The Biodiversity Conservation Trust acknowledges that it operates on Aboriginal land. We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land and we show our respect for elders past, present and emerging through thoughtful and collaborative approaches to our work, seeking to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to providing places in which Aboriginal people are included socially, culturally and economically.

The Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT) is a statutory not-for-profit body established under Part 10 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, which commenced operating on 25 August 2017.

The BCT is within the portfolio of the NSW Minister for Energy and Environment.

Board and Executive

The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 provides for the Minister to appoint the BCT Board, and for BCT Board to manage the affairs of the BCT. 

The BCT is subject to the control and direction of the Minister, except in relation to payments from the Biodiversity Conservation Trust Public Fund. The Trust must publish any directions made by the Minister.

The BCT is led by a Chief Executive Officer who is supported by a Director Regional Delivery, Director Programs, Director Strategy and Finance, and other senior staff.

BCT leadership and structure

BCT Leadership and structure

BCT Board

Virginia Malley

Acting Chairperson - Deputy Chairperson

25 August 2017 – current

Virginia Malley has thirty years' experience in the financial services and banking sectors, including sixteen years' as a company director. Her areas of expertise are environmental and financial markets, stewardship, risk management, corporate governance and regulatory compliance.

Ms Malley was previously the Chief Risk Officer at Macquarie Funds Management Group overseeing the risk management of portfolios worth more than $85 billion that invested in clean technologies, publicly traded debt securities, listed equities, derivatives, currencies and private equity.

Ms Malley is a member of the Clean Energy Regulator, a non-executive director of Perpetual Superannuation Limited, Perpetual Equity Investment Co Ltd, Morphic Ethical Equities Fund Ltd and the Future Energy Fund Ltd and was previously a member of the Board of the Nature Conservation Trust of NSW.

She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Technology Sydney, a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Applied Finance from Macquarie University, and a Graduate Diploma in Environmental Law and Master of Laws from the University of Sydney.

Professor the Hon. Niall Blair

Board Member

14 December 2020 – current

The Hon. Niall Blair is a highly skilled professional with more than twenty years’ experience across government and private sectors, specialising in risk management, agribusiness and sustainability. He holds a Masters of Occupational Health and Safety and a Bachelor of Horticultural Science.

Mr Blair is Professor of Food Sustainability at Charles Sturt University, as well as Co-Chair of the NSW Circular Economy Research Taskforce and a member of the Strategic Investment Council for Food Agility CRC. He is also Chairman of Elf Farm Supplies Pty Ltd and Non-Executive Director of White Prince Mushrooms Pty Ltd. Mr Blair is a passionate advocate for the food and fibre production sectors, with notable achievements in areas such as waste reduction, animal welfare, social licence, climate change and global markets.

Prior to these roles, Mr Blair served as a senior member of the NSW Parliament for nine years. During his tenure he was appointed NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Water, Lands, Trade and Industry and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council. 

Dr David Freudenberger

Board Member

11 October 2018 – current

Dr Freudenberger has a distinguished ecological research and leadership record of excellence. He has over 200 research publications including eighty in peer-reviewed journals and books. Dr Freudenberger has a consistent reputation for collaboration with a broad diversity of stakeholders that achieves consensus and effective teamwork. He has ten years’ experience in senior leadership roles in both environmental research (CSIRO), as well as delivery of enduring natural resource management strategies and outcomes on-ground (Greening Australia). 

Dr Freudenberger was a Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University, convening courses in Environmental Forestry and supervising 12 research students. While now semi-retired, Dr Freudenberger remains a Senior Sessional Academic at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, ANU.

Duncan McGregor

Board Member

25 August 2017 – current

Duncan McGregor has thirty years' experience as a specialist environmental and planning lawyer. He was a partner of a major Australian law firm for seventeen years, and continues as a Legal Consultant.

Mr McGregor has significant experience across a broad range of environmental and planning issues including the identification of planning and environmental approval pathways for various types of development and infrastructure, working with technical experts in assessing major development impacts, advising on environmental regulatory regimes including threatened species protection, environmental licensing, remediation and redevelopment of contaminated sites, infrastructure development and environmental incident management.

Duncan was the inaugural chair of the Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee, part of the Carbon Farming Initiative, and has advised widely on a broad range of climate change and renewable energy issues.

John Pierce

Board Member

14 December 2020 - current

Mr Pierce has over thirty years’ experience in economics, public policy and finance, governance and industry reform. He has extensive experience as a senior advisor to governments in the areas of fiscal, energy and climate change policies.

Mr Pierce holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics) Honours from the University of NSW and was a Visiting Scholar at Boston University during 2004-2005.

Mr Pierce was Chairman of the Australian Energy Market Commission and is a former Secretary of the Federal Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism. Prior to that, Mr Pierce was Chairman of NSW Treasury Corporation and served for more than a decade as New South Wales Treasury Secretary. 

