5 tips to help biodiversity

By Tadd Andersen
September 2020 

recently saw a World Economic Forum video that described how Germany has been replacing its dying forests with ‘Mediterranean trees to help its forests survive climate change’. Essentially, the warmer climate in Germany has introduced pests and conditions that are killing off the native trees. The solution to replace them with warm climate trees is genius, I thought.  

But replacing the trees will mean that the cold climate trees will eventually disappear. Since it is Biodiversity Month, it’s worth thinking about the potential loss of tree species, and indeed any species, that makes Earth its home.  

Here are five things we can do to help project biodiversity: 

Biodiversity Day image

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the variety of all living things; the different plants, animals and micro organisms, the genetic information they contain and the ecosystems they form.

Source: Australian Museum

1. Preserve native habitats around us

Native treesExperts agree that overexploitation of the Earth’s resources is one of the leading causes of species loss. Exploitation can mean clearing of land (for agriculture, housing and development), extracting resources, damaging waterways, fishing, hunting and deforestation (timber, firewood). 

Generally, the species most likely to face extinction are those located in small numbers, in unique locations and don’t adapt to new environments easily.

So, the most important thing we can do is to preserve the existing populations and their ecosystem. As individuals, planting native trees and shrubs in our gardens is a great way to help a healthy habitat for wildlife, birds and insects. 

2. Reduce the amount of pollution we generate

Single use plastic bottle in sand, marine trash on the beach

The second leading cause of species loss is pollution. In this context, pollution can be emissions that pollute the air (vehicle, factory), rubbish in landfills, non-degrading plastics in soil and waterways, toxins leaching into soils and waterways. 

Australians produce 540kg of household waste per person, each year. 

It is a global problem but it is everyone's responsibility to refuse, reduce, reuse,  recycle and compost to help limit polution.  Little things like eliminating single use plastics, straws and coffee cups, buying local produce, walking or cycling instead of hopping in the car, disposing of batteries and chemicals properly, can go a long way if we all do them. 

For more ideas on how to play your part, visit Clean up Australia.

3. Plant native trees

When it comes to plants, we should use native species in our cities and yards as much as possible. For instance, instead of using an exotic tree species planted along a residential street, why don’t we use a mixture of native trees with a variety of native shrub and groundcovers?

Even in an uban environment, native plants will provide habitat, shelter and food for wildlife. They are also generally better suited to dry conditions and can survive with rainfall alone.  So if you're not the best at gardening, native trees are the way to go - easy to grow and they don't need constant water (or care).

4. Grow native shrubs in our gardens

There are fantastic plants that are natives to where you live. These can provide a garden that is as beautiful as any other.  Some people tend to prefer the vast lawn with clipped hedges – mainly because that’s what we’ve been trained to think is the best garden.  But what could be better than a smaller lawn that is bordered with layers of native plants that flower and attract birds and insects to the garden to enjoy?  

5. Learn about native species, from flowers to trees, insects to animals

Koala sitting in treeI was taught as a kid, the more we know about something, the more we tend to appreciate it. And for me it holds true, especially when talking about the environment and biodiversity. Learning about a plant, insect or animal helps us understand where it lives, why it’s important to the ecosystem and how to help it thrive. 

Australia has some amazing and some very weird wildlife, check out some of our favourites here.

I challenge you to implement one or more of these tips at your home to help protect Australia’s precious biodiversity. 

Related links

The Australian Museum – What is biodiversity?
The Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment – Biodiversity Month
NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – Biodiversity conservation in NSW

About the writer

Tadd Andersen has worked on rehabilitating desert environments in the American south-west and the Middle East. He has played an integral role in designing the successful breading habitat for the endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog in the Hunter region of NSW and a range of habitats for migratory birds.  Tadd is passionate about restoring native habitat and enhancing biodiversity in his projects.  

Need help? Think Pink.

Our team has experience across the world designing quality projects that meet the client's needs, enhance the environment and create spaces that people enjoy using. 

Urbanism, sustainability and climate change are key challenges that we consider in designing public domain and landscapes that enhance the outdoor aesthetics of a community or environment. 

Whether creating communities, designing residential and business developments or environmental planning, our team can help. 

Contact us. 

Welcome to 2020!

It’s a new decade and the team at Mara is back! We’re pumped and ready to take on 2020.  We’re looking forward to creating vibrant communities and projects together.

It’s been a tough start to the year for many affected by horrendous bushfires. The outpouring of community support shows the strength of our humanity at a time when people need help the most. Selfless acts of kindness are seen everywhere. But there is still more to do.

