More than 25 years on, environment still inspires Dr Paul Vogel
“I believe we are incredibly lucky to live and work in a country where you can breathe the air, drink the water and enjoy the diverse natural beauty that Australia has to offer.”
For more than 25 years, Cannings Purple Special Counsel Dr Paul Vogel has been passionate about the Australian environment. In late January this year his passion and service to public administration through environmental leadership roles was recognised when he was made a Member of the Order of Australia.
Like many achievements, the career trajectory that led to Paul’s Australia Day recognition can be traced back to a flash of inspiration and a stroke of good fortune.
“After I had finished my scientific research career and had undertaken senior executive management courses, I was drawn by the attraction of finding a career that could integrate my love of science, with my growing interest in environmental protection and my new-found understanding of corporate management,” Paul recounted.
“A friend, colleague and mentor who I was working with at the time, Dr Mike Wood, suggested the EPA. As the then-Public Service Commissioner he made a call to the then-CEO, Barry Carbon, and to cut a long story short – here I am.
“Working at the WA EPA on some challenging site contamination issues in the early 1990s taught me a lot about the importance of science-based decision making and policy development, risk management and communication and people management and I thought ‘this is where I want to be.’
“I also had the good fortune to work with some amazing people who have become lifelong friends and colleagues.”
Since those relatively humble beginnings, Paul’s career has seen him rise through the ranks to spend significant terms in charge of both the South Australian Environmental Protection Authority and its WA counterpart. He has been the chairman of the Northern Territory EPA since late 2016.
The common theme through it all has been a love for the landscape of Australia as a whole – and WA’s natural surrounds in particular.
“WA is blessed with 13,000 km of coastline rich in marine life and natural wonders and a terrestrial environment that spans the tropical north to the temperate south, with a dazzling array of species and habitats,” Paul explains.
“Indeed the South West of WA is one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots. So WA is pretty special for me.
“I am still drawn to an article published in the Australian Financial Review eight or nine years ago titled, ‘How space and place dictate your happiness’, which made the salient point about protecting nature for our spiritual, mental and physical well-being, as well as for the intrinsic value of the plants, animals and the habitats they occupy.
“It used the Margaret River region to exemplify the point.”
Paul says Australia’s natural environment is often the envy of people from overseas but is also vulnerable in the face of a growing population, a desire to make use of relatively abundant resources and the threat of feral pests and diseases.
And that’s without even mentioning the spectre of a changing climate.
He says there is a clear need for balance but is heartened by what he sees as ever-growing awareness and appreciation for environmental issues.
“There has been a huge change in attitudes to the environment across all sectors of society during my career,” he reflects.
“Access to electronic, digital and social media, a spate of well publicised environmental disasters, the rise of corporate social and environmental responsibility, increasing environmental activism at the local and national scale, a growing mistrust of governments and ‘experts’, and the ongoing debate about our changing climate and energy policy, have all heightened people’s awareness of the importance of a clean, healthy and valued environment.
“People also want jobs and prosperity for themselves and their children and grandchildren, so if we are to continue to improve the quality of life for the current generation and the unborn, then we will need to find sustainable ways to achieve both goals.”
Dr Paul Vogel is a Special Counsel within Cannings Purple’s Government Relations team and an expert in regulatory assessments/approvals and reform, and strategic environmental and business outcomes. Email Paul.
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