Monitoring and adaptively reducing system-wide governance risks facing the GBR

Allan Dale 100dpi
Led by: Prof Allan Dale, JCU


Project Summary

Australian governments have addressed water quality issues in the Great Barrier Reef (Reef) over the last decade. While much has improved, more is needed. Reef environmental outcomes, however, depend on the interplay among diverse/fragmented governance “activities” (e.g. water allocation, ports-planning, regional NRM). Despite being recognized in the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (LTSP), there is no coordinated system for benchmarking/monitoring the health of the overall Reef governance system/constituent activities. NERP supported a new method for doing so. This project both delivers short term influence over key Commonwealth and State (i.e. GBR Taskforce) decisions regarding management and investment and engages new LTSP implementation/review structures and stakeholders to build commitment to institutionalizing this method over the longer. Outputs will be directly integrated into and inform five-yearly Outlook reporting.

Problem Statements


This project resolves the challenge raised in the LTSP and Jacobs (2014) that, while the nation monitors the Reef’s environmental outcomes, it does not monitor the health of the wider governance system and constituent governance activities. In anticipation of this, Dale et al. (2014) established a theoretically strong and engaging approach to inform both short and long- term decision making about wider governance issues among all relevant parties, but particularly within the proposed LTSP implementation and review arrangements being established by June 2015. The proposed approach involves implementing a systems-wide benchmarking, analysis and reporting (via Outlook) system to independently review the health of the overall governance system and identify high risk governance activities within it.
Reef Rescue grants through the NRM bodies and other relevant funding programs provide data for a natural experiment on cost-effectiveness. For each grant, NRM groups need to report to the Australian Government the funding allocation and the planned actions and projected outputs. It is proposed to collect and consolidate that data into a single database so that it can be evaluated.

How Research Addresses Problem

With new frameworks for implementing and reviewing the LTSP and a strong/published method, a unique opportunity exists to build institutional/stakeholder commitment to such an approach. Given the continuing decline of Reef water quality, despite past regulatory/funding developments, this approach necessarily will challenge historical governance concepts. This is why we need cohesive stakeholder engagement and strong industry and community partnerships to build support for institutionalizing such an open/ independent approach linked to review/implementation of the LTSP. This engagement will be achieved via an explicit collaboration between JCU, QUT and GBRMPA to help facilitate such discussion, and results will directly feed key learnings into Queensland’s new GBR Taskforce, the GBRMPA’s Outlook Report, and eventually LTSP review processes, directly influencing strategic decisions about management and funding.

Project Keywords

Reef-wide governance; Risk; Policy; Regulation; Outcomes.

Project Funding

This project is jointly funded through JCU, GBRMPA and the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme.

Project Publications
NESP TWQ Project 3.11 Final Report
Final Report