Social & Economic

Our Vibrant community

The vibrant communities of the Wet Tropics are proud of their region and its two unique World Heritage Areas. They understand the need to ensure the waterways and lands are looked after to sustain their prosperity and wonderful lifestyles into the future.

A snapshot of the social and economic strengths of the Wet Tropics region for 2014-15 was provided in the Pilot Report Card.

socio_economicwebSource: Social and Economic Long Term Monitoring Program, Tourism Tropical North Queensland, Department of Agriculture & Fisheries, Ports North, Australian Prawn Farmers Association

To help understand the social context of the region, the Social and Economic Long Term Monitoring Program (SELTMP) conducted a survey in 2013 capturing the use and dependency, wellbeing and cultural context of the Wet Tropics region in relation to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The key findings for the region are:

Use and dependency

The people of the Wet Tropics use and are dependent on the Great Barrier Reef in many different ways including employment, recreation and cultural and occupational identity. For example in 2013:

  • 96% of residents had visited the Reef in the previous 12 months, and did so typically on a monthly basis. 68% ventured beyond the beach.
  • The Reef plays an important economic role in the lives of Wet Tropics people. For example 31% of local residents relied on the Reef for at least part of their household income.
  • Some (23%) marine tourism businesses were small with a turnover of less than $100,000 per year, whilst 30% of marine tourism businesses were large and earned more than $1M per year.
  • Many (60%) commercial fishing businesses were small with a turnover of less than $100,000 per year whilst 20% had a turnover between $500,000 to $1M per year.
  • 88% of marine tourism operators and 91% of commercial fishers considered their job to be a lifestyle.

Well-being in the Wet Tropics


People derive wellbeing from the Reef in various ways through feeling secure about its future and continued ability to provide cultural and economic opportunities, through enjoying recreational and employment endeavours, and possessing feelings of empowerment in its management.

We found that people in the Wet Tropics region derived a great deal of wellbeing from the Reef. For example in 2013:

  • The Reef is part of the identity of 63% of local residents**, where 22% of residents rated their identity with the Reef as a 10/10*.
  • 79%** of residents were satisfied with their experience of the Reef, of which 37% of residents gave a rating of 10/10.
  • Residents rated the contribution that the Reef makes to their quality of life and wellbeing as 7.5. The most often response was 10/10.
  • Residents rated the value of the GBR in supporting a desirable and active way of life as 8.38, with the most often response being 10/10.
  • Residents rated the value of the GBR as an asset for the economy of the region as 8.9, with the most common response being 10/10.
  • Residents rated their optimism about the future of the Reef as 6.3* and their confidence in Reef management was rated 6.0/10*.
  • 75% of fishers and 61% marine tourism operators** were optimistic about the condition and future of the Reef (mean=6.3/10).
  • Residents supported the rules and regulations that affect their access and use of the Reef, and felt that they had fair access to the Reef compared to other user groups.
  • 86%** of residents felt that the Reef had outstanding beauty where 58% rated its beauty as 10/10.
  • 67% of local residents were extremely proud that the Reef was a World Heritage Area, where 63% rated their WHA pride as 10/10.

* on a scale of 1-10
**(rated as a 8, 9 or 10 on a scale of 1-10)

The cultural context

The People of the Wet Tropics Region have developed a close relationship with the Great Barrier Reef, and understanding a bit more about people helps Reef managers to make decisions. For example in 2013:

  • The average age of participants in the SELTMP survey within the Wet Tropics region was 41.8 years. Many had lived in the area for a long time (average 18 years), but typically only for a relatively short time (most commonly 3 years).
  • 21% of residents were employed in government, health or education.
  • 13% were retired and 11% were employed in a trade.
  • Most households (28%) earned a pre-tax income between $20-60,000, and 23% earned more than $100,000.
  • Residents rated the value of the Reef in the following order:
    • outstanding beauty (9/10)
    • support of biodiversity (9/10)
    • as an economic asset (9/10)
    • support of a desirable and active lifestyle (8/10)
    • the opportunity to make scientific discoveries (8/10)
    • attracting people from all over the world (8/10)
    • quality of life (8/10)
    • provision of seafood (7/10).
  • Residents would be personally affected if the health of the Reef declined and thought that they could make a personal difference to improving the health of the Reef.
  • Residents wanted to learn more about the condition of the Reef and thought the top three threats to the Reef in the region were: the government, mining, and Crown of Thorns starfish.
  • 18% of fishers and 32% of marine tourism operators thought the Reef was seriously threatened by climate change, and 32% of fishers and 49% of tourism operators thought the Reef was seriously threatened by water quality.

More information

For more detailed information about the Social and Economic values of the region please refer to this document:

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