Existing protection and management
Programs addressing landbased run-off have better focus, clearer targets, coordinated monitoring and improved outputs.
Revision and updating of Reef Plan in 2009 and 2013 and complementary Australian and Queensland government initiatives have addressed many of the shortfalls identified in the Outlook Report 2009, such as slow progress in achieving outcomes and a lack of monitoring. Regular reviews of Reef Plan have provided better focus and direction for managers, including clear targets for water quality and land management improvement. The plan is focused on outcomes and takes into account new policy documents and regulatory frameworks. Measurable targets, improved accountability, and coordinated monitoring, evaluation and reporting underpin it. Development by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority of water quality guidelines and a Coastal Ecosystems Assessment Framework set limits for water entering the Marine Park and provide a framework for assessing ecosystem services within basins. The Reef Guardian program has also been expanded to include farmers, graziers and fishers. The values relevant to water quality are well understood by managers. Key variables, such as sediment, nutrient and pesticide loads, are comprehensively measured. While many of the direct and indirect impacts are well known, knowledge is not as comprehensive concerning consequential and cumulative impacts, although it has improved through the 2013 Scientific Consensus Statement21. In terms of assessing performance, a Reef Plan monitoring, evaluation and reporting strategy has been developed and annual Reef Plan report cards have been published. In addition, all Australian Government grants require regular reporting and evaluation. While the Australian and Queensland governments have allocated significant resources to understanding the biophysical aspects of water quality, information is still limited with respect to the socioeconomic impact of loss of ecosystem services from poor water quality. The Social and Economic Long-term Monitoring Program managed by CSIRO and commenced in 2011 should improve managers’ understanding of people’s values and perceptions. The impacts of land-based run-off are considered one of the greatest threats to the Great Barrier Reef. Average pollutant loads in land-based run-off are estimated to have declined in the past two years. This has been attributed to improved land management practices by landholders. The work being undertaken by the Australian and Queensland governments, in addition to regional natural resource management bodies, industry and stakeholders implementing Reef Plan, water quality improvement plans and other programs is to be commended. The monitoring programs and improved knowledge about the impacts of land-based run-off are also world class. The assessments of processes and outputs for this management topic have improved considerably since 2009. The lagging response in desired outcomes is largely a result of the scale of the problem and the time needed to effect change in the system.
Poor outcomes in the Region for land-based run-off are largely due to the issue’s scale and lags within the system.
Managing to protect the Region’s values
7.3.12 Biodiversity values