Philanthropy powerhouses go public with donation to save WA reefs
27 May 2019 at 4:35 pm
Andrew and Nicola Forrest have revealed they were behind an anonymous multi-million dollar pledge, in a bid to raise awareness of a project aiming to restore the country’s most threatened marine ecosystems in Western Australia.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) project will restore lost mussel reefs in Perth’s Swan-Canning Estuary, as well as improve the general health of the river. It is part of a larger project by the group to restore shellfish reefs across southern Australia.
The reefs were once found in bays and estuaries from Perth all the way around the southern and eastern coastline to Noosa, Queensland, but due to over-exploitation they are now only found in Tasmania and New South Wales.
To boost the project, the Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation pledged to match donations on a one-to-one basis up to $2 million, with $650,000 of matching gifts already raised. Lotterywest has also pledged $1.25 million to the project.
The initial pledge was made in 2018 but the couple has now decided to go public to further shine a light on the issue.
Dr Chris Gillies, the marine manager for TNC, said while the project was still $2 million away from reaching its target, he hoped that having such well-known philanthropist’s on board such as the Forrests would attract the right attention.
“The Forrests have obviously seen the importance of the project, hence why they agreed to go public with the donation to encourage other philanthropists, corporate and individual donors to help the project reach its funding goal,” Gillies said.
Nicola Forrest, the director of the Minderoo Foundation, said the rivers needed to be kept healthy and should remain accessible for all West Australians for decades to come.
“They flow through the heart of our city and reach our precious coastline. These rivers are celebrated for their natural beauty and cultural and recreational significance,” Forrest said.
Rich Gilmore, director of TNC Australia, said he was excited to start work on the project.
“Perth and Fremantle communities, from the time of European settlement, have greatly enjoyed what the Swan River offered in terms of its resources and beauty but the river is under increasing stress, mostly due to nutrient inflow,” Gilmore said.
“We greatly appreciate the Minderoo’s and other donors’ generous pledges and I invite other West Australians to give something back to improve their river’s health.”
Gillies told Pro Bono News the organisation was still in the planning stage of the Perth project, but said it would involve dropping in populations of mussels, and a fake reef structure to try and re-populate the area.
TNC said restoring shellfish would mean improved local fish stocks, better water clarity due to the filtration power of shellfish, increased shoreline protection, extra feeding habitat for threatened migratory shorebirds, and an overall increase in biodiversity.