#TeamMara is back!
Our drone operator Tadd

New services – aerial photography and drone photography and video

Adding a bit of flair to our visual impact and design services, Mara now offers a range of aerial photography and video services to support our projects.

Drones are great for giving a different perspective to a project, whether it’s to help communicate a complex message through images or to create a fly-through of what a project will look like.

Our urban design guru, landscape architect and environmental planner can now also boast that he’s a pilot! (We’re not quite sure how that is all going to fit on his business card).

  • Aerial photography, video filming services
  • 2D and 3D aerial photography mapping survey
  • Inspections of construction sites, mines, roofs and hard to reach areas
  • Traffic counts and footage for transport studies
  • Urban tree canopy and aerial tree imagery
  • Images for renders and urban design projects.

To find out more, contact Mara on 02 49654317 or email tadd@maraconsulting.com.au for more information.

Do you have 2020 vision? Maybe a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop is what you need.

Here at Mara, we’re all about doing things differently. Bold, Different, Playful!

LEGO ticks that box.

The new year is a great time to plan the year ahead and bring some different thinking to your workplace. A  LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop is great for business strategy, encouraging innovation at work, planning, team communication and engagement.

A facilitated workshop will help you to:

  • Develop strategic goals and objectives
  • Create a corporate mission, vision and values
  • Get input when leaders don't have all the answers
  • Identify ways to lead not follow
  • Build teamwork and collaboration
  • Encourage different, creative and innovative thinking
  • Break bad thinking habits - "We've always done it this way..."
  • Encourage better communication with your team.

The LEGO Serious Play method helps you think more creatively and tackle challenges or situation in a new and fun way.

Book your workshop today – call 02 49654317. Or visit the Mara office for a great coffee and a LEGO sampler!

International Year of Plant Health

Did you know it’s international year of plant health?

Here’s to all the awesome landscape architects, urban designers, arborists and horticulturalists in our team. They are tree-mendous.

Community giving – The gift of education

Giving back to the community is good for Mara’s soul and it was one of the primary goals our MD/founder Kel set out to achieve when she started the company in 2014.

With a special connection to Kenya (4 generations of family from Kenya and the inspiration behind our company name), Mara has been financially supporting some of the most vulnerable in an urban slum area of Mombasa through the Mustard Seed Project. The family-run charity is supporting an entire community by providing essential services, food, education, health care, adult education, skills for women, and community outreach to provide the skills to help community members out of poverty.

It’s a hand up, not a hand out!

Our MD Kel learning to count in Swahili while visiting the school in 2012.
Our MD Kel learning to count in Swahili while visiting the school in 2012.
Tadd (fourth generation Kenyan) visiting the nursery school in 2012.

Tadd (fourth generation Kenyan) visiting the nursery school in 2012.

Helping a community out of poverty

Mustard Seed works in an urban area on the north coast of Mombasa. This area is very poor and overcrowded. Most families live in Swahili houses in a single room and share a toilet with five other families. Almost all of the community are malnourished, eating only maize-meal, but some often go without any food are starving. From the very beginning, the aim of Mustard Seed Project has been to give people education and skills to enable them to escape the poverty.

Growing a better future

In 2008, the Mustard Seed Project rented a small building with two classrooms and two teachers, supporting a deprived community and 17 children. Since then the school has grown, bigger premises were rented but quickly reached capacity.

On Christmas day 2015, stage one of the new Miche Bora Nursery and Primary School was completed, and now provides education for 275 children aged between 3 to 14 years of age across two buildings.

But there is still more to be done!

Since then Mustard Seed with supporters, have been busy raising money to complete the school, giving more room, better facilities and opportunities to take on additional students.

The ground floor of Miche Bora Nursery and Primary School was completed in 2015

What the new school building will look like when completed.

What the new school building will look like when completed.

Our Christmas gift to Mustard Seed

Each year, Mara Consulting chooses not to send gifts and cards to our supporters and clients. Instead, we put the money towards completing the school. Kel and hubby Tadd have been personal supporters too, providing monthly donations for more than 10 years.

This year, our Christmas donation helped to push the fundraising to the target amount, meaning the school will be completed. Construction will soon begin on the upper storey with six more classrooms to bring all 275 children together in one building and room for more. Once complete, the school will have 12 classrooms, offices, a clinic, staff room, toilets, kitchen and a hall.

When the school started, we didn't have a clear plan of what to do. We saw children needing help, we had skills to offer but no knowledge of Africa or its culture."

Rita Fowler, Mustard Seed founder.

