Abstract: Transformative environmental policy reform at a system-wide scale has received minimal attention as an academic research focus. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003, released in July 2004, was the outcome of such a transformative policy reform. The Representative Areas Program (or RAP as it became known), was a highly publicised and extremely contentious program of policy reform over five years. The resulting multiple-use zoning plan covered the entire GBR and included a revised network of no-take zones (known locally as green zones), protecting the full range of biodiversity in zones representing all habitat types. Prior to this research, no comprehensive assessment had been undertaken of the actual policy process or assessed the key determinants that led to the successful policy reform. To investigate this real-world example of environmental policy reform, I conducted in-depth interviews with GBR policy actors across multiple levels and sectors. This presentation will focus on five research questions that I addressed, namely:
- the role of science and scientists in the RAP/rezoning
- the role of leadership (at all levels/sectors, not just within GBRMPA)
- the role of public engagement with the GBR community; how did that engagement occur?
- the broad political context and governance around the RAP/rezoning
- an overall assessment of the level of success of the RAP/rezoning.
My research has contributed to the historical record while providing valuable lessons for future environmental planning and conservation policy reform.