Manly Council’s Community Environment Committee recognised the importance of resourcing community education on environmental issues and obtained local corporate sponsorship for a small shop front in Manly’s retail area. With Judy Reizes as the driving force, along with members of the community, the Manly Environment Centre (MEC) opened in March 1991 and was staffed entirely by volunteers for the first 12 months.
This unique example of council, community and corporate co-operation has continued to expand into its fourth set of premises. In 1997 in a great leap forward Manly’s new centre for the environment, the MEC, moved into a high-profile two storey building at 41 Belgrave Street along with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Manly Food Co-operative, Greenline Consulting and the Surfrider Foundation.
The new premises provided an environmental meeting and training hub where a wide of variety of services were provided. The office boasted three full time staff members funded by Manly Council. Judy Reizes headed up the Centre along with a full time Waste Education Officer and a Catchment Liaison Officer. The MEC’s continued growth and a desire to be a model of information and a community resource on behalf of Council, has seen it implement programs and awareness raising events which have led to the furthering of common goals.
The Manly Environment Centre has undertaken many varied projects over the years including Waste Expose, Ocean Care Day, the Green Canteen and many more. In 1994, an eco-operation between local schools, Oz G.R.E.E.N (Global Rivers Environmental Education Network Australia started by Sue and Col Lennox), Blackmores Ltd and the MEC initiated the highly successful education program, Kids, Companies & Creeks . This won numerous awards for the MEC as well as others involved in the program and is used as a 'best practice' case study by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) .
Campaigning successfully on behalf of the community and under the new Threatened Species Legislation, the MEC worked hard to get the first two common species in the world,the Long Nosed Bandicoot and the Little Penguin, listed as threaten populations in Manly .
In March 1998, to assist in the long term vision for Manly and to develop community action strategies to reach these appropriate long-term visions, Manly Council launched “The Manly Conservation Strategy” .
Over the years the information available through the Centre has continued to grow. An estimated 10,000 resources including brochures, kits, videos, DVD's, audio tapes along with policies/strategies research materials on all points of view are now easily accessed by all sectors of the community and most are available as free copies. The MEC website provides information which can be easily accessed worldwide. This mass distribution of information extends from MEC events and the local environment of Manly, to the ever growing and changing global issues affecting us all.
21 years on, the Manly Environment Centre continues its work at the same shopfront location. Judy Reizes remains the driving force - inspiring the next generation to care for and protect Manly's unique environment.