More than Tidy
By Ryan Collins, Planet Ark's Recycling Programs Coordinator
In regional NSW, the Tidy Towns - Sustainable Communities program run by Keep Australia Beautiful NSW is an institution. Since 1981, rural communities have been proving their civic pride, community spirit and environmental commitment through participation in the awards-based program. Anyone who has travelled throughout NSW would have passed the signs of proud previous Tidy Towns award winners.
I recently made the journey to Narrandera and Leeton in the Riverina as a Tidy Towns Assessor to check out their initiatives. Assessors help recognise people, places and projects, validate the town submissions, and provide feedback. I found that one of the most valuable outcomes from their submissions was the strengthened partnerships between community groups, businesses, schools and local governments. It was so much more than just being a litter-free town.
Narrandera Landcare and their Shire Council entered in one category, the Bush Spirit Award, with their Rocky Waterhole Bridge project. It saw the local community volunteer countless hours to build a bridge, made out of recycled plastic and recycled metal from 1943, that will link two flora and fauna reserves including koala habitat. It will also provide access to bushwalkers and cyclists, as well as provide increased environmental education opportunities for the area. And as if he was out to support his local community while I was visiting, I even got to spot a koala munching away on leaves perched on the highest branch of a eucalyptus tree. Good timing, Blinky Bill!
But Narrandera isn't just about Tidy Towns. In 1991 it held the Guinness Book of Records award for the 'Worlds Largest Playable Guitar'! It also has beaches. In summer, along the Murrumbidgeee River, kids can build sandcastles and go swimming, just like they do in Bondi (but with smaller waves)!
Next stop was Leeton, the art deco capital of Australia and home of the Sunrice Festival. It has been a previous Overall Tidy Towns Winner on two occasions, and if it wins again this year, it will be the first town to have a hat trick of awards! Leeton entered in a total of eight categories and some of the submissions included:
- The Wildlife Corridor and Habitat Conservation Award: A wetland planting project on a RAMSAR listed site involving the local indigenous community and school groups.
- The Water Conservation and Energy Efficiencies Award: A water reuse project for irrigating recreational parks using town waste water.
The Young Legends Award: Local NIDA graduate Jake Speer (21) wrote, directed and acted in a documentary on the formative years of Leeton in celebration of it's Centenary involving hundreds of local volunteers, businesses, community groups and the local Council.
Leaving Leeton and Narrandera I hoped I was taking some of the overwhelming community spirit back to the big city. The care shown for their environment and each other and the civic pride on display was quite inspirational. I had experienced more than just a tidy town and Planet Ark and I would like to wish all the entrants in this year's event the very best of luck.
Keep Australia Beautiful Week
This week is Keep Australia Beautiful Week (19th to 26th August) which is about celebrating and promoting a sustainable and litter-free environment by running grass roots community programs like Tidy Towns. This year they are encouraging everyone to get involved in their ‘Littering Is Wrong Too' campaign.