Quality education outcomes

The standard of education in Kenya for poor children is very low. Only 30% of 14-year old's have reached the level expected of an 8-year-old (UWEZO 2017). According to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, quality education is the foundation to creating sustainable development, improve quality of life and equip them with skills to solve problems.

In impoverished areas like Mgongeni, without access to education, skilled teachers and resources, these children will be forced into inter-generational poverty and suffering.

For Mustard Seed, this was a challenge and the first goal of the school – to provide a quality education to all that come. In 2019, the oldest students at the school sat their KCPE (Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education) exam. The results = AMAZING with the mean score B-.

Children at the school are selected according to poverty. All children got the grade necessary to go to secondary school and several achieved results necessary to go to the very best selective schools in Kenya. Better still, two of the girls have sponsors which have allowed them to go to one of these schools.

Miche Bora’s students celebrate the news that their school has raised enough money to build six classrooms on the upper storey.
Miche Bora’s students celebrate the news that their school has raised enough money to build six classrooms on the upper storey.
Computers are now being used in class for teaching purposes.
Computers are now being used in class for teaching purposes.

Find out more about Mustard Seed

Mustard Seed was set up by Rita and Geoff Fowler, a retired couple who set out to help improve the education, health and lifestyles of the Mgongeni community.

Head to the project’s website to learn more about their work and how they are growing a better future for the local community.

Christmas is a time for giving

Together we can achieve great things!

Each year, instead of sending Christmas cards and gifts to our clients and supporters, we support several charities. These include Mustard Seed Project (Kenya), the Samaritans Giving Trees in Newcastle and Singleton and Soul Café food appeal.

Since 2014 we have been giving back to amazing projects and charities doing awesome work in our community. We are all about supporting vibrant communities, social change and well, just being good humans! #TeamMara

Not a bad effort by #TeamMara! Our Christmas gift haul for the Samaritans and Soul Café
Not a bad effort by #TeamMara! Our Christmas gift haul for the Samaritans and Soul Café

Messages from the team adorned our pink Christmas tree (of course!).

What's Christmas without a bit of pink!?

This year we’ve decorated and donated a very Mara pink Christmas tree for the Samaritans Christmas lunch in Singleton. We're very proud of our very own Kim-Cherie (pictured below) who organises the charity lunch.

The lunch, which is also hosted in Newcastle and Wyong, provides a wonderful opportunity for the disadvantaged and those without family to come together and celebrate. As well as the great food, there is entertainment, activities and, we hear, a visit from Santa!

Great work Kim-Cherie!

Fingers crossed, Singleton likes pink!

The Mara pink tree will be part of the 12 Trees of Christmas competition to help raise funds and awareness for the lunch. The community gets to vote for their favourite.

 

Christmas is all about sharing

We’re grateful to be able to help make a difference. We’re especially appreciative of the wonderful staff and volunteers at the Mustard Seed Project, the Samaritans and Soul Café who give so much of themselves to help others.

The whole Mara team has donated gifts, food and essential items to the Samaritans and Soul Café. These will be distributed to those doing it tough at this time of year.  YAY #TeamMara

In addition to the employee contributions, the company provided $3000 in cash, food and gifts to support our three corporate charities.

Kim-Cherie with our Mara Christmas tree for the Samaritans’ Singleton lunch

Our Christmas tree for the Samaritans' Singleton lunch and gift haul for the Samaritans and Soul Café. 

Miche Bora’s students celebrate the news that their school has raised enough money to build six classrooms on the upper storey.

Some of the students at Miche Bora nursery and primary school

Our charity partners

The Mustard Seed Project (Kenya) is a family-run charity, building a school in an urban slum area of Mombasa, Kenya. The project provides education and a feeding program for poor children in the Mgongeni community. Read Mustard Seed’s Christmas milestone on our blog.

The Samaritans are providing Christmas lunches in Newcastle, Central Coast and Singleton this year, providing guests will a free lunch, entertainment and friendship. The Samaritans Giving Trees provide an opportunity for businesses and their staff and clients to donate Christmas gifts for local families and individuals who are experiencing hardship.

 

Soul Café is a Newcastle-based charity that provides hundreds of free meals each week to highly disadvantaged members of our community, many of whom are homeless, have a mental illness, substance abuse issue or live in poverty. Soul Café’s meals are a medium to be able to work with people in a greater way.

If you’re keen to get involved, click on the links above to find out how you can help.

Mara MD, Kel delivering the goodies to Soul Cafe

A day in the life of a Mara intern

Hello! My name is Jen

This past month I became the Communications and Engagement Intern at Mara Consulting. I’ve had my fair share of internships in the past; some were great, and some were far from. As a current postgraduate student, I wanted to be a bit more picky when it came to landing an internship. This time around I was looking for a position that would expand on my existing skills and challenge me to break out of my comfort zone while also giving me room to grow as I complete my master’s degrees. I found just what I was looking for (and more) at Mara.

