Educate to protect the environment

Greg Hunt may be retiring from the South East Council Climate Change Alliance but will retain a keen interest in the welfare of the environment. Picture: Keith Platt

Greg Hunt may be retiring from the South East Council Climate Change Alliance but will retain a keen interest in the welfare of the environment. Picture: Keith Platt

IF there was just one thing that Greg Hunt the retiring executive officer of the South East Council Climate Change Alliance (SECCCA), could proclaim as the best way to protect the environment for future generations, it is “education”.

The former science teacher with a passion for the natural world has spent his 43-year career advocating for change in the way individuals and organisations manage resources. Education has always been a huge part of that process, whether it’s investigating options for energy conservation, or promoting broader thinking on energy use.

Hunt has a varied employment background, but the environment has always been his mainstay. He spent his first 14 working years with the education department teaching young people about the world around them, before moving on to various environmental organisations where he was able to draw on his education and advocacy background to implement change.

While he has spent the past 10 years at SECCCA working closely with local governments to try to reduce the impacts of a changing climate and dwindling resources, he is quick to point out that it’s certainly not a problem specific to government. To sum up Hunt’s mantra on the environment – it’s “everybody’s problem”.

In fact it is one of his proudest achievements so far that he and his SECCCA colleagues have been able to drive the point that climate change is everybody’s problem – not just that of governments to “react”, but up to every individual and every organisation to rethink how they use resources and how they can do it better.

Although he will continue to advocate for the environment as a consultant and public speaker after leaving SECCCA, it is the ground-breaking projects he oversaw while at the alliance that will be his legacy.

These include the Eco Driver program, a much lauded, nationally-recognised program to help drivers use their vehicles more efficiently; the Energy Saver Study, which involved reducing the energy use of households while increasing the “comfort and health” of residents; the Save it for the Game program, which helped sports clubs and organisations recognise and make changes to energy consumption; and the ‘Financial risk and Adaptation program, which was geared towards energy-saving measures for councils.

While he loved the job at SECCCA, Hunt says it’s time to move on, as he’s not “getting any younger”. He feels happy with what he has been able to oversee at SECCCA, but would like governments, particularly federal, to step up and provide “leadership” with ongoing investment and policy consistency.

While he had a great working relationship with the former environment minister with who he shares the name Greg Hunt, he would love to be able encourage politicians to “swim against the tide” and not let politics intrude on what they should be doing.

“There is no substitute for change.”

As for retirement, Hunt is heavily involved in consultancy work, public speaking and strategic planning, and in his spare time travels the state to pursue his love of birds, both as a watcher and a researcher.

“To see a male splendid wren in full breeding plumage is a sight to behold. We are so lucky, but that might not be available to future generations.”

ECCCA is an incorporated body and a network of nine councils with a mission to investigate and deliver projects and research programs at a regional level.

First published in the Western Port News – 6 December 2016


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