Damien Burrows

Recently, the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee Senate Inquiry into farming practices impacting water quality in the Great Barrier Reef concluded. The Inquiry, and its associated public commentary and activity, was potentially challenging for the reef science community. Science is not easily conveyed in short answers, rather the whole story results from an accumulation of evidence. The Committee’s Report supported reef science and the procedures for ensuring quality control, review and improvement. However, the report noted the need for improved communication of science to stakeholders to improve environmental outcomes.

NESP TWQ Hub’s Project 25 was highlighted in the Senate Inquiry report as one of the positive examples of effective communication and science-farmer interactions. Project 25 was also put forward by the farmers involved as an example of positive engagement between themselves and the science community. Their written submissions to the inquiry are worth reading and act as formal testimony for the effectiveness of Project 25 in stakeholder engagement and eliciting behavioural change.

Project 25 has also been recently featured in the media following support by the Cairns Region CANEGROWERS, and the potential for further reductions in fertilizer runoff using the existing drainage infrastructure between farms. The project initially looked to develop a trust framework built around real-time water quality monitoring and has now given growers within its catchment the insight that holding back the first big flush of water in the wet season can result in significant reductions in Nitrogen entering waterways and finding its way to the Reef.

The TWQ Hub has hosted some significant major events in recent years, and the next such event is the International Crown-of-Thorns Starfish Control Forum, scheduled for 29-30 March 2021 in Cairns, Queensland. TWQ Hub research will have a high profile at this forum, with presentations from numerous researchers funded by the TWQ Hub through our investments in Crown of Thorns starfish control being presented. This will be an invaluable opportunity for NESP research in to crown-of-thorns starfish control to be featured and discussed for further development and implementation within the existing control programs.

Over the last six years, the TWQ Hub has commissioned 94 research projects involving several hundred researchers and more than 90 stakeholder groups. As the TWQ Hub draws to a close in early 2021, we have commissioned a series of synthesis projects that coalesce and summarise the key outcomes from this large and expansive body of work. These synthesis projects and their constituent researchers will shortly be undertaking a series of stakeholder engagement presentations and workshops to communicate the key outcomes to stakeholders. As you would appreciate, synthesising and integrating the key messages and outcomes from 94 diverse projects presents many communication challenges, but as emphasised in the recent senate inquiry, effective communication of science is as important as the science itself.


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