New QUT-led Reef project puts policy impact under the microscope

29th June 2020

Researchers from QUT’s Centre for the Environment are leading a new project to determine how government policy influences farming practices that improve water quality on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).

The GBR is a national icon and one of Queensland’s most valuable natural assets, sustaining a tourism industry worth an estimated $6 billion a year. However, the GBR is under threat from multiple pressures, including climate change and deteriorating water quality from sediment and nutrient run-off due in part to agricultural land management practices.

The project – Building a policy instrument impact model for the Reef (RP225) – seeks to understand the effect of government policy and programs that are designed to encourage GBR-friendly land management practices.

QUT Associate Professor Karen Vella, head of School of the Built Environment and a researcher with the Centre for the Environment, said governments use a range of policy instruments such as grants, regulations and education programs to motivate farmers and land managers.

“Each farming enterprise is unique, and we know farmers vary in their response to different policy instruments.

“We want to understand how these instruments influence land manager behaviour and how they interact with each other."

Associate Professor Vella said a key project outcome will be the development of a model to explore and test scenarios and make recommendations about program improvement and evaluation.

“The research is all about helping government understand the effectiveness of their policy instruments, and how they can improve them for better water quality outcomes,” she said.

The research team includes experts in environmental law, planning and governance, psychology, sociology, economics and mathematics, who will work closely with policy makers and land managers.

The Building a policy instrument impact model for the Reef (RP225) project is funded through the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program and delivered by QUT in partnership with CSIRO, James Cook University, the University of Canberra, the University of NSW, the University of Melbourne and Natural Decisions.

It is one of five research projects to address prioritised human dimension knowledge needs identified in the Reef 2050 Water Quality Research, Development and Innovation Strategy (2017-2022).

The projects will contribute to this emerging science and knowledge base to better address the social, cultural and economic factors that underpin water quality improvements in the GBR catchments.

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