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Program Area 2: Regulating and ensuring Marine Park user compliance

The Authority is the primary environmental regulator for protecting the Reef. Its role is to set the standards necessary to achieve its purpose and goals and provide certainty about where sustainable use may occur, the types of activities allowed, and the conditions for these activities.

The Authority uses a combination of management tools and approaches including zoning plans, plans of management, site-specific arrangements, agreements, permissions, education compliance and enforcement.

The Authority’s world-renowned regulatory framework and zoning plan are effective in managing use of the Marine Park and providing a foundation for protecting its values and enhancing the resilience of the Reef.

The Authority continued to focus its regulatory efforts on activities presenting the highest risks to the Marine Park including through:

  1. developing regulatory solutions that take a risk-based approach to achieving the intended outcome
  2. implementing an effective and efficient regulatory system
  3. encouraging leading practices in responsible use of the Marine Park
  4. responding through its enforcement activities in a manner that was proportionate to risk, severity and attitude
  5. continuously improving its regulatory practice to achieve outcomes for the Marine Park.
    Despite this, external pressures, such as climate change, declining water quality caused by land-based run-off and coastal development, present ongoing risks. To improve resilience in the face of known challenges, the Authority continues to refine and focus its regulatory effort on activities presenting the highest risks to the Reef.
Summary of performance results for Program Area 2

Performance criterion

2018–19 Target

2018–19 Actual

Planning, permissions and compliance activities enable use of the Marine Park that is ecologically sustainable.

A risk-based approach for regulation of Marine Park activities is developed.


Permissions facilitate sustainable use in the Marine Park.


Reduced non-compliance of Marine Park users


Criterion source: Performance indicators are recorded in the Authority’s chapter in the Department of the Environment and Energy’s 2018–19 Portfolio Budget Statements p.246, and in the Authority’s corporate plan for 2018–19 p.17.

Results against performance criterion

Policy and planning

In 2018–19, the Authority achieved several key targets to ensure regulation and management of activities was effective and efficient in reducing risks to the Reef.

Significant progress was made on a risk-based planning approach, with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Board (Authority Board) endorsing the Policy and Planning Strategic Roadmap. This roadmap targets resources for areas of highest priority and transforms Marine Park policies and plans based on contemporary risks, supporting an improvement in the Authority’s regulatory maturity.

The Policy and Planning Strategic Roadmap was developed with input from the Indigenous Reef Advisory Committee, Tourism Reef Advisory Committee, Reef Joint Field Management Program, Traditional Owners involved in the Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreement (TUMRA) programand partner agencies. Engagement with Traditional Owners, Reef users, key stakeholders and the local community form part of the ongoing implementation of the roadmap.

The roadmap identified five key streams of work under which a range of programs and projects will be delivered:

  • Knowledge: ensuring knowledge of the values and use of the Reef is contemporary and comprehensive at an appropriate level for detailed planning purposes.
  • Risk: transforming the current regulatory approach to reflect a contemporary risk appetite.
  • Sea country management with Traditional Owners: supporting strategic involvement of Traditional Owners in management in collaboration with the Authority.
  • Tools: ensuring management tools are agile, applied at appropriate scales and streamlined for users and the government.
  • Resilience: delivering resilience actions that are well-guided, proactive, adaptive and improved over time.

A number of key areas within the five key streams were progressed in 2018–19 as part of the roadmap:

  • The information needs for future planning processes have been identified, with more detailed work to be undertaken in the coming years. Preliminary work established the risk appetite, tolerance and capacity for the work covered by the roadmap, including risk appetite discussions held with the Tourism Reef Advisory Committee for restoration and adaptation activities.
  • Historic maritime heritage actions in the Reef 2050 Plan were supported through a joint expedition, which included the Authority, QPWS and the heritage section of the Queensland Department of Environment and Science. This led to the Martha Ridgeway shipwreck being found 177 years after it was wrecked in Wreck Bay, 90 kilometres south of Raine Island.
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Strategy for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was approved by the Authority Board. The strategy aims to keep the Reef’s Indigenous heritage strong, safe and healthy. Developed in close cooperation with the Indigenous Reef Advisory Committee, it contains 30 actions to support Traditional Owners to look after their heritage. The actions cover the breadth of the Authority’s work and contribute to a range of performance criteria across different program areas. The strategy was launched in March 2019 and implementation is underway.
  • The TUMRA program continues to be highly involved with Traditional Owner groups representing 17 clans and tribes in nine accredited TUMRAs covering approximately 25 per cent of the Marine Park coastline (Figure 4). The nine TUMRAs include Wuthathi, Lama Lama, Yuku-Baja-Muliku, Yirrganydji, Gunggandji, Mandubarra, Girringun, Woppaburra and Port Curtis Coral Coast. Negotiations commenced this year with seven saltwater groups represented by the Hopevale Congress Aboriginal Corporation and the Gudang Yadhaykenu Traditional Owners represented by the Ipmia Ikaya Aboriginal Corporation.
  • The Authority supports the implementation of TUMRAs, including through multi-year contracts that provide funds to employ TUMRA coordinators and support officers, and a broad range of on-ground activities. These include junior ranger programs, cultural camps, sea country research and monitoring, cultural maintenance and protection of sites, traditional knowledge mapping and exchanges, career pathway programs and marine debris clean-ups.
  • In April 2019, the Port Curtis Coral Coast TUMRA was reaccredited for 10 years. This is a great achievement and outcome for the management of sea country, highlighting the value of the TUMRA program and the partnership approach with Traditional Owners. The Port Curtis Coral Coast TUMRA covers an area of 26,386 square kilometres, extending from Burrum Heads, south of Bundaberg, north to the mouth of the Fitzroy River and includes Curtis Island offshore from Gladstone.
  • In June 2019, the Authority coordinated a three-day TUMRA Coordinator Conference on Magnetic Island near Townsville. More than 40 Traditional Owners attended from the nine TUMRA groups as well as representatives from the Hopevale Congress, who are developing a TUMRA. The conference provided attendees with the opportunity to network with each other, Authority staff and QPWS, and to form new partnerships and share information about their TUMRA programs. The conference included discussions on Reef health, implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Strategy, permits, compliance and opportunities to enhance co-management.
  • Significant work has progressed on the roadmap’s tools, including the following achievements:
    • a consolidated summary and review of the Authority’s existing Marine Park management toolbox including a successful workshop with key staff from both the Authority and QPWS, and a preliminary review of national and international tools
    • an audit of the Authority’s decisions and external policies with a number of dated policies streamlined. Planning for a future review and the development of Marine Park management policy will be undertaken by applying the established risk appetite
    • alignment of policies and guidelines with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 2019
    • a comprehensive update of website information to help users understand Marine Park management requirements
    • developed and delivered in-house training on existing management tools to strengthen staff’s understanding.

Significant progress was made in developing a draft policy around restoration and adaptation activities in the Marine Park. The policy aims to ensure these activities are appropriate and are conducted in a measured and sustainable way. It builds on the Great Barrier Reef blueprint for resilience and the 2018 guidelines for applications for restoration and adaptation projects.

TUMRA and ILUA areas within the Great Barrier Reef Marine ParkMap of the Queensland coastline shows the Marine Park boundary and location of nine Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreement Regions within the Marine Park. The areas cover approximately 25 per cent of the coastline. The TUMRA program continues to maintain a high level of involvement with Traditional Owner groups representing 17 clans and tribes in nine accredited TUMRAs

Permissions system

Underwater reef image with infographic overlay depicting the key achievements for permissions system for 2018-19, which for after 4 October 2017 were 79% reduction in time to process low risk decisions, 90% reduction in the number of old application still outstanding, 94% of applications received through Permits Online, and since 1 July 2018 26% reduction in the number of applications, 68% reduction in the number of applications outstanding and 97% of applications received through permits online.

Regulatory framework

The Authority’s permissions system is established under the Marine Park Act which states:

‘in order to achieve its objects, this Act regulates, including by a system of permissions, use of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in ways consistent with ecosystem-based management and the principles of ecologically sustainable use’ section 2A(3) (d).

The Authority is responsible for administering permit applications, decisions and post decision conditional approvals under the following legislation:

  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Environmental Management Charge–General) Act 1993
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Environmental Management Charge–Excise) Act 1993
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983 and 2019
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003
  • Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981
  • Sea Installations Act 1987.

Managed permits

Each permit can include multiple permissions and each permission may have multiple conditions. As at 30 June 2019, 1422 permits were being managed.

Of these, 48 per cent were categorised as lower risk, level one or routine permits, such as those for commercial tourism operations that provide scuba diving and non-motorised water sports activities.

Fifty per cent of permits were categorised as level two or tailored (for example, heli-pontoons). Approximately two per cent of current permits were level three or public information package (for example, long-term maintenance dredging and installation of new facilities) or level four or public environment report or environmental impact statement (complex or large-scale projects that may have a significant impact on the Marine Park) assessments.

All Marine Park permissions and applications under assessment are published on the Authority’s website. As of 4 October 2017, the risk levels one to four were replaced with the assessment approaches of routine, tailored, public information package and public environment report/environmental impact statement, respectively (Table 4).

Assessment approaches

Pre 4 October 2017 risk level

Post 4 October 2017 assessment approach




Tailored/public information package


Public information package (PIP)


Public environment report (PER)/environmental impact statement (EIS)

Pre 4 October 2017 assessment approaches apply to applications being assessed and managed under those approaches.

Many of the current permits require several post-permit management actions. For example, the more complex permits may generate an environmental management plan, a removal plan, a schedule of works, a sampling and analysis plan, or a sampling and analysis report for dredging. Most of the plans require an assessment, negotiation and written approval by a delegate within the Authority.

Applications received and decisions made

During 2018–19, the Authority received 369 applications and granted 393 permits. About 16 per cent of permits issued were lower risk, standard level one, routine permits and 82 per cent were level two or tailored assessment approaches (Figure 6). During this period, 63 applications lapsed or were withdrawn before a decision was required.

During the reporting period, three level three, public information package applications were received and five decisions were made.

No new level four, public environment report applications were received and no level four environmental impact statement decisions were made. One level four application was withdrawn during the reporting period because the application varied under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) assessment process to remove the need for capital dredge spoil disposal within the Marine Park, i.e. Marine Park permission was no longer required.

There has been an increased focus on activities to promote restoration and adaptation in the Marine Park during the reporting period. The Authority continues to develop and adapt its processes with evolving risk approaches and published guidelines to better facilitate these activities. In 2018, the Marine Park Authority board approved permission assessment guidelines to inform restoration and/or adaptation projects designed to improve the resilience of Marine Park habitats, while ensuring they do not have a disproportionate adverse impact on the ecological, biodiversity, heritage, social or economic values of the Marine Park.

Number of decisions by risk assessment levelChart compares the number of decisions by risk assessment from 2015-16 to 2018-19Note: new application categories effective from 4 October 2017

There’s been an overall reduction in the number of applications under assessment at any one time (Figure 7) as a result of enhancements to the permissions system made in October 2017. As at 30 June 2019, 23 applications received before the 4 October 2017 regulation changes remained under assessment.

Number of applications under assessment at any one timeChart details the number of applications under assessment at any one time during 2017-18 and 2018-19. It compares the applications prior to 4 October 2017 when the regulation changed and shows a decline in the total number of applications since September 2017.

Multiple permissions

At the end of the reporting period, the Authority managed 4709 permissions (Figure 8). Most of the permissions granted were for tourist programs, other vessels and aircraft, moorings, facilities and research. Facilities include structures such as barge ramps, boat ramps, jetties, marinas, pipelines, pontoons, snorkel trails and marker buoys.

Type and number of current permissions managed by the Authority as at 30 June 2019Chart shows the number of each of the nine different types of permissions making up the 4709 permissions managed by the Authority. There were 2030 tourism permissions, 966 other vessel and aircraft permissions, 761 moorings permissions, 347 facilities permissions, 280 research permissions and less than a hundred of each of educations, harvest fisheries, removal of threatening species and other activities permissions.

Notifications and directions

During the reporting period, the Authority authorised or gave directions for 25 activities under Part 5 of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003. This included activities such as vessel salvage, aids to navigation maintenance works, historic shipwreck inspections, coral relocation, access improvements at Tongue Point (Whitsundays), reef intervention research trials, site surveys and environmental monitoring at Douglas Shoal, installation of public moorings and reef protection markers, and a hydrophone trial for compliance support.

Other decisions

In addition to assessing permit applications, the Authority was responsible for a range of other permission system matters. These included granting one compulsory pilotage exemption and approving 45 post-permit requirements, including environmental management plans, sampling and analysis plans, reports and event plans. One permit was granted during the financial year under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 for maintenance dredge material disposal at Hay Point.

