The Climate Hub Advisory Panel (CHAP) plays a significant role in directing the focus and efforts of the Hub. The CHAP is made up of both National and International climate and climate related experts and include experts in the field of law, climate adaptation, finance, insurance, tourism and agriculture.

Donovan Burton 

Donovan is a climate change adaptation specialist with a diverse portfolio of experience, having completed more than 150 climate change risk and adaptation projects. He is focused on influencing change adaptation governance through disruptive technology, big data and the internet of things.

Much of Don’s current focus, research and interest surrounds the interface between climate change, future technologies and big data analytics to better understand the barriers and enablers to change. His work utilises applied and empirical research to support climate change policy and informed decision-making. 

Over the past decade Donovan has helped numerous organisations identify risks and opportunities associated with climate change. Don’s sector experience in this space includes insurance, property development, infrastructure (including roads, rail, ports, tunnels), information communication technology, working with the United Nations, national governments, state governments, local governments, NGOs and research organizations.

Dr Justine Bell-James

Dr Justine Bell-James is a Senior Lecturer at the TC Beirne School of Law, teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the areas of environmental law and property law. Justine’s research focuses on legal mechanisms for protection of the coast, drawing upon environmental, planning, property and tort law. In addition to her work on sea-level rise, Justine is also particularly interested in novel legal mechanisms for protection of coastal ecosystems like mangroves and seagrass, protection of the Great Barrier Reef, and biodiversity offsets in the coastal context.

Rod Ferguson

Rod Ferguson has over 40 years of experience within regional local governments in Queensland including over 20 years in CEO roles, and is now the CEO of Whitsunday Regional Council.

Mr Ferguson led the amalgamation of the Southern Downs Regional Council in 2008 and in 2013 was appointed by the state government to lead the de-amalgamation of the Mareeba Shire Council.

For the past five years Mr Ferguson has worked with a variety of regional Councils across the state in both a consultancy role and as Director/CEO in short term contract arrangements.

Rod has demonstrated proven ability to effectively manage large, complex teams and build strong relationships across government, industry, business and community.

Michael Porter

Michael is the Manager of the Proserpine Cane Growers. Michael first came to the region in 1995 and his 20 plus years experience in banking and finance saw him open and manage the first NAB branch in Airlie Beach.

In addition to his role as the Manager of the Proserpine Canegrowers, Michael is also the company secretary for Sugar Services Proserpine, Kelsey Creek Water Co-operative and Six Mile Irrigators Co-operative.

Michael is also heavily involved with the Whitsunday community acting as Deputy Chair of Whitsunday Community Enterprises and the Proserpine Chamber of Commerce.

Sharanjit Paddam
Professor Susanne Becken

Sharanjit is the Head of Environmental Risk at QBE Insurance Group and is a consulting actuary with over 20 years' experience in general insurance and accident compensation. He acted as appointed actuary to four Australian insurers and reinsurers.  He has advised various accident compensations in Australia and New Zealand, corporates that self-insure workers compensation, and federal and state government departments.


Sharanjit is known for bringing actuarial methods to new industries, such as valuing biodiversity credits for threatened species, assessing the economic impact of climate change on financial service providers, and developing methods to measure social impact.

Susanne Becken is a Professor of Sustainable Tourism at Griffith University in Australia and the Principal Science Investment Advisor (Visitor) in the Department of Conservation, New Zealand.

he is also a Vice Chancellor Research Fellow at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom and was the founding Director of the Griffith Institute for Tourism. She has published over 100 articles on sustainable tourism, climate change and tourism resource use. 


Susanne is a member of the Air New Zealand Sustainability Advisory Panel,  and sits on the Advisory Boards of My Green Butler, NOW Transforming Travel, and the Whitsunday Climate Change Innovation Hub. Susanne is a Fellow of the International Academy of the Study of Tourism and the 2019 UNWTO Ulysses Award winner.

Stephen Williams

Stephen (Steve) Williams is a Professor in the College of Marine and Environmental Science, James Cook University, Australia. His research has focussed on field-based ecology, understanding biodiversity, assessing the resilience of natural ecosystems to environmental change and using this knowledge to maximize the positive benefits of conservation management and adaptation.


Steve was one of the first to identify global climate change as a severe threatening process to biodiversity in the tropics, especially in mountain ecosystems. In 2006, he started the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change at James Cook University and was the inaugural Director for the first six years. He was lead author of the Australian National Adaptation Research Plan for Natural Ecosystems and was the Director of the Australian Adaptation Network for Natural Ecosystems (marine, terrestrial, freshwater) within the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF).  He has over 130 publications and, with more than 25000 peer review citations, he is one of the most-cited global change biologists.


Over the last few years, Steve was the inaugural Chair of the IUCN Climate Change & Biodiversity Specialist Group and chaired the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area Science Advisory Committee. His research has focussed on Australian tropical rainforest, however he now has an emphasis on establishing an Asia-Pacific climate change research and monitoring network. His aim is to help foster international collaboration and information exchange in order to provide the resources needed by natural resource managers around the world to adapt to a changing climate.

Dorean Erhart

Dorean Erhart is a landscape architect and the Lead – Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef at the Local Government Association of Queensland, with responsibility for providing state and national representation and advocacy on behalf of Queensland Local Governments.


She has over 25 years’ experience in successfully applying design thinking to develop responses to complex policy and planning problems in the fields of climate risk, coastal management and conservation.


She has instigated and designed several programs and initiatives, most recently, the Queensland Climate Resilient Councils and QCoast2100 programs, the Reef Councils’ Rescue Plan and the Coastal Councils Adaptation Taskforce (C-CAT).


Dorean is dedicated to supporting the translation of science and leading practice theory into practical on-ground approaches and has co-authored several climate risk management guidelines and support documents for local government practitioners, including the Climate Risk Management Framework for Queensland Local Government and companion guideline and the QCoast2100 Coastal Hazard Adaptation Strategy Minimum Standards and Guideline.

Chris Porter

Chris has more than 13 years’ experience in engineering and management and is currently the General Manager of Premise Mackay and Whitsundays division.


His team delivers to both public sector and infrastructure clients, working on everything from airports to water treatments, and road design and assessment. He has managed many Premise projects, including the Cannonvale Bulk Water Supply for Whitsunday Regional Council.


Chris also sits on the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s Mackay Whitsunday Branch Committee.


Phone: 1300 WRC QLD


Address: 190 Shute Harbour Road, Cannonvale QLD 4802

Postal address: PO Box 104, Proserpine QLD 4800

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The Whitsunday Climate Change and Innovation Hub is an initiative of Whitsunday Regional Council.