Photo of Mara intern Jenny Hanson

Bold, different, playful

I knew as soon as I walked out of my interview that Mara is anything but ordinary.  The final component of the interview process was an interactive LEGO® Serious Play® session where I was instructed to answer the question: ‘where do you see yourself in five years’ using LEGO building materials. This exercise demonstrated what Mara is all about: being bold, different and playful as well as illustrating Mara’s fantastic company culture.

My visual representation of ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ using LEGO building materials. My piece shows me (in the hardhat) working my way up the corporate ladder while breaking down barriers that exist for women in business. The various components in the ladder show me completing my master’s degrees (gaining knowledge, represented by the owl), finding a rewarding career path that does not solely focus on money (represented by the cash near the bottom), my keen interest in sustainability and climate action (represented by the green grass), and never losing my sense of wonder and creativity (represented by the elephant at the end of the ladder).

Not your typical internship

Jen letterboxing with Mara's MD
Aiding Mara's MD Kelly with a letterboxing campaign.

Mara is a unique workplace that encompasses a broad range of services that are inherently intertwined, employing a diverse team with varied backgrounds. Over the first three weeks of my internship I have worked on a range of different projects with various members of the Mara team. These have included assisting with focus groups for community housing strategies, helping to create content for social media and website platforms, and even aiding the MD Kelly with letterboxing campaigns and intercept interviews for upcoming development applications. Of equal importance are the duties I am NOT doing as an intern: running errands, answering the phone and fetching coffees. (We have our own Barista/Lead Landscape Architect, Urban Designer and Environmental Planner, Tadd)!

Real-world experience

So far being an intern in the Mara team has exceeded my expectations in nearly every way. Unlike some of my past internships, no two days are ever the same. I get to play a supporting role in projects benefiting the local community.

By exposing me to these large-scale projects firsthand, I am learning how to apply what I learn in the classroom to the complex, real-world issues affecting our surrounding communities.

I am so grateful to the entire Mara team for working with me (around my busy Uni schedule) to support my goals in a supportive, collaborative environment!

Why do I need a strategy I hear you ask?

Stakeholder engagement, like managing the media is usually only thought about when things go wrong. Normally, PR and engagement professional only get the call when the complaints are flowing, or media have set up out the front – ok we love the excitement of crisis management BUT there are HUGE benefits of having a plan that guides your engagement and communication activities.

Stakeholder engagement, like managing the media is usually only thought about when things go wrong. Normally, PR and engagement professional only get the call when the complaints are flowing, or media have set up out the front - ok we love the excitement of crisis management BUT there are HUGE benefits of having a plan that guides your engagement and communication activities.

Organisations regularly set and review objectives and goals for the business but rarely do that link those with engagement and communication activities. If you are using a website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, newsletters, emails, community events then you are communicating with an audience, potential client/customer or stakeholder.

Completing a situation analysis (fancy way of saying the who, what and why you are communicating) will give you the ability to better target your resources and develop a plan which sets out activities that cover the when and how.

For example, you might be about to lodge a development application with the local council but it's likely to raise objections from the community. This is no way a full strategy, but it gives you an understanding of the steps to take:

Communication objective: to reduce the likelihood that objections to the proposal are lodged with the council and gain support for the project.

Who are you communicating with (stakeholders): Councillors, neighbours, local community groups, council officers, business groups and media.

What are you communicating to stakeholders: Information about the project, benefits (economic, social, environmental).

Why are you communicating with stakeholders: To seek feedback from stakeholders potentially for input into the design, reduce likelihood of objections, provide accurate information about the project, reduce misinformation spreading.

Once you have set your goals and know who, what and why you are communicating it is easier to determine the best channel to use to achieve those goals set out in your activity plan and outline your key messages.

In the above example,

When and how to communicate with stakeholders: prior to lodging the development application - a briefing to Councillors, host a drop in day with a presentation/images/maps for neighbours and interested community members, conduct a survey, seek feedback forms, place information on your website and social media, host a visit to the site, have experts available to answer technical questions, attend a council meeting to address the public and provide information to relevant media explaining the project.

These basic principles apply whether it is for a specific project or when developing a communication strategy for your business.

If you have a project or want to develop a communications strategy and plan for your business, contact Mara for a chat, we'll help put you on the right track.

Take a look at Mara's 60 second communication strategy review tool.

Oh no, a JOURNALIST has my number!!