Applications refused, reconsidered and appealed

There were no applications refused during the reporting period. The Authority works closely with applicants to ensure their understanding of regulatory obligations so activities are managed effectively and consistently with the Marine Park Act.

During the reporting period, the Authority did not make any internal reconsiderations of an initial permit application decision and no requests for a statement of reasons were received. The Authority publishes a statement of reasons on its website when there is likely to be significant public interest in the decision.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Two applications continued before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal during the reporting period:

  • The review of a decision to refuse an application made for a secondary service determination under Regulation 137 of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983. On 13 June 2019, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal handed down their decision on this matter, preferring the applicant’s interpretation of the transfer passenger definition. As a result of that finding, the Tribunal felt it was not necessary to deal with the secondary service provisions. A reconsideration decision by the Authority on the secondary service provisions is likely by the end of July 2019.
  • The review of the decision to grant permissions for the Queensland Government’s Shark Control Program. On 2 April 2019, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal handed down their decision on this matter which varied some of the permit conditions. The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries appealed the decision to the Federal Court of Australia, which means the Authority is automatically party to that appeal. The matter will be heard by the full Federal Court in August 2019.

Permissions compliance

The Authority’s corporate plan is committed to strengthening the monitoring and management of compliance risks associated with permission requirements, which complements recommendations made by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) audit.

The Annual Permissions Compliance Plan and associated risk assessment is the mechanism through which the Authority achieves this goal. Activities undertaken in 2018­–19 occurred across systems development, education and communication, monitoring and reporting and enforcement (including administrative and educational actions), and included:

  • tourism and research permit holder engagement activities (including presenting at a Whitsundays tourism forum)
  • education and training for stakeholders and partner regulatory agencies on permission compliance including presenting at a tourism industry forum and meeting with research stakeholders
  • developing a case management system for managing allegations of permission non-compliance
  • finalising four permission compliance procedures and drafting several others
  • reviewing the Permissions Compliance Annual Plan that enabled increased integration of risk management into daily compliance activities and further strengthening of the permissions compliance partnership with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service
  • undertaking field inspections of marine parks permits and reviewing completed inspections
  • undertaking one targeted facility inspection to monitor compliance
  • helping enhance the field reporting system to facilitate capture of field data relevant to the permission system
  • an audit relating to remittance of the environmental management charge
  • ongoing management of submitted and identified allegations
  • reviewing the enforceability of standardised permit conditions for specific permission types and involvement in the condition review process managed by the Policy and Planning team
  • undertaking environmental site supervision at priority sites to supervise and ensure permit condition compliance, usually to an approved schedule of works or environmental management plan.

The Authority continued to manage all identified permission non-compliances. There were 136 alleged permission non-compliances identified during 2018–19, with one or more administrative compliance actions recorded against 99 per cent of allegations. Figure 9 shows the types of permission compliance allegations identified during 2018–19, with more than half the allegations being failure to report or notify, exceeding permit limits (locations, zones, quantities, species) and failure to comply with a mooring, vessel, facility or equipment notification approval.

Recorded permission non-compliances by type during 2018-19A pie chart shows the types of permission compliance allegations identified during 2018-19. Five non-compliance types each account for between 10 and 30 of the 136 allegations.*AIN = aircraft identification number; BIN = bareboat identification number; ENA = equipment notification approval; FNA = facility notification approval; MNA = mooring notification approval; SOW = schedule of works; VIN = vessel identification number; VNA = vessel notification approval

A number of allegations in 2018–19, and in previous years, were identified via audits or assessment processes led by the Authority (Figure 9). Targeted engagement with government partners such as Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol resulted in increased reports from these agencies in 2017–18 and 2018–19 (Figure 10).

Source of recorded permission non-compliances July 2015-June 2019A bar chart shows the method by which non-compliances have been identified since 2015, with audit processes consistently identifying most.

Environmental management charge

Managing the environmental management charge, placed on most commercial activities including visitors using tourism operations in the Marine Park, continued to be a priority for the Authority. To ensure best practice and transparent management of the revenue, the Authority provided guidance material to permittees.

In 2018–19, the standard tourist program charge per person per day remained at $6.50 and was $3.25 for part-day tours of less than three hours. All tourism operators were notified that the full-day charge will increase to $7.00 as of 1 April 2020 and to $3.50 for the part-day charge.

