Crunch Time | Saving Tura’s Biodiversity

Jordan Mundey and Jacob Shields, Filmmakers

When a 33-year-old Zombie DA threatens to wipe out a crucial piece of native bushland in Tura Beach on the New South Wales south coast, a group of passionate locals’ band together to tackle the imminent devastation. Told through the eyes of local experts, Crunch Time rewrites the narrative regarding how much power communities have in combating coastal developments. 

The Zombie Rises 

In the coastal community of Tura Beach, unbeknown to many locals, a long-forgotten Zombie DA had loomed over a patch of pristine bushland for 33 years. When fences were erected in mid 2022, widespread panic erupted amongst locals. The fences represented the emergence of an outdated legislation that gave developers the ability to clear bushland without reassessment of flora and fauna that may be under threat. Amongst the locals in the immediate vicinity of the site was a group of locals who refused to see the untouched bushland that neighboured their homes destroyed. These locals began building a movement to put an end to the imminent destruction of this bush. This group became known as Friends of CRUNCH. 

What is a Zombie DA? 

Zombie DAs refer to development applications (DAs) which have been approved decades ago and left incomplete, before lying dormant, thus making them a ‘zombie’. These zombie DAs pose a significant threat to coastal areas as the plants and animals that reside in these areas are crucial to maintaining a healthy and flourishing ecosystem. The approval of zombie DAs leaves minimal chance to protect these species. 

CRUNCH is born 

Friends of CRUNCH stands for ‘Concerned Residents United Nolan Casuarina and High Crescent. CRUNCH became the forefront of the movement that stood against the development of the site. Amongst the members of CRUNCH, a local high school student took matters into his own hands and fast tracked the awareness in the community regarding the significant issue they faced. 

Jacob Shields 

Driven by his passion to heal the wounded lands on earth, Jacob is no stranger to ecological issues. Being raised in a family of ecologists, Jacob’s understanding for the bush is as deeply rooted into his being as an old growth tree is deeply rooted into the soil. Unable to turn a blind eye to the bushland that surrounded his home, Jacob focused all his attention to raising awareness of the zombie DA with the wider south coast community, educating them on the importance and beauty that laid right beneath their noses. Along the way, Jacob realised that to truly show the untouched beauty of the bush, he should make a film encapsulating everything that makes the bush unique. 

Crunch Time begins 

Filming for Jacob’s film began in July of 2022. A project which was intended to be a short video raising awareness about the bush, quickly became something much larger. The project began to take on a life of its own, getting the attention of the Sydney Morning Herald and much of the south coast community. Before long, the film had encapsulated a range of perspectives from knowledgeable locals, including the likes of ecologists, solicitors, wildlife photographers and local indigenous peoples. Filming wrapped for Crunch Time in January 2023 after 7 months of production. 

Promoting the film 

Postproduction of Crunch Time wrapped in late February before tickets went on sale. When the trailer to the film was released, tickets began to run out the door. Radio interviews helped significantly to market the film, and a week before the film premiered at the Picture Showman in Merimbula, tickets had completely sold out. Over 180 tickets were sold, and the stage was set for the premiere of a film that had so much significance amongst the local community. 

The Premiere of Crunch Time 

On 13 March, Crunch Time was premiered to an audience of passionate and dedicated locals. Following the 21-minute documentary, a Q&A session was held with the filmmakers and local members of the Labor and Greens parties. The Q&A session was a productive and informative discussion which left much of the audience leaving the cinema with newfound clarity on how to help fight the threat of Zombie DAs in NSW. 

Life after Crunch Time 

Since the premiere of the film, things have not slowed down for the film or the bushland that it was filmed on. The fight to save the biodiversity of the Tura forest continues, as does Jacob’s fight to make a change. Following the premiere of the film, Jacob established the Crunch Time organisation, an organisation which is a youth-run, youth-funded project with the mission to empower young people by nurturing self-knowledge, creativity, and confidence. Jacob’s organisation has recently taken the film on tour in southern NSW and provided workshops for young people to empower them to tackle big world problems. 

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