South Coast Natural Resource Management welcomed new Chief Executive Officer Luke Bayley to the helm this month.

Luke spent the past decade working for Bush Heritage Australia – finishing as head of region for WA and South Australia after a grassroots beginning that saw him managing Charles Darwin Reserve, a 68,600ha pastoral station 60km east of the small town of Perenjori in the mid-west.

Moving with his young family to the former pastoral station on the northern edge of the wheatbelt, Luke worked on the ground managing feral goats, foxes and cats, cutting fire breaks and spraying weeds. He also helped start a successful music festival ‘Blues for the Bush’ with the local shire.

It was a deliberate decision to step back into a more practical, hands-on role after a decade working in environmental, cultural and natural resource management, overseeing projects from regional Victoria to the remote Aboriginal community of Wadeye.

“It was just where I wanted to be so I could keep it really real,” he says. “And it was fantastic. All my jobs have been very closely aligned to working with community and local people – whether it’s an Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory or pastoralists in the upper Gascoyne. I continue to reflect on those experiences and how important it is for organisations like ours to be relevant to the regional community. That interface between land management, science and people has always driven me.”

Luke says his initial focus will be on learning how South Coast NRM works, and meeting with local catchment groups, farmers, traditional owners, and other regional stakeholders from Esperance to Walpole.

“The opportunity for me to lead a great organisation, and an amazing, passionate group of people, into the next phase of its life is really exciting.”

He also plans to diversify the region’s Natural Resource Management investment stream, tapping into philanthropic donors and corporations across the world who want to invest in projects that tackle climate change, foster sustainable agriculture, strengthen community connections with country and enhance the condition of our land and waters.

“We’re at a really interesting point where the kind of work that South Coast NRM and their partners do is actually starting to get valued by our wider society, including private investment companies,” Luke says.

“I want to work with our board and team, and our partners outside of this organisation, to start tapping into that. Our sector needs to step up and diversify their income because we can’t rely on government funding to take these organisations into the next decade.”

South Coast NRM Board chairperson Andrew Bathgate said the board looked forward to working with Luke to build on the outstanding work delivered by their staff and partners.

“We are delighted to have attracted someone with Luke’s experience and are confident he has the ability to lead the organisation to meet the challenges confronting our natural and cultural heritage on the South Coast, in collaboration with our partners.”

A keen sailor and mountain biker, Luke says he is looking forward to making connections in the local community and exploring the greater region. And once his speakers and extensive record collection arrives from Geraldton he’ll be getting back behind the decks as DJ Swampy, sharing his love of good music.