Reef Rescue Results: 8 Years of Reef Funding

August 5, 2018

Did you know that farmers have been investing millions of dollars into improving the quality of water flowing off the land into the Great Barrier Reef?

New figures show farming businesses in the Wet Tropics region have more than matched Australian Government Reef Trust funding for grants designed to reduce sediment, nutrient and pesticide run-off to the Great Barrier Reef through changed farming practices.

From 2008 to 2016, the Australian Government funded $28.1 million of grants to facilitate changes in farming practices. The program was designed to leverage investment by asking farming businesses to match grant funding from their own pockets – and the results show that farmers invested $1.32 for every dollar they received.

The 938 farming businesses that were part of the program collectively added $37.1 million over eight years, bringing the total sum to over $65 million.

This investment achieved some significant results:

• Over 80% of the Wet Tropics agricultural industry area received grant funding
• 564 landholders participated in training courses
• Farmers operating at the highest levels of best management practice increased 13 fold

As an example, 48% of sugarcane growers across the region received a grant. These growers manage 77% of the industry’s production land in the Wet Tropics. The results included a shift to more sustainable practices:

Lessons learnt

The Reef Rescue program removed cost as a barrier to change for many farmers, and was well-received by the agricultural industry.

Some of the key findings were:

  • The grants program increased the chances of a landholder achieving practice change by 2 to 27 times compared to the baseline of voluntary practice change.
  • Grants were an effective vehicle for leveraging private investment.
  • The grants impacted large segments of the agricultural industry, with 80% of all industry land area receiving one or more grants.
  • A high proportion of the banana industry has accessed incentive grant funding in Reef Rescue rounds 1-8 to improve on-farm practices.

Another significant lesson that has been learned has been the importance of cross-industry partnerships.

Prior to Reef Rescue, the many organisations providing best-management practice advice to farmers in the Wet Tropics area worked independently and with no integration, which made the job of delivering these programs effectively very challenging.

This was backed up by the Great Barrier Reef Scientific Taskforce in 2015 who also identified the lack of coordination of Australia’s reef programs as a risk factor undermining its success.

Terrain initially recognised the need for cross-industry partnerships in 2008 and developed a new partnership model that was utilised in the delivery of the Reef Rescue program in the Wet Tropics. Since then we have continued to lead collaborative efforts to deliver new reef programs including the Queensland Government’s Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project and the Australian Government’s Reef Trust III program.

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