Purpose, policy, and practice: intent and reality for on-ground management and outcomes of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Kerrie A. Fraser*, Vanessa M. Adams, Robert L. Pressey, John M. Pandolfi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Notwithstanding a complex array of international, national, and local policies designed to protect biodiversity and manage human activities, the condition of Australia's Great Barrier Reef has been deteriorating. This trend indicates that policy settings are inadequate or the right policies have been prescribed but not effectively implemented. This study aimed to determine which policies influenced on-ground management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and Marine Park, how they were implemented, and the challenges encountered by practitioners in applying policies. The research required content analysis of policy instruments relevant to various jurisdictional levels, and surveys and interviews with 19 key informants across jurisdictions and agencies. This study found that policy intent is not automatically translated into practice: international agreements are interpreted and reinterpreted along the policy pathway to on-ground management and, consequently, the aspirations of these agreements can be frustrated and their effectiveness diluted. Due to limits of jurisdictional responsibility, practitioners within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority are constrained in influencing key factors that impact on their capacity to address threats and manage outcomes. The major policy gap affecting management outcomes was the absence of a mechanism with which to manage cumulative impacts responsible for deterioration of key ecosystem processes and biodiversity. These findings highlight that effective policy implementation is a challenging task, limited by gaps between intentions and outcomes, inconsistencies, and conflicting agendas. An improved understanding of the policy implementation process and the policy-practitioner relationship is essential to enhancing links between policy and on-ground management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-311
Number of pages11
JournalMarine Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Marine protected area
  • Marine environmental policy
  • policy implementation
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • international agreements
  • cumulative impacts


Dive into the research topics of 'Purpose, policy, and practice: intent and reality for on-ground management and outcomes of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this