Effective Public Participation is Fundamental for Marine Conservation—Lessons from a Large-Scale MPA
The Representative Areas Program (RAP) was, at the time, the most comprehensive process of community involvement and participatory planning for any environmental issue in Australia. The RAP was a key component of the widely acclaimed rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and although completed in 2003, many lessons learned are still relevant today. This paper provides an analysis of the comprehensive public participation program that significantly influenced the final planning outcome. It provides insights into a fundamental component of effective marine planning, assessing what worked well and what did not in terms of public engagement. Some aspects of the public participation program were innovative, and some were more effective than others. The outcome was one-third of the Marine Park was declared as highly protected no-take zones in 2004, with the remainder of the park also zoned to provide lower levels of protection. The methods used to engage the public and the 25 lessons discussed in this paper should be of interest for practitioners, policy makers and academics elsewhere aiming for “good practice” approaches to achieve environmental conservation.