Wed, Feb 22, 2023 3:47 PM

Environmentalist in search of common ground


Tessa Jaine

Meet Bev Doole, Cawthron Marlborough Environment Awards coordinator, who is working to protect the region’s natural gems through communication, community, and seeking common ground. In a podcast with Catherine van der Meulen, Bev shares her latest environmental endeavours.

Bev is no stranger to Marlborough. She grew up on a two-hectare property in Tua Marina. Her parents Alice and Gordon were teachers who also grew fruit and vegetables for market. “I spent my childhood trudging around in gumboots, hoeing sweetcorn, picking plums and harvesting onions for seed,” she says.

Growing food and being connected to the land is fundamental to who Bev is. However, the journey to her involvement in the Environment Awards took shape over time. At 17, Bev left home to pursue a career in journalism. “Sheila MacMurray, my Latin teacher at Marlborough Girls College, would talk about life in general when we got tired of conjugating verbs. I remember her saying, “Bev, you don’t suffer fools gladly. Consider journalism rather than teaching.”

Six months spent at a community college in San Jose, California, led to Canterbury University and a one-year journalism course at Wellington Polytechnic. Bev worked for Radio New Zealand, the Evening Post in Wellington and then the Financial Times in London.

After 30 years away from Marlborough, family reasons brought her back home in 2008. “After being away so long I saw Marlborough through different eyes and realised how special it is and how lucky we are. There’s the Sounds, the Wairau River, the hills surrounding us and the wide-open views from Rarangi Beach.”

At the same time, Bev was concerned about the loss of diverse cropping and farming land as vineyards expanded, the spread of forestry and the effects of harvesting, and the expansion of salmon farming and the pollution it causes.

“I guess I felt more strongly about the environment when I got back because I appreciated it more. This made me want to find ways to help look after it.

“I adapted my journalism skills to broader communication about environmental issues. This led to my favourite project of co-ordinating the Marlborough Environment Awards.”

The Awards are held every two years and showcase real-life examples of businesses and community groups doing good environmental work. There’s always a broad range of projects, and the 2023 entrants include Rai Valley school children monitoring stream health, an autonomous vineyard tractor, and a mooring system that reduces seabed damage.

“The role of the Awards is to tell the entrants’ stories and use them to educate and inspire others,” says Bev.

She is curious about how people adapt to our changing world, particularly the environment, climate change, and increasing ocean temperatures. “We may be aware of it, but I’m surprised by how slow our reaction is. I wonder if it’s because we’re waiting for the Government or Council to do everything?

“I’m interested in finding people who are getting on with it themselves, whether through community groups, a company, or an industry – and there are great examples of these in Marlborough. Heaps of people are trying to hold the line and improve the environment. We want to hear their stories and acknowledge their efforts, especially the hard work being done by volunteers.

“The same applies to businesses who look at the bigger picture and want to do better - they understand that it shouldn’t just be about the bottom line and increasing shareholder value.  They understand that they have a responsibility to the environment that they depend on for their business. They’re not doing it just for themselves, but because they want to improve the world around them.”

The Awards have recognised some great examples of that, such as carbon reduction at Lawson’s Dry Hills Winery, the zero-waste approach at Pinoli Pinenuts and SWE’s emphasis on conserving water. Bev is committed to finding more. “We’re all invested in the environment, good air, clean water, healthy biodiversity. And we can achieve more by sharing experience and working together.”

She welcomes the Marlborough District Council’s new Economic Wellbeing Strategy as a progression from the previous Economic Development Strategy. “The word ‘Wellbeing’ is intriguing because it brings in the environment more. A new website is being launched as part of the strategy and Council has funded videos of each of the Awards entrants to be shown on the website. We are keen to contribute to the idea of a thriving environment and economy.”

Bev reckons it is time to be open to doing things differently. “Living with uncertainty, adjusting to pandemics, climate change and economic volatility, it’s time to reassess what’s important. We can’t continue doing things the way we’ve always done them.

“For any sort of future, we need to work in balance with the environment, not against it.”

The Cawthron Marlborough Environment Awards will be held at the Marlborough Event Centre on April 20.

Hear more about Bev Doole and other environmental guardians via Catherine van der Meulen’s ‘Entrepreneurial Women with Purpose Podcast.’

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