As I reflect on my first two weeks in the job, I am struck by the potential of Cradle Coast Authority and our partners to develop a unique integrated model for sustainable economic development. A model which can enrich the region greatly, attract future investment and meet the twin needs of our economic development and natural resource management.

Australia is a signatory to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) initiative that sets criteria for measuring how a country is progressing towards the goals over time.  It came as a bit of a surprise to me that on the latest scoreboard, we are placed at number 37, sandwiched between Lithuania and Romania!

Some of the SDGs have resonance for our region and work:

Goal 8:  Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Goal 12:  Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 13:  Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy

Goal 14:  Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, and

Goal 15:  Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss

Where do you think Cradle Coast would sit in a table of leading regions?

Using another lens by which we might measure ourselves, I read with interest that Australia is placed at number 12 in the World Happiness Report for 2020.  Noting a recent surge in interest in protecting the natural environment supported by a Gallup World Poll, the report highlights widespread concern about the environment.  In a fascinating piece of research, using the Mappiness app, 13,000 volunteers from London were tracked and one million responses recorded and analysed linked to location and related to an emotional state.  The results?  Closeness to nature spurred positive moods and in particular, respondents were happiest when close to marine and coastal marginal areas, mountains, moors, heathland and woodland.  The report also shows that accumulated positive moods contribute to higher life evaluations by respondents in the annual survey of 156 countries. The life evaluations are self-scored by representative samples of respondents who are asked to think of a ladder with the best possible life for them being a 10 and the worst being a 0.  The results are then correlated with various life factors.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the countries with a higher SDG index tend to do better in terms of subjective wellbeing assessments and having lived in Norway I can understand why the Nordic countries top both SDG and Happiness league tables.  Developing nations are on the same journey with the World Bank having substantially ramped up their financial commitments to the environment and natural resource management.  As I contemplate the possible future state for the Cradle Coast of Tasmania, I see no good reason why this region cannot aspire to match these ambitions.

I recall that Jacinda Ardern the Prime Minister of our nearest neighbour New Zealand, was the latest to adopt the Happiness Index metric, announcing a new budget in 2019 that focused on improving the prosperity of local communities. Ardern hoped that it would “lay the foundation for not just one well-being budget, but a different approach for government decision-making altogether.”  New Zealand currently sits at nr 16 on the SDG table and number 8 on the Happiness Index.

CCA has already started looking at the UN SDGs earlier this year, and UTAS PhD Candidate, Samuel Hong, is exploring how Cradle Coast businesses can align with them. Samuel will be embedded in the CCA team, as soon as border restrictions are lifted, and he can return from China.  In the coming weeks and months, as part of the development of the Regional NRM strategy, we will be leveraging our unique business model which brings together the Regional NRM Committee, the Regional Economic Development Steering Group and Councils to maximise the opportunities that our region’s assets present.

So, in my reimagining of our region, I see us working with our partners on some exciting sustainable regional projects that reflect these admirable aspirations.  We might even kick some goals of our own that will take us up closer to the top of these league tables or at least get one up on NZ!

– Mike Thomson is the Regional NRM Manager at Cradle Coast Authority. He recently joined the team, following 30 years working in the global aquaculture industry.