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Noosa Council teams up with CSIRO for sustainable push

BOLD MOVE: Noosa Mayor Tony Wellington with Innovation Minister Leanne Enoch - he is looking to position Noosa to a sustainable future.
BOLD MOVE: Noosa Mayor Tony Wellington with Innovation Minister Leanne Enoch - he is looking to position Noosa to a sustainable future. John McCutcheon

THE CSIRO has been chosen to partner with Noosa Council to create a Noosa Institute of Sustainability in the 'living laboratory' of the Biosphere.

This ground-breaking first move by council to research a globally significant Institute of Sustainability will not be put out to tender, as is the usual practice.

Instead Noosa councillors have unanimously voted to invoke an exemption under local government regulations to partner with the business arm of the esteemed CSIRO and investigate the sustainability concept at a cost of almost $40,000 to ratepayers.

If that pans out, councillors will then be asked to consider a preferred model at a cost of $44,000 and then a further $45,000 for a possible stage three draft business case.

Mayor Tony Wellington is the driving force behind the concept and moved Thursday's night motion.

He said the CSIRO slogan is "we imagine, we collaborate, we innovate”.

"I would argue they are the very qualities we need to give this project some legs, because it does need legs if it is to go anywhere,” the Mayor said.

"CSIRO's professional, innovative expertise and their linkages to universities and government provide unequalled advice.”

He said the idea of a sustainability research institute and "think tank” was not new.

It was raised and discussed under the original Noosa Biosphere Ltd, but did not get very far.

"What we have here is an opportunity to take a really serious step towards its realisation,” Cr Wellington said.

"In my imaginings this research centre and think tank would have significant flow-on benefits for the community and also for our economy, because it aligns beautifully with Noosa's reputation for sensitive and sustainable innovation,” Cr Wellington said.

He said he hoped the institute would attract interest from serious institutions.

"If we're going to continue to be a living laboratory of best practice having a local sustainability institute is a bit of a no-brainer,” he said.

He said it would give Noosa Council credibility and inspiration to move forward on sustainability.

This agreement was despite Cr Ingrid Jackson asking the council's environment and sustainable development director Kim Rawlings if CSIRO Data61 was the appropriate group for such a centre and "why council was not going out to tender for this new concept?”

"There may be other providers who could also provide this particular service,” Cr Jackson said.

Ms Rawlings said Data61 was a business unit with a focus primarily on research and innovation - particularly natural systems.

"I feel absolutely confident that they are an appropriate supplier to do this work,” she said.

She said the council was using section 235(a) of the Local Government Act because of the "uniqueness of this proposition”.

"We felt they were absolutely uniquely positioned for this initiative.”

Cr Ingrid Jackson said: "I am particularly keen to see council take a balanced approach to the environment, the economy and the community.

"The CSIRO Data61 proposal addresses all of these, including community engagement,” she said.

The concept of a sustainability institute aligns with the Noosa Biosphere Reserve.

UNESCO's Man and Biosphere Program specifically aims to combine natural and social sciences, economics and education.


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