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Social values of waterways quantified.

Social values of waterways quantified.

A new survey has revealed local waterways are a key reason for people choosing to live in the Wet Tropics. It’s the first time the social, cultural, and economic values of our rivers, estuaries and reefs have been quantified, with the data being used to engage the community in stewardship activities.

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Results showed a very strong acknowledgement of the non-monetary values of waterways.

The surveys were undertaken by CSIRO, Wet Tropics Waterways and four other Regional Report Card Partnerships across the Great Barrier Reef. A total of 1,877 residents were surveyed between Gladstone and Cooktown, including over 500 in the Wet Tropics. Information was collected on the uses, benefits, and values of waterways, as well as perceptions of threats, stewardship and governance.

James Donaldson, Executive Officer of Wet Tropics Waterways, said the results from the surveys revealed some surprising results.

“We were a little surprised that when people were asked for a word to describe our local waterways the most common answer was ‘crocodiles’! But apart from that, the results showed that there was a very strong acknowledgement of the non-monetary values of waterways. Experiencing nature, supporting biodiversity and recreational activities like fishing, diving, and sailing make them extremely valuable to people who live here,” he said.

“We also found that many people feel a sense of responsibility to contribute to waterway stewardship, but time and not knowing what to do, prevent them from getting involved. This is useful information for us as an organisation since part of our role is highlighting some of the activities that people can participate in to look after our waterways like planting trees, beach clean ups and citizen science projects like MangroveWatch.”

Dr Matt Curnock from the CSIRO said the new data complements existing datasets from the Social and Economic Long-Term Monitoring Program (SELTMP) that largely focus on the Great Barrier Reef.

“This new information fills an important knowledge gap around how people use, value and perceive waterways in the Great Barrier Reef catchments. It also contributes directly to the objectives in the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan.”

Independent Chair of Wet Tropics Waterways, Dr Greg Vinall, said the information will be used by the Regional Report Card Partnerships in several ways.

“The partnerships will use this baseline information to understand the human drivers of waterway health, to engage the community in a more informed and purposeful way and to measure changes in perceptions and values over time.”

Explore the full human dimensions survey results.

This work was funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, and is being delivered in partnership with CSIRO, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program.

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