Report Card FAQ

What period of time does the report card cover?

The report card is based on data received in the financial year prior to release. Hence the 2017-18 Pilot Report Card contains data from the 2017-18 financial year. 

Why is there a lag between data collection and release of the report card?

In preparation for a report card, data needs be collated and validated, and undergoes comprehensive analysis before it is ready to be released in the report card. This takes six to nine months, depending on the data set. Time is also needed to review the over-arching program design, as well as quality assure the synthesis of the data used. This process is undertaken by both the Technical Working Group, and the Reef Independent Science Panel.

The Partnership is committed to minimising the time between data collection and report card release, to improve the timeliness and relevance of the report card. Our 2017-18 Pilot report card is due for release in May 2019.

How did you choose which data to use?

Priority aquatic ecosystem indicators that are suitable for measuring waterway health were selected based on the relevant values and pressures in Townsville, and the priorities of the Partnership.  Each indicator has a relevant benchmark that reflects what value that indicator should have to equate to a healthy (or good) condition.  Regional data for each indicator is compared to this benchmark using a specific methodology to produce a score. These methodologies have been determined by scientists in our Technical Working Group panel and reviewed and endorsed by the Reef Independent Science Panel. Scores for each indicator correspond to one of five condition grades: Very Good (A), Good (B), Moderate (C), Poor (D), Very Poor (E). Scores for each indicator are rolled up into categories and indices, and these scores are used to produce an overall score for an individual reporting zone in the Region if there is sufficient data for each indicator to allow for this aggregation.

The Technical Working Group (TWG) has worked to ensure the report card indicators and scoring methods are based on the best available science, are locally relevant, reflect changes to waterway health, and are consistent with other report card programs across Queensland where applicable.

What is the difference between an indicator, indicator category and index?

Indicators are the measured feature in the ecosystem (e.g. particulate nitrogen, or dissolved oxygen), or the benefits derived from the ecosystem (e.g. fresh local seafood).  An indicator category is generated by combining one or more related indicators (e.g. the category ‘nutrients’ is made up of particulate nitrogen and particulate phosphorus); an index is generated by combining related categories (e.g. the index ‘Water’ is made up of nutrients, water clarity, and chlorophyll-a). The overall score is generated by one or more indices from the environmental condition categories (e.g. water & biodiversity), or the benefits categories (e.g. community & economy).   Indicator categories and indices are displayed in a ‘coaster’ to demonstrate which indicators are aggregated to produce category and index scores. 


Why are there so many grey areas in the report card?

Grey areas indicate where there is a data gap. There are a number of reasons why there are data gaps in the report card. Importantly, data used for the report card must be collected and analysed in a scientifically robust manner. In some cases, data may be available on a particular indicator, but a significant body of work may still be required to ensure that it is reported in a suitable format for the report card (e.g. economic indicators). In other circumstances, there might be multiple programs collecting data and work needs to be done to ensure data between programs is consistent and comparable. However, for a number of areas in the Townsville Dry Tropics region, there are no monitoring programs in place and the condition of the indicators is completely unknown (e.g. water quality in the Halifax Bay Coast / Estuary area).

The Partnership is committed to improving the region’s report card by filling data gaps and subsequently providing a better understanding of the ecological condition of the region’s aquatic ecosystems, and the benefits that the community derives from our waterways and the Reef. 

What are the rules around scoring the data?

The amount of data (sample size) needed to obtain an indicator score is considered on a case-by-case basis by data providers and the experts in the Technical Working Group. If the sample size is considered inadequate the indicator will not be scored.

To aggregate indicators into category and index scores, decision rules were developed for the minimum proportion of information required:

  • ≥      50% of measured indicators to generate the indicator category score 
  • ≥      60% of indicator categories to generate an index score 

Overall scores for reporting zones are presented in the report card, even if not all indices are available.

Why should some results be viewed with caution?

Where confidence is not high (a score of three or lower), results should be viewed with caution. An example of this is for water quality in the freshwater river basins, which has a confidence score of three. This is because the overall score for water quality is derived from only one site per river basin. Even though samples are taken monthly from these sites, caution should be used when interpreting results as the site sampled might not represent the rest of the waterways in the basin (for example water quality in the upper sections of a waterway may be in better condition than in the lower section where a sample site is located and vice versa). For more information see our confidence FAQ.