10 May 2023

Cape York NRM resilient and ready for new chair

| Matt Nicholls
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OUTGOING Cape York Natural Resources Management chair Emma Jackson believes she is leaving the organisation in a stronger position than when she took on the role seven years ago.

Ms Jackson’s resignation was announced last week, with Sally Witherspoon appointed as chair in the interim.

“We’re much more resilient now than what we were, which is something I am proud of,” she told Cape York Weekly.

“We really stepped it up with our systems and internal processes.

“In the past, if Cape York NRM took a hit it didn’t really have that strength and resilience.

“We’ve built great relationships with the Queensland and Australian governments in my time in the role.

“They know who we are; they know about our region and they know what we are about.”

Ms Jackson said Cape York NRM serviced a diverse region that was sparsely populated.

One of the challenges NRM faced in its formative years was gaining the trust of locals.

“I remember speaking with the horticulturists in Lakeland and they didn’t want to share what they were doing,” she said.

“They had this great knowledge but they were worried that sharing might come back to bite them on the arse.

“It took time to build those relationships and get them to trust us.”

The outgoing chair, who lives on Wolverton Station, said NRM was a stronger organisation as a result of partnerships with both land managers and external organisations.

“South Cape York Catchments is a great example – they do an awful lot of work in the Cooktown and Lakeland area and we partner with them as much as possible,” she said.

“The ranger groups on the west coast of Cape York are another great example of how we can deliver outcomes in a coordinated partnership.”

Cape York NRM was established in 2010 and Ms Jackson was on the 2009 steering committee which undertook the community engagement to design the organisation.

She was elected by members to be a director in 2013 and two years later was voted by the board to be the chairperson.

“In the first 12 months of existence, our overall investment from the Australian government for project delivery was $1 million. In 2021 our investment received was close to $5 million,” Ms Jackson said.

“The organisation has grown from one employee in 2009 to 20 employees in 2022.

In 2018, Cape York NRM formed a partnership with Terrain NRM and Gulf Savannah called North Qld NRM Alliance with the primary objective being to share knowledge, work more collaboratively and advocate for North Queensland across natural resource management.

Ms Jackson was named chair of the alliance and it was successful in the application to the federal government for a combined investment of $32 million into regional Landcare programs across the region.

“There are a huge number of programs that I am proud of as a team,” she said.

“Our turtle programs, our fire forum and grazing forum have been really successful.”

Ms Jackson has also been the chair of NRM Regions Australia since 2019 – the national peak organisation for all NRM bodies – and will continue in that role.

“The national space is where I see myself bringing value and, having lived here for almost two decades, I understand the diversity to the landscape, the communities and the sectors,” she said.

“In this national role, I can ensure that the Cape York region is not forgotten or ignored in policies and programs.

“Whilst I wear a national hat, I still bring that breadth of knowledge to the government’s table from the region I live in.”

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