Russell Taylor AM

Board Member

25 August 2017 – current

Russell Taylor is a highly respected senior Indigenous Australian with extensive experience in corporate governance and a long history of advocacy with particular passion for education and social welfare.

Mr Taylor is a member of several boards including the University of Technology Sydney, The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation, Wentwest Limited and the Indigenous advisory firm, Moreton Consulting. Russell has a wealth of senior executive managerial experience and is a former CEO of the NSW Aboriginal Housing Office and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

In 2015 Mr Taylor was made a member (AM) of the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours for 'significant service to the community as a cultural leader and publicly senior executive in the field of Indigenous affairs' and in 2016 was awarded the inaugural UTS Indigenous Australian Alumni Award for Excellence.

Karen Zirkler

Board Member

14 December 2020 – current

Karen Zirkler has spent her life on the land. Having grown up on grain-growing farms in North West NSW, she is now an executive director of a family grazing operation in the New England, focused on implementing regenerative practices.

Ms Zirkler has a Bachelor of Science in Australian Environmental Studies, with First Class Honours. She has thirty years’ experience working in sustainable agriculture extension and Landcare, through various roles with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Griffith University, Edith Cowan University, and currently as the CEO of Southern New England Landcare Ltd. 

Ms Zirkler brings strong lived experiences, abilities and insights into communicating with, engaging, and resourcing landholders and other stakeholders. In addition, she has an expansive rural and regional network and first-hand experience of key issues currently affecting rural communities.

BCT Audit and Risk Committee

The Audit and Risk Committee provides independent assistance and assurance to the BCT Board by monitoring, reviewing and providing advice on governance, financial management, risk management, conformance, internal and external audit, and external accountability. Staff from the Audit Office of NSW and the BCT’s internal auditors regularly attend meetings. The Audit and Risk Committee currently consists of three BCT Board members and the Chairperson is Mr David Black, an independent, non-Board member.

David Black

BCT Audit and Risk Committee Independent Chairperson

Before retiring as a Partner from Deloitte in 2016, David spent 25 years working in the UK and Australia. During that time David worked with clients, including in the Government sector, on complex accounting, internal and external auditing, risk management, corporate governance and due diligence engagements.

David is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, has a BA(Hons) in Economics, a Masters of Business Administration, and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

David currently sits on one other Government sector audit committee serving as the independent member and is a non-executive director and audit committee member on an ASX listed company.

BCT Executive Team

Paul Elton

Chief Executive Officer

Paul Elton was appointed Executive Director of the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust in July 2017.

Paul commenced his career in the private sector and has since had twenty-four years’ experience working in portfolio and central agency roles with the NSW and Commonwealth governments. In the mid-2000s, Paul was Executive Director, Natural Resources and Economic Development Policy with the Department of Premier and Cabinet. He then spent four years working with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet supporting the COAG Reform Council.

In NSW, Paul has worked across numerous sectors. Throughout his career, Paul has had a significant focus on environmental protection and biodiversity conservation, including climate change policy, and the intersection of environmental policy with policy and programs in areas such as energy, resources, forestry, water management, infrastructure, land use planning and development assessment.

From 2012 to 2017, Paul was Executive Director Policy with the Office of Environment and Heritage. As part of this role, Paul led the development of the land management and biodiversity conservation reforms across government. He was instrumental in designing the role of the Biodiversity Conservation Trust, the private land conservation program and the biodiversity offsets scheme.

Carolyn Davies

Director Programs

Carolyn Davies was appointed Director Programs of the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust in September 2017.

Carolyn has twenty-five years’ experience in state and federal governments and tertiary institutions working in the fields of water management, water and energy savings and environmental programs. 

Her most recent roles are Director of OEH’s Environmental Programs Branch from 2013 to 2016, and during 2017 she lead the OEH’s Private Land Conservation Branch, including responsibility for preparing for the establishment of the BCT.

Carolyn holds a Bachelor of Natural Resources, Masters of Economics, Masters of Training and Development, and a Doctorate in Water Management.

Alan Goodwin

Director Regional Delivery

Alan Goodwin was appointed Director Regional Delivery of the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust in November 2017.

Alan’s career spans thirty years and includes extensive experience in land and conservation management.

Alan has had an extended career with the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), including as Regional Director and as Chief Fire Officer.

Before joining DELWP in 2003, Alan commenced his career with the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, followed by several years with Forestry Tasmania.

Emily McCosker

Director Strategy and Finance

Emily joined the BCT in 2018 as Manager Strategy and Governance and was appointed to the role of Director Strategy and Finance in February 2021.

Emily commenced her career as a policy graduate at the Environment Protection Authority. Her twenty year career in the NSW public sector has included policy and governance roles across a range of portfolios including the environment, consumer affairs, criminal justice and government procurement.

Emily holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Government, Masters of International Development and Graduate Certificate in United States Studies.