A local consulting company is being recognised for its environmental initiatives which could impact the cure for cancer.
Founded in 2005, Natura Pacific is a Gold Coast-headquartered company offering environmental consulting and education services globally.
With a vision to expand its range of national and international networks, while being at the forefront of problem solving across the environmental industry, the business employs around 15 staff consisting of specialists in science, education and project management.
Founder Kieran Richardt, who has worked in the environmental space in Costa Rica and Panama, says the business was born from passion.
“I went overseas and worked with endangered sea turtles, endangered butterflies and scarlet macaws,” he says.
“The work that I was doing over there was really about working with poachers who were stealing turtle eggs and killing turtles and selling the eggs on the black market.
“We worked with them to teach them about turtle biology and reinventing their income by showing them how to make a business through eco tour guiding.”
A slow process at first due to funding and learning the aspects of running a business, Natura Pacific is now working with numerous project partners on maintaining and restoring endangered Australian native plant species through plant regeneration, research and educational programs.
Its efforts have not gone unnoticed, with the company being awarded the 2016 United Nations Environment Business Award.
The business was recognised for its success in environmental conservation and continues to prove its worth by expanding its plant regeneration programs throughout South East Queensland, including on the Gold Coast.
The UN World Environmental Day Awards have been running since 2000 and recognise outstanding environmental work from individuals, companies, schools, local councils, journalists and environmental organisations in support of the United Nations World Environment Day on June 5 each year.
It is an exceptional achievement for the Gold Coast based company, and Richardt, who has worked in the environmental consulting industry for over 14 years couldn’t be prouder of its achievements.
Richardt says it was a really big surprise to win, considering the competition was full of large national or multinational companies.
He says it means a great deal to him and his 14 co-workers as it provided the recognition for the hard work the team has invested into all of its projects.
“Being a social enterprise where we use our profit from our consulting work to subsidies these environmental education programs, it’s living and breathing that type of ideology, conservation and sustainability,” says Richardt.
“Because we are doing it all ourselves, at many times our work goes unnoticed, so winning the 2016 award was wonderful for us; both individually and as a company to be recognised.”
With its current success, and an App and several other enterprises in the pipeline – including a self-irrigated live rainforest wall project which could replace concrete walls in companies and shopping centres with live rainforest plant species, it’s no surprise Natura Pacific boasts a growing list of awards and nominations.
Natura Pacific won the 2016 Peter Doherty Science Education Partnership Award; was a finalist in the 2016 Healthy Waterways Award; a finalist for the 2015 Ethical Enterprise Award; monthly winners in the 2015 Environment and Sustainability Category of Gold Coast Business Excellence Awards, and was part of the team which won the 2014 Healthy Waterways Award and Ministers Prize.
Natura Pacific not only provides environmental education services through self-funding to more than 26,000 people each year, but its young educational programs teach children how to identify plants, press samples, collect native seeds, reduce waste, recycle, compost, worm farm and be a part of the cycle itself.
Meanwhile, its environmental consulting work, environmental impact assessments and flora and fauna studies are helping to contribute to the vital horticultural education opportunities to inmates of the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre in Brisbane.
“We collect seeds of native plants and send them off to the inmates who are doing horticultural courses as part of their professional development,” says Richardt.
“They then propagate the seeds and grow them into tube stock and help facilitate the collection of these plants through groups like the Nerang Riverkeepers Group and the Gold Coast Catchment Association, who then distribute the plants to community groups for replanting.”
Richardt believes the Gold Coast is the perfect place for this type of conservation work.
He says while the city has been perceived to be a bit backwards in the past when it comes to environmental issues, those misconceptions have helped to push him, as an individual and as part of his team, to provide insight and positive organic change to the community.
“The Gold Coast is trying to drop the stigma it picked up over the years of it only being a tourist attraction and it is returning back to its original roots,” he says.
“I think that through community groups, community gardens, social events and businesses like Natura Pacific, we are able to help through the local government to push it in the right direction.
“The key to any type of conservation work is maintaining our biodiversity, and as we lose species we lose pieces of information; we lose history.
“Cures for cancer or any of these types of things could be locked up in some of these species, and it’s not necessarily in that species itself, but one of these species could be a keystone species for a whole ecosystem.
“If you remove even just one of these species, the whole ecosystem could be damaged for good and you could lose that biodiversity forever.”