LEIER for 15 years and his dedication has left an incredible legacy of inspiration and on the ground conservation action.
John – whose interest in Lady Elliot Island started when he was a Ranger for the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service close to 20 years ago – has been involved in numerous volunteering projects at Lady Elliot, including conducting turtle research, educating guests and establishing the first native plant nursery on the island, called ‘John’s Nursery’. He started this nursery with a wheelbarrow and shovel, growing cuttings, digging holes and planting nearly 100 trees per year over the winter.
John’s work has inspired many others to contribute, including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and other volunteers, kicking off an incredible team of people committed to helping conserve and improve Lady Elliot Island.
“John was always willing and encouraged guests to participate in his work with turtles and with the revegetation program. This helped improve the guest experience and inspired them to act for turtle conservation and contribute to environmental conservation,” explains Chelsea.
He also had the opportunity to meet HRH the Prince of Wales when he visited Lady Elliot Island, where he was able to share his knowledge of turtles.
Jim and Annie Buck
In another example of dedication and commitment, Jim and Annie Buck have played a pivotal role as conservation volunteers on both Lady Elliot Island and Lady Musgrave Island on the Great Barrier Reef for over 30 years. Having worked at LEIER in a volunteer capacity for nearly 10 years, Jim and Annie recently became permanent members of the team as Ecosystem Management Officer and Assistant.
The relationship between LEIER owner Peter Gash and Jim and Annie actually began some 33 years ago, when Jim and Annie were volunteering to monitor turtles on Lady Musgrave Island and Peter managed a tourism operation there. When Peter took over LEIER in 2005, it wasn’t long before the Bucks came to the island for a holiday and offered to volunteer their time there as well.
“Over 20 years [at Lady Musgrave Island] Jim and Annie were volunteers EVERY summer for 5 weeks at a time,” explains Chelsea. They did this all whilst holding down ‘real’ jobs and raising their daughters.
Today, Jim and Annie are responsible for acres of planted native trees, exotic weed eradication, turtle monitoring and guest education on the island. These Ecotourism Heroes have always taken the time to talk to guests and take them out at night to see turtles, making a huge positive impact on guest experiences – and in turn helping the natural environment through education.
“Jim and Annie motivate others, leading by example and being out in the field for hours on end and doing such great work that people naturally are curious as to what is going on. […] They are selfless, hardworking and passionate [and] their high quality and extensive work has had an incredibly positive environmental impact on the Island – and on our business.”
Thank you, Robert, John, Jim and Annie for all that you do and to Chelsea for nominating such a fabulous group of Everyday Ecotourism Heroes!
*For more on our Everyday Ecotourism Heroes campaign, check out the feature articles below:
- Edition 1: Ronda Green, Araucaria Ecotours
- Edition 2: Zane Robnik, Park Trek
- Edition 3: Jess Leask, Kings Ningaloo Reef
- Edition 4: Zak Kelly, Whitsunday Segway Tours
- Edition 5: Tracey Larkin, Mt Barney Lodge
- Edition 6: Alex Crowe, Broger’s End Kangaroo Valley
- Edition 7: Elizabeth Hackett, Magnums Backpackers
- Edition 8: Judith Muir, Polperro Dolphin Swims
- Edition 9: Margaret Heffernan, Back Country Bliss
- Edition 10: Christopher Warren, Crystal Creek Meadows
- Edition 11: Helen Masters, Phillip Island Nature Parks
- Edition 12: Jim Smith, Sea Darwin
[Photos: Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort]