Turtles, Prince Charles, Disney, Rum and Smart Lighting

Alexi Lynch

On Thursday 15th February 2018 I was in a series of meetings with Bundaberg Regional Council in Queensland as we sought input in the development of their new Clean Energy Bundaberg strategy. My two colleagues, Ronald Lee (from Ironbark’s Queensland office) and Matt Sullivan-Kilgour (strategy, data, everything guru) were running the show and facilitating workshops with staff from Assets, Transport, Finance, Buildings, Environment, Parks and Gardens, Executive Management and everything in between. 

It was great to get the input from all the different departments as Council looked to implement clean energy policies that reduce Council’s overall energy consumption and related operational expenses, provide leadership that raises consciousness around clean energy adoption and support economic diversification through carefully planned energy investment.

During the meeting with the Parks and Gardens team, one of the Bundaberg crew was talking about some of the great work they had been implementing from energy efficiency, support for renewables, biodiversity projects – you name it. Then someone mentioned the co-benefits of some recent tree-planting in Barolin Nature Reserve, specifically the protection of loggerhead turtles. This caught my attention. 

He said, “the CEO of Greenfleet came up to present on the tree-planting and explained how it not only would it sequester carbon but it would help the loggerhead turtle population”. Having worked with the CEO of Greenfleet, Wayne Wescott, in the early 2000s at ICLEI Oceania I prodded a little more and whipped off a quick email to Wayne to get the low-down and it turned out that they were instrumental in developing and promoting the broad benefits of the tree-planting project.

As the forest in Barolin Nature Reserve grows it will sequester carbon, protect the Reserve’s unique biodiversity values, incidentally improve water quality in the fringing coral reef and extend habitat for native wildlife.

But the more surprising of all, is the tremendous positive difference this project will make to the turtles at the nearby turtle rookery. (Yep, apparently, it’s a “rookery”). 

Adjacent to the Baroline Nature Reserve is the Mon Repos Conservation Park that supports the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the eastern Australian mainland and with the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting population in the South Pacific region. Loggerhead turtles are listed as critically endangered in the region and the success of nesting and hatching turtles at Mon Repos is critical for the survival of the species.

Artificial coastal lighting is one of the major threats to the turtle population as it can interfere with the turtles’ natural habits and instincts, resulting in negative impacts on the population. Quite simply, nesting turtles prefer to nest on dark beaches, and after the hatchlings emerge from their nests at night, they find their way to the sea by moving towards the lightest horizon as they see it. If they see artificial light instead (like roadway lighting) then they can end up moving in the wrong direction.

Not good for turtles. 

Wayne explained it best, saying, "the Greenfleet native forest will help the endangered marine turtles at Mon Repos by reducing the glow of lights onto the beach. When they mature, the trees will filter light pollution from the city and in the long term minimise disturbance of the nesting and hatching turtles".

How does Disney and Prince Charles come into this story?

The project didn’t stop with the planting of 80,000 native trees at Barolin Nature Reserve. A collaboration has been developed between Greenfleet, the Walt Disney Company and the Prince's Trust Australia to help the endangered loggerhead turtles through the Low Glow Campaign.

The Low Glow campaign began in 2017 following the Remember the Reef project which was established by the Walt Disney Company (Australia) following the release of Disney Pixar's 'Finding Dory'. It’s all about developing a better understanding of the ways humans in urban areas interact with nature and use lighting at home and outdoors, including street lighting. 

Is that it?

Nope. Prince Charles came to Australia earlier this year. Went to Queensland for the Commonwealth Games. Went to Bundaberg. Drank Rum. Saw the turtles. Met with Council. Met with Greenfleet. 


So, is that it?

Nope. There’s a lot more to it and this is an area to keep an eye on for anyone interested in lighting, health and biodiversity. The replacement of old inefficient street lights with LEDs is not going to slow down any time soon. Technology can help ensure the best possible outcomes and focus on low spectrum lighting, better shielding of streetlights, use of sensors and remote management of lighting – again underscoring the importance of undertaking design and preparation before undertaking a street lighting project.

Wayne will be talking about this further at the Smart Lighting Summit on 11-12 September 2018 at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre with his presentation Do Turtles Dream of Urban Glow? A Bundaberg Project That Connects Trees, Turtles and Lighting Through Community Activation.

Come to the Summit and hear more – or check out some of our favourite speakers and topics including:

  • Smart Lighting and Urban Heat
  • Blue Light - Should We Be Giving It the Green or Red Light?
  • EU's Largest Permanent Outdoor Testing Field for Smart Lighting Solutions: Denmark Outdoor Lighting Lab
  • Major Road Lighting for Beginners
  • Benefits of Connected & Smart Lighting – Lessons from Los Angeles

Finally, here are some happy snaps from the Ironbark trip in February where we visited Mon Repos! Thanks to Andrew and the crew for taking us there, we had a ball.