A decade ago, Steve MacDonald could walk around Cleveland incognito.
Today, partly because of his Redlands 2030 shirt and partly because of his activism to raise issues surrounding Toondah Harbour, he is a minor celebrity.
Ten years ago, Mr MacDonald, then 62, was facing retirement from his work as a regional planner and all that goes with it.
He was planning a decade of the usual retirement aspirations, although he is quick to point out that he is no golfer and not inclined to play lawn bowls.
His retirement was to involve a bit of travel, a bit of self education and yes, quite a few chats about world and local events.
“I am concerned about the future, particularly climate change,” he said.
But it was a chance encounter with some fellow dog walkers at GJ Walter Park that was to change all his plans.
There he was walking his border collie Barkley on a morning walk.
“I go there because there is an off-leash area,” he said.
Mr MacDonald was to encounter a near-neighbour, scientist Tom Taranto, walking his border collie cross Emma and later Chris Walker and his spaniel Penny and former project manager with Stanwell Corporation
Chris Stanwell and the men got chatting.
“We used to talk about the weather and the world’s problems. And then we started to talk about Toondah Harbour and how it had crept up on us,” he said.
“There was to be 800 units built on GJ Walter Park. We were concerned, but it took a while to get our thoughts together.
“We staged a small protest to air our concerns. There were 200 people and we didn’t know a lot. We were ill prepared.
“We were very concerned that the project could have got so far without us knowing. I was concerned about the community consultation process. I had lots of questions.”
In May 2023, 2000 people walked against the development and through Mr MacDonald’s efforts a bigger development picture has emerged.
“It has gone from 800 units to 3600 apartments in 60 hectares of water. How did it go up 450 per cent?
“We would need to have two schools to support the number of people.
“The fact that this is a Ramsar wetland is an amazing oversight.”
Today, Steve has nine grandchildren and wants to make the Redlands a good place for them to grow.
“This is worth fighting for. It’s been an unexpected retirement and I’m still flat out,” he said.
“Redlands 2030 has widespread support and lots of partners. Think of the social capital and what could have been put into any other local cause or charity.”
Toondah was declared a Priority Development Area on June 21, 2013.