During the reporting period, the Authority undertook 1010 environmental management charge administrative compliance actions (see Figure 11).

Each quarter, there are between 608 and 634 permit holders with permissions that include environmental management charge obligations — most of whom (92 per cent) meet their obligations within the legislated time frame (one month following the end of the quarter). Permit holders who have received one late payment penalty generally pay on time thereafter and do not receive another penalty. Of those who received multiple late payment penalties, most received only one further penalty.

Administrative actions taken for environmental management charge non-compliance 2011-12 to 2018-19Bar graph shows the number of times each of the six different actions (that can be taken when environmental management charge non-compliance occurs) have been applied since 2011-12.

Service level standards

From 4 October 2017, service level standards outlined in the Permission System Service Charter came into effect with the other improvements to the permissions system. To track progress on the principles outlined in the charter, the Authority committed to the service level standards outlined in Table 5. Decisions on applications continue to be made as efficiently as possible within existing resources.

Permissions system and service level standards for 2018–19

Service level standard


Assessments and decisions

Mean (since 4 October 2017)

Average time to provide written acknowledgement of receiving properly made application (standard: 10 business days)

5.16 business days

Routine: average time for decision (standard: 25 business days)

17.8 business days

Tailored: average time to send a request for further information (standard: 30 business days from a properly made application)

23.89 business days

Tailored: average time for decision (standard: 50 business days from a properly made application)

40.55 business days

Environmental management charge (EMC) obligations

Performance measure

Send reminders within two weeks of the end of each quarter for those permission holders that are yet to finalise their EMC obligations


Send intention to suspend notices to those permission holders that have not complied with EMC obligations within one month of the EMC payment becoming due


Send suspension and late payment penalty notices to permission holders who fail to remit their EMC obligations within legislated timeframes


Ensure plans, policies guidelines and information regarding EMC obligations are easily accessible through the Authority’s website


Permission compliance

Performance measure

Ensure plans, policies guidelines and information regarding permission compliance are easily accessible through the Authority’s website

Permission compliance external webpage went live on 3 November 2017 with updates ongoing

Publish on the Authority’s website (by 1 August each financial year) the priority areas for auditing and monitoring

Compliance priorities for 2018–19 available on external website

Cost Recovery

To fulfill Australian Government requirements outlined in its charging framework and cost recovery guidelines, the Authority updated its cost recovery implementation statement. This outlines the Authority’s current cost recovery measures for permit application and administration fees. This updated statement was approved by the accountable authority and published on the Authority’s website.

The statement is limited to justifying existing cost recovery arrangements. As required under the Australian Government’s charging framework and cost recovery guidelines, it does not provide a review of these arrangements or seek to identify improvements. Permissions system fees were last reviewed to align with the commencement of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003.

The Authority intends to update the statement each calendar year following tabling of its annual report in Parliament. Updates will include audited financial details and consumer price index increases in permission system fees that take effect annually in January.

Management of defence activities

The Authority maintained a strong working relationship with the Australian Department of Defence throughout the 2018–19 reporting year.

A memorandum of understanding with the Department of Defence fosters a collaborative approach to the management of defence exercises in the Marine Park. In December 2018, the Authority hosted the annual general meeting between the Department of Defence and other regulators providing opportunities for planning and scoping of new ideas for ongoing management of defence exercises.

Staff provided advice to the Department of Defence on ways to avoid or minimise impacts from several defence operations and exercises that occurred in the Marine Park. These included the joint Australian and United States training activity, Talisman Sabre and Exercise Wallaby, and an annual training exercise undertaken by the Singapore defence forces in Shoalwater Bay.

Management of port activities

The Authority continued to implement the memorandum of understanding with the Queensland Ports Association. This included attending two ports forums, which involved meetings with all Reef ports, relevant Australian (Department of the Environment and Energy) and Queensland (Department of Environment and Science and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries) government regulators.

Coordination with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

The Authority continued to implement the 2009 memorandum of understanding with the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy in relation to the integration and application of the EPBC Act and Marine Park Act.

This memorandum helps integrate and streamline application and assessment processes when approvals and permissions are required under both Acts by establishing agreed-to administrative arrangements. In 2018–19, the Authority advised the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy on compliance matters in relation to pre-referrals, referrals and approved projects.

