2017 Alumni Awards: Peter Cosier

Published 26 September 2017

Winner of a 2017 UNE Distinguished Alumni Award and director of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, Peter Cosier is at the forefront of land and water management across Australia.

The eminent group that he helped establish has been influential nationally and internationally in water reform, landscape conservation, and developments in carbon farming and environmental accounting. And Peter says his experience at UNE was pivotal.

“At UNE I was encouraged to question and challenge perceived truths, and given the opportunity to test new ways of thinking,” he said.  “My UNE experience played a significant role in my subsequent career because it combined my curiosity for science with practical training on how to manage our natural world for the long-term benefit of society.”

It has stood Peter in good stead ever since, from formative beginnings as a seasonal ranger in western NSW and an environmental planner in local government, to his role as a special projects manager for the Australian Democrats, his work in regional development, and later as a senior policy advisor to the former Federal Liberal Minister for the Environment, Professor Robert Hill AC.

From 2004-06 Peter was deputy director general, science and information, of the NSW Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources, where he helped to decentralise natural resource management and develop a program for vegetation management on private property in NSW. Working effectively across the political divide, with politicians, bureaucrats, business and community leaders to produce scientifically-sound legislation and institutional reform has been Peter’s specialty.

But it is at the helm of the Wentworth Group – a trusted body that links science and environmental policy – that the full breadth and depth of his varied experience has been brought to bear. The group has dedicated itself to addressing decades of environmental degradation across the country and its blueprints for managing our natural resources are considered world’s best practice.

The revolutionary environmental accounts the group developed have not only guided Australia’s environment ministers on the monitoring of our country’s environmental health; they have informed the United Nations System of Environmental and Economic Accounts. The group has also made significant contributions to environmental legislation closer to home – in the shape of the 2003 NSW Native Vegetation Act, the 2004 National Water Initiative, the Federal Carbon Farming Initiative, as well as the Murray Darling Basin Plan. Proof, indeed, that a Bachelor of Science with UNE can take you into corridors of power around the world.

These days, Peter also combines his abiding passion for the Australian environment and landscape planning expertise as chair of the Science Council for the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, a not-for-profit organisation that acquires land to protect important natural features.

Nearly fifteen years after it was formed, the Wentworth Group continues to attract Australia’s most respected and authoritative scientists to give science a powerful voice in discussions around how we address the most pressing sustainability issues of our time. Peter’s drive and dedication are critical to its success.

He credits staff at UNE for teaching him about the extraordinary diversity of the Gondwanan flora, that economics is a tool not a religion, and that an understanding of science, coupled with sensible farm management practices, can enable wildlife and agriculture to live in harmony.”It is the quest for science to speak truth to power that has underpinned the philosophy of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists,” Peter said. “Our aim is to explore the great public policy challenges of improving the wellbeing of people in ways that also conserves the natural heritage of this Earth that we have been so fortunate to inherit.”

IMAGE: Peter Cosier at last week’s UNE Speaker Series event in Sydney, where he was presented with his 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award.