Meet The Locals: Dennis Evans From Night Eyes

March 7, 2024

Last year, around 60 dedicated volunteers from Night Eyes Water and Landcare cleaned up almost 10 tonnes of rubbish around the Caloundra waterways, shoreline and streets – about 200 kilograms each.

President Dennis Evans talks about the group’s efforts to protect the environment and keep the coast looking beautiful.

Great to chat, Dennis. Tell us about Night Eyes and how it came about.

It initially started in the early 1980s as a bit of a vigilante group! It was a few guys getting together to stop stuff being stolen from boats in the passage. There was a lot of theft back then and these guys would drive around the streets at night to keep people’s property safe and make sure nothing happened.

As policing got more stringent in the area, Night Eyes developed into a group of people who wanted to look after the environment. We operate pretty much from February to December, picking up rubbish and keeping the place tidy. We’ve got a pontoon boat that we take out into Pumicestone Passage and Pelican Waters canals five days a week, weather permitting.
And we have a walking group on Tuesdays and Thursdays to clean up the coast and shoreline.

What made you get involved?

I love the environment and I like looking after the place. I moved here and worked in Brisbane for quite a few years and I didn’t have the opportunity to get involved. As soon as I got the opportunity, I jumped in, because I like to keep the place clean and tidy and it’s also a very social thing.

I’ve been involved for about four years and President for three. We’ve got 84 members now and I’d say 60 of those are very active and out there every week. Other members support us through donations and things like that.

It’s an extremely beautiful part of the world, isn’t it? Well worth protecting.

It’s flash! It’s a great place. We don’t want to see it damaged in any way. We try to keep it clean and look after the environment, the passage, and the fish and the birds.

We pick up a lot of plastic bags and that sort of thing, which birds, turtles and boats all have trouble with. So, everyone’s doing this volunteer work for a very good reason.

You’re pretty effective too, aren’t you?

Oh, yeah! We picked up 9,857 kilograms of rubbish last year and put in 5,237 hours of volunteering. It’s a fairly good effort considering that we do it in one area, in the suburbs of Caloundra. We don’t go too far out of town.

The biggest percentage of the stuff we pick up is general rubbish, like plastic bags, bottle tops, bottles and things like that. One of the biggest things we’re cleaning up now is vapes. We’re picking up a lot of those. And cigarette butts, of course.

It’s a shame you’re still so busy. You’d think people would’ve learned not to litter by now.

I think they’re getting better, especially the younger generation and school kids. They’re pretty switched on about it.

We have a few spots that used to be problem areas but now they’re pretty clean. There’s one spot where we used to find mattresses thrown out and big items like that but now we don’t find much there at all. There’s still some rubbish because it’s a popular little fishing spot but nowhere near as much as we used to. So, I think people are getting better.

We did some walks just after Christmas and were very surprised at how neat and tidy the place was. We can go to some areas, spend an hour and a half and only get six or seven kilos of rubbish and go to the same place a month or so later and get 20 or 30 kilos. It varies all the time.

What are some of the strangest things you’ve picked up?

We’ve picked up two fridges floating in Bells Creek. We’ve found solar panels in the canals, toys, tyres, wheels, pushbikes, numerous shopping trolleys, things like that.

One of the strangest things we found was a complete campsite that had been abandoned about four months ago, with a car and everything left there. It can be surprising what we find.

You’d have a bird’s eye view of any environmental changes going on in the area. What have you noticed over the years?

The biggest impact was when part of Bribie Island was cut in half by the ocean during the 2021-22 cyclone season. We’ve noticed a lot of changes since then. It’s deterred us in some respects. We can’t go to some of the places we used to because now it’s an ocean bar we can’t get our boat into.

We’ve noticed the changes to the passage itself, with regard to the sand changes and water level changes. I don’t think it’s greatly affected the actual environment as far as fauna goes but it’s certainly affected the passage in a certain area.

But we still do what we’ve got to do. We can still walk down the beach at Bribie on the ocean side and we can still get into a lot of places on the passage side with our boat and have a clean-up.

How is Night Eyes funded?

We’re pretty much totally reliant on grants. The State Government often has grants, which we apply for. The council is very good to us. They have an environmental levy and we get money from that. Plus, we have a few sponsors.

We struggle at times because we have a boat and a car to maintain. Up until recently we were paying $18,000 a year just to store our boat. We are being assisted with boat storage now by Pelican Waters Marina, who provide us with a berth at no charge. We are also assisted by Sunshine Coast Council and various sponsors.

But a lot of people help us. Recently I ran into someone and they gave us a $1,000 donation because they know what we do and they’re happy to help us out. One thousand dollars gives us a lot of fuel in the boat, or some repairs.

It’s quite a community effort then.

We’re very community minded. We work with the council, the state government, the local member and the Coast Guard. Night Eyes is really part of the community now.

And we’re always looking for people to assist us and get involved. We’re involved with a couple of schools here and had the school kids go out with us, so we’d like to do more of that. We could always use some new members.

Well, we’ll put the word out. Thanks very much, Dennis, and thanks also to the wonderful Night Eyes crew for everything you do to keep Caloundra looking beautiful.

If you’d like to know more about Night Eyes or get involved, visit their website, nighteyeswaterandlandcare.com.au or Facebook page facebook.com/NightEyesWaterAndLandCareGroup.

Caloundra City Realty

Article by Caloundra City Realty

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