Marine Parks legislation: Another Coalition assault on environment

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The NSW Opposition today slammed the O'Farrell Government's plans to scrap zoning plans at the Solitary Islands and Jervis Bay Marine Parks.

Shadow Minister for the Environment & Climate Change, Luke Foley, said the Government's move will reduce the sanctuary zones in the Solitary Islands Marine Park from 19 per cent to 12 per cent of the park, and reintroduce commercial prawn trawling.

"Government moves to reverse the Marine Park zoning plans wind back marine protection and are in breach of the Coalition's election policy," said Mr Foley.

"They promised an immediate scientific audit, but what we are getting is an immediate assault on our marine environment."

The zoning plans came into effect earlier this year following a two-year review and extensive community consultation.

"Barry O'Farrell promised to protect our environment in his 'Contract with NSW'. In government, he's letting his National Party ministers and his Shooters Party allies savage the conservation gains achieved under the previous Labor Government.

"Is this the deal to ensure Shooter's Party support in the Legislative Council for the slashing of the Solar Bonus Scheme?" asked Mr Foley. This move adds to the growing list of O'Farrell Government's attacks on the environment, including:

  • Dumping the Coalition's Shadow Environment Minister Catherine Cusack, a staunch opponent of the Shooters & Fishers Party's push for hunting in National Parks
  • Abolition of the Department of Environment, Climate Change & Water
  • Handing responsibility for marine parks and catchment authorities management to the Department of Primary Industries, in direct breach of the Coalition's election policy
  • Lifting of bans on high risk fishing methods that were designed to protect the critically endangered grey nurse shark
  • Retrospectively slashing the Solar Bonus Scheme tariff to 110,000 households who have invested in a clean energy future.

"The conservation gains of recent decades are being trashed by Barry O'Farrell's Government," said Mr Foley.

Fact Sheet:

The O'Farrell Government will today disallow the Marine Parks (Zoning Plans) Amendment (Solitary Islands and Jervis Bay Marine Parks) Regulation 2011.

The effect is to:

  • Reverse the zoning plans for the Sanctuary Islands and Jervis Bay Marine Parks, prior to the Government's promised independent scientific audit.
  • The Zoning Plan Reviews took place in 2009, with extensive community consultation in 2010. The review of the Sanctuary Island Marine Park attracted 6519 submissions, and the review of the Jervis Bay Marine Park attracted 3064 submissions. (See www.mpa.nsw.gov.au)
  • The Solitary Islands Marine Park, off Coffs Harbour, protects over 550 species of reef fish and 90 species of hard coral. The zoning plan reduced the area in the park where prawn trawling is permitted, and added several endangered species to the list prohibited to be taken from the park. 81% of the marine park remained available for recreational fishing.
  • The Jervis Bay Marine Park is home to a unique mix of species including whales, dolphins, Little Penguin, fur seals and the endangered grey nurse shark. The zoning plan adjusted sanctuary zones to better protect intermediate reef habitats, and removed commercial trawling and lift netting from the park. 80% of the marine park remained available for recreational fishing.
  • The Liberals & Nationals election policy promised to "immediately commission an independent scientific audit of the effectiveness of existing zoning arrangements in meeting domestic and international commitments to the conservation of marine biodiversity". Not a word of any intention to wind back habitat protection zones prior to their audit.
  • Their election policy also stated that "the audit will examine which lead agency (Fisheries or the Department of Environment and Climate Change) is the most appropriate to manage Marine Parks". They didn't wait for their audit on that one either, putting Marine Parks into DPI on day one, and abolishing the Environment Department for good measure.