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Doon McColl

Year of Award: 2015 Award State: Queensland None > Environment
Environment > Water
To investigate North American Voluntary Environmental Programs to inform reef stewardship models - Canada, USA
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The Great Barrier Reef is globally recognised as one of the most precious ecosystems on Earth. But the Reef is declining, and key drivers such as climate change, coastal development and poor water quality fall outside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s direct regulatory control. Through the Authority’s voluntary environmental programs, our communities are doing more than what is required by regulation – but we all need to do more to halt the decline of the Reef.

The Churchill Fellowship gave me, as manager of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Reef Guardian Council program, the extraordinary opportunity to learn from similar programs in north America in order to inform and strengthen our Reef stewardship programs. I focussed on three iconic regions that have been experiencing intense environmental pressures for decades: the Great Lakes, Colorado Rockies and Puget Sound. Regulation alone won’t save these places and environmental stewardship is considered a valuable management tool.

It was gratifying to find many of the voluntary environmental programs operate in a similar way to our Reef stewardship programs, and continually evolve in response to current issues and participants’ needs. We also share the same challenge of limited resources. Successful programs are consensus-based and embrace both participants and external stakeholders as partners who monitor, give feedback and provide direction.

I also investigated other ways that governments and communities are protecting and restoring their iconic places, with a particular interest in the role of local government and multi-stakeholder collaboration. I was struck by the success of locally led collaboratives in achieving the on-ground stewardship outcomes we are seeking for the Great Barrier Reef. The collaborative process has meant that government must learn to share both power and responsibility for environmental problems. Many groups were applying the principles of Collective Impact to align their priorities and resources. Local government often plays a key role in coordinating, funding and delivering outcomes. Non-government organisations (NGOs) are also making important contributions to policy, research, funding and on-ground coordination and I’m looking forward to their increased presence in the stewardship space in Australia.

If we are to encourage stewardship actions in the Reef catchment we must sharpen our focus from a reef-wide panorama down to each local waterway and beach. We need to support and nurture local leaders and partnerships and encourage coordination and monitoring so that we can understand what’s working – and what isn’t.

 

 

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