Reef Management System

The Reef Management System is a database designed to provide simple and seamless functionality to manage permissions for all activities occurring within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The system allows staff and external permission holders to manage a range of legislative and regulatory requirements.

The system is regularly upgraded to support and streamline the assessment of applications for permissions, with the intent that key documents including permits, assessment reports and cover letters be populated automatically from the database. Key improvements realised in 2018–19 included the management of post-permit requirements such as due date reminders and coordinating referrals and delegated approval steps through the system. Capturing these inputs, checks and requirements in a single, interrogative system met recommendations one to three of the ANAO 2016 review and increased compliance with the National Archives of Australia’s Digital Continuity 2020 Policy.

Permits Online, the external interface of the Reef Management System, was introduced in October 2017. Improvements continue to be made to the Permits Online system through internal and external user feedback, including a mechanism to pay permit application assessment fees and lodge required reports. An average of 94 per cent of all correctly lodged applications were received via Permits Online.

During the reporting period, 23 vessel notification approvals and one aircraft notification approval were managed via Permits Online. Of the post-permit requirements, one environmental management plan, six moorings maintenance certificates and 24 research reports were submitted using Permits Online.

The Authority is developing an integrated permissions compliance module in the Reef Management System to streamline data management; capture allegations, investigation and action processes; and meet recommendations four and five of the ANAO 2016 review report. A suite of updated procedures, templates and documents were implemented on 1 April 2019 to reflect the commencement of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 2019.

Pre-prepared documents were integrated into workflows for applications received from 1 April 2019 onwards.

A review of all current tourism permits was undertaken in June 2019. This identified which current permits would fit within the parameters of the routine tourism and charter permit upon renewal. The integrity of data held in the Reef Management System was also checked against the permit document and updated where necessary.

A newly developed ‘continuation module’ in Permits Online will display currently permitted activities and provide the opportunity for permit holders to apply to continue with the same activities and locations, request changes appropriate to their permission type, or nominate for a routine permit if eligible. The review is expected to result in the number of routine tourism and charter permits increasing by aproximately 30 per cent when they are due for continuation.

Risk-based solutions to permissions

Planning of risk-based permissions system improvements was incorporated into the Policy and Planning Strategic Roadmap.

A detailed project plan, including a supplementary streamlining permissions roadmap, was developed in consultation with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. Key achievements included approving two new routine permits for commercial research operations and the removal of crown-of-thorns starfish and Drupella species. A review of permit conditions was also initiated, with the completion of two condition review workshops held with permissions staff from the Authority and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services to establish a joint process for the review of all standard permit conditions. This work will continue during 2019–20.

Marine Park compliance

   1035 trip reports comprising 2224 activities and 3655 events such as sightings, public contacts, incidents and information reports.   Delivered 1581 vessel days at sea across the program’s 20 vessels. The two primary vessels, Reef Ranger and Reef Heron, recorded 293 and 69 days, respectively.   Supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to return to country, with Traditional Owners spending 685 person days on program vessels in the World Heritage Area.   Seven percent of the program’s dedicated compliance days were delivered with Indigenous Land and Sea Rangers.   Progressed the construction of the new 24-metre vessel Reef Resilience.

Reef Joint Field Management Program

The Reef Joint Field Management Program is delivered by the Authority and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. It provides practical on‑ground actions aimed at protecting and maintaining well-functioning marine and island ecosystems, and supports ecotourism opportunities and commercial industries. The program’s core activities include delivering conservation actions, monitoring ecological and heritage values, responding to incidents, educating and engaging with marine parks users and upholding compliance.

In 2017–18, the program was the beneficiary of Australian and Queensland government budget announcements to meet additional funding recommended in the Periodic Review Report 2017 prepared by the Field Management Strategy Group. The funding was staged to enable considered and sustainable expansion from a joint base funding commitment of more than $17 million to more than $38 million by 2021–22, with a commensurate increase in staff from 115 to around 186 people.

Compliance with Marine Park and other environmental legislation in the World Heritage Area is undertaken and coordinated by the Reef Joint Field Management Program. The program delivers a risk-based compliance program designed to target non‑compliance in the areas with the highest threats to the integrity, health and resilience of the World Heritage Area. It delivers a suite of compliance activities, including surveillance, investigation and administration, in partnership with other government agencies such as QPWS, Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol, Queensland Water Police and Maritime Border Command.

