Pip fronts Nature Conservation

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Pip Close.
Camera IconPip Close.

A familiar face will take the reins at Nature Conservation Margaret River Region next month.

Tourism executive Pip Close was named the environmental group’s inaugural chief executive this week, to start on May 10.

Ms Close has claimed the first-time CEO tag before — she is best known for her work brokering a merger of the Capes’ two tourism associations into the Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association in 2015.

Her new appointment comes from a major funding injection by Voyager Estate owners Alexandra and Julian Burt, and Little Creatures founder Howard Cearns through their respective Wright-Burt Foundation and Line In The Sand not-for-profit groups. Ms Close previously gave up her chief executive’s role at the MRBTA for a gig in Queensland, but returned to the Margaret River region in November 2019 to prepare tourism operators for Jetstar’s Melbourne-to-Busselton flights — which are still yet to eventuate because of COVID-19 delays.

COVID-19 and the downturn in tourism propelled Ms Close into project work with social work collective Mindful Margaret River, securing $42,000 from ratepayers out of an emergency Shire of Augusta-Margaret River stimulus fund that was backed by $2 million saved from annual waste levies on households.

Ms Close returned to full-time work with MRBTA last July as a tourism business and product development specialist, with funding provided in-house.

She told the Times NCMRR’s board had “a clear vision and ambitious goals” guided by seven key values and projects.

“My plan is to collaborate and build relationships with stakeholders, to bring in additional funding, and grow awareness of the important work Caroline (Hughes) and the team oversee so that they can continue to deliver, and more importantly grow, these and other future projects,” Ms Close told the Times. “I believe great leaders help people reach their goals, are not afraid to work with people who might be better than them, and take pride in the accomplishments of those we help along the way.”

Chairman John Cresswell said Ms Close’s years of experience beat applications from interstate and overseas.

“She brings broad knowledge of leadership, policies and implementing strategy,” Dr Cresswell said.

“We believe that she will be able to build on the work that we have already done and develop relationships with our existing key stakeholders and establish links with new individuals and organisations, leading to an expansion of our work and better environmental outcomes for the region.”

Despite Ms Close’s work with MRBTA, she did not regret leaving the position.

Her role with Tropical North Queensland greatly extended her professional skills, gave her first-hand experience with climate change on the Great Barrier Reef, and also working with Indigenous businesses.

The new full-time role boasts an annual salary of about $110,000 plus superannuation and leave entitlements.

Part-time CEO Ms Hughes will stay on as program manager.

The salary was predominantly funded by the Wright-Burt Foundation.

Last month, Dr Cresswell defended channelling grant funds into the new position after years of seeking major philanthropic patrons to support NCMRR’s work.

He said most environmental funding did not include administration support or ways to develop new funding streams.

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