Ever taken a phone call from a journalist and didn’t know what to do…apart from panic that is? With good planning, practice and the support of a PR professional, managing media doesn’t have to be a scary event that leaves you in the corner rocking back and forth.

Confession time…hands up anyone that has ever said something you wish you could take back, say differently, just erased from ever passing your lips?

 

Yeah, thought so.  What would you do if those comments were in the public realm and a journalist phoned and asked for a comment?

 

Would you say or do any of the following?

PANIC – Why are they picking on me, surely there is a more newsworthy story out there…anywhere.  I want my mummy.

IGNORE THE CALL – No comment…no comment…no comment…no comment. Laa laaa said with fingers in your ears!

DOB IN A MATE – oh no you need to talk with Joe, he was there and knows all about it. Quickly pass on all Joe’s personal contact details.

SPILL THE BEANS – tell them everything you know and even what you’re not sure of.

PORKIES – Nup, not me, don’t know what you’re talking about, we have nothing to do with it.

SUNSHINE & LOLLIPOPS – Wish it all away.

 

Unfortunately, the team at Mara has witnessed all the above and it’s much harder to restore trust and reputations once you’ve had an interaction with the media like this.

In today’s instant media environment, everyone is a commentator, everyone can post a news story and every post has the potential to go viral.  And there is a platform for every type of media imaginable – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Blogger, Flickr, foursquare, YouTube, vimeo, reddit, google+, Instagram, and it goes on… Let alone the traditional media like radio, newspapers, television.  Journalists are in the business of selling news and manage it poorly, you’ll be the story!

With good planning, practice and the support of a PR professional, managing media doesn’t have to be a scary event that leaves you in the corner rocking back and forth.  Basically, communication, whether it is in a crisis or if it is to engage with stakeholders, protect your brand’s reputation, increase promotional opportunities, should always be planned.

These five steps will get you on your way:

  1. Undertake a communication audit and situation analysis.
  2. Set communication goals and objectives.
  3. Plan – who, what, why, how, when to communicate.
  4. Implement your communication plan.
  5. Review and update the plan.

In Mara’s next blog instalment, we’ll take a closer look at a completing a self-audit communication checklist.

For more information, or professional public relations advice, contact Mara Consulting for assistance.

Is publicity worth the investment?

“If I was down to my last dollar I would spend it on PR”, a famous quote by Bill Gates but what would you do with your last dollar? Do you place any value in PR and the potential that comes with generating newsworthy or popular social media content?

Reading a blog post from StartUpSmartabout the 10 milestones to hit in your first year in business, it reminded us that businesses often forget to tell people about the milestones in their business, whether it is celebrating a new staff member, an anniversary or new products and services. Milestones identified in your business plan are great opportunities to include in your public relations/communication strategy.

Public relations is all about connecting with your audience, customers, stakeholders, clients and in today’s world of social media, it’s about providing regular and relevant content to your loyal “followers” and “likers”.

Creating a strategy doesn’t have to be very complicated, but it should guide you through a thought process to get the most out of the story and most importantly, identify what’s in it for your followers. It’s easy to forget but your customers, clients and stakeholders will only pay attention if it’s relevant to them. So, take the time to put yourself in their shoes.

Here are Mara’s tips:

  • Write down your objective. 

What is it that you want to achieve? It could be as simple as increasing visitors to your website by 20 per cent, persuade people to choose your product or service, or to encourage your stakeholders to provide feedback on a project.

(For complex projects such as reducing the risks of objections during the exhibition of a development proposal Mara recommends seeking professional advice and assistance.)

  • Develop key messages.

Key messages are just phrases to clearly articulate your story to an audience. Clear - simple - memorable.

  • What’s the hook?

The hook is just the thing that will get people interested in what you are saying. Think biggest, best, first, quirky, fear, emotion, hot button issue, exclusives, pictures, human stories, relatable, concise information, humour.

  • Identify communication channels.

There are many types of channels that you can use to get your message out.  Social media, media releases, letters to the editor, paid advertising, interviews with tv/radio/newspapers, opinion pieces, electronic newsletters, website updates are all options that you could use but not all of them will work effectively for your story. Focusing your attention and resources on where you will get best results is key.

  • A picture tells a thousand words.

People relate to images or pictures, particularly in social media posts.  Followers are more likely to click on a post if it contains an image, particularly photos that are relevant.

  • Write content and customise for each medium.

Each communication channel has a different audience, make sure what you are saying is appropriate for those stakeholders.

So, there you have it, a look at a simple strategy to promote a story. For professional advice or help with an up-coming project contact Mara for a coffee and a chatabout how we can help.