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Survey Design

The Social and Economic Long Term Monitoring Program (SELTMP) for the Great Barrier Reef was designed in 2011 to ensure both policy relevance and science credibility. To ensure policy relevance we established working groups with each of the major sectors; commercial fishing, marine tourism, coastal communities, recreation, and ports and shipping. We also instituted a group for cross-cutting issues of drivers of change and wellbeing. The working groups comprised representatives and technical experts from community, government, research and industry. To increase policy relevance, minimise redundancy and maximize end-user engagement, we also facilitated a high level steering committee and a scientific and stakeholder advisory panel. Each of these groups were instrumental in selecting and prioritising the variables and indicators included in the program.

To ensure science credibility, we modified the DPSIR framework used in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) to guide the process of indicator choice. As an established conceptual scientific model that focused on drivers, pressures, states, impacts on and responses of systems, the MA framework helped ensure the program results would align with other data sets of similar intent and helped establish program credibility in the eyes of stakeholders. The framework enabled data needs and gaps to be identified, and guided the process to decide which indicators from the advisory panels would endure. The framework is presented in Marshall et al. (2016).

Once information gaps were identified and indicators established, a master survey, or survey template, was designed that included all the data needs in a generic survey form. The template survey was then used to develop five separate surveys that targeted each of the main user groups of the Great Barrier Reef: national residents (i.e. Australians living outside of the Reef region), coastal residents (i.e. residents living along the coast adjacent to the Reef), tourists, tourism operators and commercial fishers. The first question in the survey remains as asking participants to list the first words that some to mind when they think of the Great Barrier Reef. Most survey questions were presented as a statement and were based on other studies where possible (Marshall et al. 2017). Respondents were asked to rate how strongly they agreed with each statement using a ten-point rating scale. A ten-point rating scale was considered appropriately sensitive to detect subtle changes through time. Ten-point scales are also widely recognisable within the community and easy to ‘teach’. The lack of a mid-point allowed for better interpretation rather than; undecided, unknown, depends, sometimes, not sure, neutral, cannot be bothered, etc. (38). If respondents were unsure of their views about a statement, they were able to leave their response as blank. An initial version of the 2017 survey was pilot-tested with around 5-20 people within each user group to ensure that the questions were readable and unambiguous. The final versions of each survey can be found here.

For Resident survey click here Resident Survey

For Tourist survey click here Tourist Survey

For Commercial Fisher survey click here Commercial Fishers

For Tourism Operator survey click here Tourism Operator

Survey Administration           

A mixed methods approach was used to better target each stakeholder group, and ethics approval was obtained through CSIRO for all stakeholder groups (CSSHREC 050/17). National residents will be surveyed in September 2017 via an online research panel provided by an external marketing company (Pollinate). Pollinate has access to a geographically and demographically representative sample of Australians who are prepared to complete surveys in exchange for online credit points that could be converted into gifts or goods. We are expecting to achieve 1,000 completed surveys. The number of questions that can be posed to this group however is considerably reduced from the main survey. Only 7-8 key questions will be included in the National survey, and these are yet to be reviewed (and are not included in this report). GBRMPA will have opportunity to review the questions prior to administration.

Coastal residents and tourists were surveyed using face-to-face methods across each of the main population centres along the Great Barrier Reef (Cairns, Mission Beach, Ingham, Townsville, Airlie Beach, Mackay, Gladstone, Yeppoon and Bundaberg). Residents were defined as people who live within the Reef catchment (east of Great Dividing Range, from Bundaberg to Cape York), while tourists lived anywhere outside of that area, whether that be elsewhere in Australia or internationally. We employed and trained 46 casual staff and deployed them to public places such as parks, shopping centres, market places, airports, marinas, sporting areas, festivals, information centres, museums, jetties, caravan parks, lookouts, etc. We randomly approached strangers and aimed to reproduce a sample population representative of people across categories such as age, gender, ethnic background and occupation. A clear and important limitation of our sampling was a bias towards English speaking people. Interviewers were equipped with an Apple mini-iPad loaded with an iSurvey application. Surveys were completed within 1 month (29 May 2017 and 24 July). A total of 1,933 surveys were completed by residents, and 1,804 were completed by tourists, making a total of 3,737 face-to-face surveys.

Marine tourism operators and commercial fishers were interviewed by telephone and were completed on 1st Dec 2017. We were able to access these stakeholders through our own contacts databases, publicly-available data, and personal contacts. We surveyed 94 tourism operators and 92 commercial fishers (fishers were in possession of at least one license with access to the Reef). Tourism operators were contacted by email, and commercial fishers received a letter in the mail to their home address, and invited to participate in the study. They were then called on either their mobile phone or landline and an appointment was made to undertake the survey where permission was granted. We obtained a response rate of 63% (94 completed + 55 declined) for tourism operators able to be contacted. Our fisher contact list only contained landline numbers and home addresses, and given that the database was initiated in 1999, many of the numbers were disconnected. We think that commercial fishers have shifted from using landline numbers to mobile phone numbers. We highlight that if we are to survey commercial fishers in 2019, then the contacts database will be need to be updated. The response rate for commercial fishers was 40% (91 accepted +141 declined). These numbers are reduced from 2013.


Data Analysis and Presentation

Data are provided as percentages of the sample population, means and standard errors, for each stakeholder group. Analysis by NRM region is also provided in this report. Readers who prefer an analysis by age, gender, NRM, or LGA may access the data and select for each group accordingly.

In depth social analysis of the data is not presented here, as the main purpose of this report is to report on the current condition of the human dimension with the region. It is anticipated that science papers, with in-depth analyses, will emerge from the database and be ready for referencing in time for Outlook reporting in 2019. Details are provided in the discussion section of this report.


Secondary Data Collection

In 2013, SELTMP presented data from existing regional datasets where possible to meet data needs and avoid redundancy. This meant reviewing the published literature or developing new liaisons for data sharing. Where existing data did not exist, data were collected through the SELTMP surveys (primary data). The bringing together of the secondary (existing) and primary data sources was an important feature of the program enabling integration across social and economic datasets, accessibility of a range of datasets, interpretation of existing data within a natural resource management context, and a, “one-stop shop” of social and economic data for Reef managers. This function is now being provided by RIMReP, where Gooch et al. (2017) and Williams et al. (2017) provide the existing data.