A positive step has been made for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) with the Hon Steven Miles releasing the Queensland Government’s response to the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce’s findings.  The full media statement is here. 

  • The Government had agreed in principle with all 10 recommendations of the Reef Taskforce.
  • The Government have agreed, or agreed in principle, to review the reef water quality targets, better communicate how everyone can improve reef water quality, use incentives to drive water quality improvements, pursue targeted regulatory approaches, develop a strategic investment plan, and simplify and strengthen Reef governance arrangements.
  • The recommendations set the stage for a bold new era of reform in water quality improvement and that is what we will deliver. The Government has allocated an additional $90 million over four years towards implementing the 10 recommendations of the Reef Taskforce.

Marsden Jacob has been working with the Taskforce as part of a consortium team headed by Alluvium evaluating costs of achieving (sediment and dissolved inorganic nitrogen) water quality targets in the Reef Plan 2050.

Our final report along with the Government response to the Reef Taskforce report and a fact sheet by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection are here.  An article penned for the Conversation about our work “The $8.2 billion water bill to clean up the Barrier Reef by 2025 – and where to start” is here.

Our work shows:

  • it will cost in the order of $8.2 billion in government and private funding to meet the maximum targets across four out of five GBR catchments and make good progress towards the maximum targets in the Wet Tropics by 2025 using current methods and prices.
  • that to meet 75 per cent of the maximum targets across all catchments would cost $3.86 billion. The first half of progress could be achieved in all catchments for just $623 million.
  • The vast bulk of that, $6.5 billion, would be required to meet the maximum 50 per cent fine sediment reduction target in the Fitzroy basin. And a further $1.1 billion is needed to reach the same maximum target in the Burdekin.
  • Reducing nutrient is a relatively small component of the overall costs. The ambitious nutrient reduction targets could be met across four out of five catchments (with good progress in the Wet Tropics) for $391 million.

Final targets for each catchment will be developed later this year based on our and other work. Our costing work will allow new costings to be quickly developed once final targets are determined.

The cost-effectiveness framework our team developed to calculate the cost of various policy actions and their delivery of environmental outcomes for the reef will become the benchmark for future investment evaluation.  Our work provides a consistent and transparent investment framework that will support better decision-making at a regional scale into the future.

Importantly (as noted by the peer review panel) our work confirms those measures prioritised by the Taskforce are also the most cost-effective and the investment pathways are on the right track, even if they have a long way to go.

“Targeting the most cost-effective measures allows us to get most of the way towards the targets at a fraction of the full $8.2 billion cost today; giving us valuable time to find cheaper ways to deliver those expensive last steps in improving water quality.”

The framework we developed for the GBR can be readily applied to other Natural Resource Management investment decisions.

Contact Jeremy Cheesman in our Melbourne for more information on how Marsden Jacob can assist you with these decisions.

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