A total of 821 dedicated compliance patrol vessel days, nine land-based days and 98 days of targeted chartered aerial surveillance were achieved during 2018–19. A total of 50 per cent of the dedicated compliance days were undertaken during known high-risk periods for non-compliant recreational fishing, a significant priority for the program given the ongoing high number of recreational fishing offences (Figure 13) and apparent complacency and negligence among recreational fishers around zoning compliance. The increased detection of recreational fishing offences may be attributed to the program’s risk-based intelligence-led focus, with greater targeting of compliance efforts.

Trend in recreational fishing offencesBar graph depicts the trend in numbers of fishing offences since 2009-10 for both Commonwealth and Queensland state. Numbers indicate a decreasing trend for the first three years then rises sharply and and indicates an overall increasing trend in numbers.Note: orange bars indicate Commonwealth offences; blue bars indicate the number of Queensland (State) offences

Analysis of performance against purpose

Policy and planning

The development of the Policy and Planning Strategic Roadmap by a dedicated Policy and Planning section enabled the Authority to undertake pre-emptive Reef-wide planning and policy work. Reporting and financial management under the Land and Sea Country Partnerships Program were also completed in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of the Environment and Energy.

Permissions system

The Authority continued the implementation of improvements towards greater transparency and consistency in the permissions system in 2018–19 as identified in the Great Barrier Reef Region Strategic Assessment Program Report in 2014 and recommended by the ANAO in 2015.

Significant measures were realised through investment in system upgrades and enhancements and streamlining of assessment processes within Permits Online and the Reef Management System, addition of new low-risk routine permit categories for commercial research, and a focus on reducing the backlog of permit applications under assessment.

Marine Park compliance

The Reef Joint Field Management Program continued to enhance its compliance efforts in 2018–19 as recommended in the Reef 2050 Plan and the Great Barrier Reef blueprint for resilience. Factors contributing to this high performance included the establishment of a second field operations team in Gladstone, recruitment of additional Authority and QPWS staff, understanding and making use of the correlation between good weather and recreational fishing activities, and targeting compliance patrols at high‑risk zones and activities.

Improving recreational fishing compliance with Marine Park zoning continues to be a priority for the program. Targeted compliance and communication campaigns were held in Seaforth during November, the Whitsunday region during the Easter 2019 holidays and Yeppoon during the June 2019 holidays. Considerable compliance effort has been directed at high‑risk periods for non‑compliant recreational fishing. The program promoted a firm approach to illegal recreational fishing with a shift to issuing infringement notices to offenders where evidentiary requirements have been met, resulting in 166 infringement notices (Figure 14).

Trends in the number of infringement notices issuedBar chart depicts the rising trend in infringement notices issued for both State and Commonwealth recreational fishing offences since 2011-12. In 2011-12 the total number of notices was 37, increasing to 166 in 2018-19.

Case study: Celebrating 40 years of joint field management

An enduring partnership between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments in managing the Great Barrier Reef was created 40 years ago when the Emerald agreement was signed by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

This document, signed 14 June 1979, created the Reef Joint Field Management Program which is funded by both the Australian and Queensland governments.

Since 1979, rangers and marine managers from these governments have joined forces to protect the iconic and vast Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Together they are the eyes and ears on the Reef, at sea, in the air and on the islands, protecting an area that is bigger than Italy and includes the most distant reaches of the World Heritage Area.

Saving vulnerable turtles and seabirds, restoring tourism infrastructure post-cyclones, monitoring crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks and ensuring zoning rules are followed are just a few of the achievements of this unique program.

Dedicated field officers and vessels are essential for protecting reefs and islands that are home to iconic plants, animals, habitats and rich cultural heritage.

Compliance patrols plays a vital role in protecting the Reef, with illegal fishing remaining one of the highest direct risks to the World Heritage Area. Through the fleet of 20 vessels, the program has the ability to travel at high speed, operate in offshore areas, and carry out night operations. A second 24-metre long-range vessel, the Reef Resilience, will soon expand patrol and incident response capacities, particularly in the southern part of the Reef.

With 40 years of experience, productive partnerships and sustainable resourcing; the Reef Joint Field Management Program is well-placed to continue to deliver this crucial and far-reaching work over the coming years to protect the iconic Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, for this generation and generations to come.