Dawn Walker is running for the seat of Richmond at the September election
Dawn Walker is running for the seat of Richmond at the September election John Gass

Fingal woman at world conference

DAWN Walker's vision rests on feather-encrusted Cook Island off Fingal Head's northern beach.

Then it sweeps north following Leticia Spit's sand dunes toward Duranbah Beach and beyond.

She might be thinking about a duty she soon faces in China, so far from a place she finds so restful.

Perhaps she's internalising concern about mankind's impact on endangered species of birds which rest here during international journeys.

"Fingal has a lot of people in the community working hard to protect its environment from inappropriate development," Ms Walker says.

"When some people come here they see it as untapped for development.

"Really, what they are enjoying is the fruits of a lot of work going far back in time to protect it."

The white eastern curlew is endangered in NSW and leaves Fingal's shores during March or April, she says.

"It goes back to Siberia, Mongolia and Manchuria to breed in May and June.

"Such birds' migratory paths are threatened by development.

"Fingal's going to be participating in the World Migratory Bird Day in May.

"The theme of that day is to celebrate migratory birds and people together through time."

Ms Walker will bridge the gap between endangered species here and their migratory destinations when she speaks at the Annual World Congress of Ocean 2012 in Dalian, China, in September.

Her invitation to speak on this area's "coastal landscape of unique proportions and character" came from a paper she presented at the 20th NSW Coastal Conference in Tweed Heads last year.

"Here we outlined the environmental credentials of the Fingal Head area with its internationally protected migratory birds, Cook Island Nature Reserve and Cook Island Aquatic Reserve," she says.

"Although small in area, Fingal Head has high floristic diversity and is of great conservation significance.

"It also contains rare and endangered plants.

"Most importantly, Fingal Head hosts roosting sites for the eastern curlew from Siberia, the lesser golden plover from Alaska and the whimbrel from China and Siberia which are found in such populations that international obligations apply."

The local community association president is herself migratory, hailing from Victoria where she advised the State Government on small business and economic development policy.

"But I've always had a strong love of the environment," Ms Walker says.

"Moving up here really switched on to me that an environment like this is protected because it's so unique, so sensitive and so fragile.

Her role taught her skills managing a range of groups, people and interests, compiling information and conducting research.

"Just really facilitating people to work through issues and come up with a solution that reflects the needs of different groups."

She and Fingal Head Coastcare president Kay Bolton presented a case study to the 2011 Coastal Conference.

"It was of a small community educating visitors to the area of its environmental significance and damages from off-road 4WDs on the coastal dunes and the beach.

"This can potentially destroy threatened green turtle nests we've identified in these areas, which are also known as nesting sites for internationally protected migratory birds.

"We since got a letter from the organising committee of the World Congress of Ocean inviting us to speak."

It is hoped, Ms Walker says, the Chinese event will "strengthen our understanding of the international significance of the environment surrounding Fingal Head".

"We have an environment which is important not just to NSW or Australia, but to the rest of the world through agreements which say we will look after the area within which these birds have chosen to nest."

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