Community perspectives on gas development in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area: exploring the roles of equity and environmental stewardship concerns in shaping local attitudes

Stream: Panel 40 - Environmental Politics: From Rivers to the Sea: Local Perspectives on Resources, Environment and Justice in Eastern Australia
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


Conflicts between resource development and environmental protection are particularly apparent when development occurs in or near World Heritage sites. In the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, the rapid construction of natural gas and coal export facilities has raised challenges for decision makers seeking to manage for multiple values and needs. Among these are the needs of local communities, who are key stakeholders and are both affected by, and can affect, the course of development. This research explores local community attitudes towards gas development in the southern Great Barrier Reef. Through a survey, interviews and focus groups, the research examined how perceived impacts and risks to the local environment shape community perceptions of the industry. The findings suggest that local attitudes towards gas development in this region are shaped predominantly by community perceptions of environmental impacts and risks associated with gas development. A complex mix of factors including personal environmental values, and concerns about environmental stewardship and equity in decision making and distribution of the risks and benefits of development also contribute to shaping public attitudes. While economic benefits and social impacts are important in the lives of local people, they do not strongly influence local support for gas development in this case. These findings have important implications for public decision making processes as they suggest that, for communities near the Great Barrier Reef, the perceived impacts of gas development on the environment may overshadow the benefits of the industry.


Claudia Benham (Presenter), ANU
Claudia Benham is a PhD student at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University. Her thesis examines equity and sustainability issues related to industrial development in coastal and marine social-ecological systems, exploring aspects of distributive, procedural, interactional, spatial and temporal justice.