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Towards a regional marine plan for the south-east

The national oceans advisory group - Australia's oceans policy

National Oceans Office, Hobart June 2000

Permission is granted to reproduce part or all of this publication
(with appropriate acknowledgment) for non-commercial purposes.

Speech by Veronica Sakell

Director, National Oceans Office

Minister Hill, Dr Reichelt: thank you for your welcome: and thanks too to Mike Young for his excellent keynote address.

I am indeed excited, and privileged, to join the Commonwealth Government as the first Director of the National Oceans Office. This is day three on the job and I think the timing is perfect. To be part of this National Oceans Forum at the beginning of my appointment allows me to hear at first hand the issues we will all face in developing regional marine plans for Australia's oceans.

I have an eclectic professional background but principally in public policy development. I have worked for Local Government, State Government and the private sector. I have managed a variety of public policy issues where integrating industry, environmental and community interests has been paramount in achieving an acceptable outcome.

My public sector experience is extensive. I worked in the Tasmanian Department of Premier and Cabinet for 8 years and I am used to negotiating and managing competing interests. I headed up the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement process. Working at the centre of the RFA has given me highly relevant experience in integrating competing interests in the allocation of natural resources across sectors, while maintaining acceptable levels of environmental protection.

In my recent position in the private sector, I worked on community relations issues for a large company whose business interests were mining and forestry. The company had extensive natural resource management responsibilities and difficult community and environmental issues to face.

I hope to bring a fresh perspective to implementing Australia's Oceans Policy, drawing on my recent experiences.

The focus for this National Oceans Forum is the Regional Marine Planning Process. The first plan to be developed under Australia's Oceans Policy will be that for the South-east Region. To be successful, any such plan needs:

I am very excited about the challenges set by my new appointment and the National Oceans Office because we are launching into a venture that is, on a world scale, new and ambitious. Regional marine planning has the potential to protect and develop our ocean resources. It can do this through an ordered process of assessing what is needed to maintain the long-term health of marine ecosystems while supporting the development potential of the marine industry sectors.

As Director, I see my responsibility as being to ensure that the National Oceans Office efficiently and effectively delivers a credible outcome. Our task will be done well if we maintain the confidence of the community and those with a direct interest in the outcomes.

The National Oceans Office does not enter the Forum with a detailed recipe for regional marine planning. Australia's Oceans Policy nevertheless offers some guidance and direction and the policy is the cornerstone for the planning process. We also have as a foundation the solid work of many stakeholders that Environment Australia coordinated over the last year, including the Workshop held in Canberra in May.

The outcomes of that workshop have strongly influenced the content of this Forum. Some of the key messages from the workshop were that:

The role and involvement of State Governments is very important in this process. I would like to see the States and the Commonwealth as partners because the plans need to build on the work already done by many of the States.

We are calling on all of you today to develop your ideas and fill out the scope of the regional planning process specifically for the South-east Marine Region.

As part of your registration package you will have received the booklet An invitation to ParticipateRegional Marine Planning, Australia's South-east Marine Region. [Appendix 1]. This is the starting point for the Forum's work. In very simple terms it sets out the broad rationale for the planning process and the basic steps. I suggest you spend a little time this morning familiarising yourself with its content, as this will help you in the work ahead.

In brief - the five stages are:

Our primary task over the next three months will be to produce a Scoping Paper which will be the first major planning document for the South-east Marine Region. It will identify exactly what area and activities the Plan will cover, the key issues and interests in the Region, and the details of the public consultation process.

The function of the scoping paper will be to provide detailed information about the following:

  1. The South-east Marine Region: its broad physical, biological, economic and social characteristics, and the exact geographical areas and types of activities that the planning process will cover.
  2. Some of the possible strategic developments that may occur in, or impact on, the South-east Marine Region over the medium to long term.
  3. An assessment of the major interest groups, with an account of their objectives and preferred outcomes for the Region.
  4. An account of the detail of the later stages in the process, in particular, a structured approach to consultation and public participation.

There are some specific challenges we need to address in designing the planning process.

For example, gathering information on the environmental, economic and social values of the South-east Marine Region is not an end in itself. It must serve the purpose of assisting the planning process.

To maintain the health of the oceans ecosystem we would ideally want to know what levels of environmental change go beyond the cycles of natural variation, and then give an account of the levels of human-induced change that would threaten irreversible damage to the ecosystems that support biological diversity and related economic activities.

While we need to employ that analytical model, it must be tempered with the reality that we may not have or be able to get such direct information. In the absence of such an understanding a level of precautionary planning is called for.

Each and every one of you involved in the debate will have different views, different ways of expressing your issues and different languages and different concepts.

If we are to consult on and negotiate planning outcomes in a way that is meaningful to all players, industries, local communities and conservation interests, we need to find common ground, some joint understandings of each others' positions and a common language we can all understand.

We should then be able to assess compatibility and differences between the outcomes preferred by the various sectors. Our goal is to agree to regional outcomes even though there will be significant differences of emphasis between for example, marine ecologists and biologists on the one hand, and fishers and fisheries managers on the other, in relation to a range of relevant features of the marine region. We will all need to work very hard to develop a robust planning process.

At this point I would like to acknowledge the enormous effort and work done by various Commonwealth Government Departments in getting the Oceans Policy initiative to this stage. The work has been principally driven by Environment Australia and supported by the departments of Fisheries Forestry and Agriculture, Industry Science and Resources, and Transport and Regional Services. So I thank all the people involved for their excellent work in setting such a solid foundation which we can now build on.

In addition and in particular I would like to thank the small team in the National Oceans Office. In the past few months, they have set up the Office in Hobart from scratch, kept the Oceans Policy work moving, and last but not least, organised this Forum. I thank them most sincerely.

Finally: I hope you will enjoy the next two days and find the challenges rewarding and refreshing. I do look forward to working with all of you in the future, and to getting to know you better over the next two days.

Presentations by members of The National Oceans Advisory Group

Commodore Sam Bateman AM RAN (Rtd)

Centre for Maritime Policy, University of Wollongong

Profile of interests in the region

Core interests of the Centre for Maritime Policy in the South-east regional marine planning process lie in the development of management and legal regimes for implementing Australia’s Oceans Policy, especially for multiple uses, fisheries, marine environmental protection, and maritime regulation and enforcement (including the division of responsibility and jurisdiction between the three levels of government). Broader interests include capacity building for marine environmental management (especially human resource development through inter-disciplinary educational programs), indigenous and cultural issues, international cooperation and regional oceans policy.

Current status of activities in the region

The University of Wollongong is the only university in the southeastern coastal region of NSW and is well placed to play a leading teaching and research role in regional marine planning (RMP). Particular areas of expertise relevant to it include law of the sea, fisheries law, marine environmental law, environmental science, aquaculture, maritime policy, mathematical modelling, information technology and aboriginal education. Postgraduate programs are available in most fields. The Centre for Maritime Policy is the only university-based research centre in Australia focused on inter-disciplinary aspects of marine environmental management. It conducts regular short courses in law of the sea and maritime regulation and enforcement.

Objectives for the region

The University intends to develop a special interest in inter-disciplinary marine and maritime research. An application in 1999 to establish a Commonwealth Special Research Centre for Ocean Law, Policy and Management in partnership with the University of Sydney was unsuccessful although it reached the final round of consideration in a highly competitive process. We are currently working on an application for a Cooperative Research Centre for Information Support for Oceans Management (the Oceans CRC). RMP will be a special focus of the work of this proposed CRC, which will research the socio-economic, legal and biophysical information needs of marine environmental management, including RMP. Custom designed information applications are currently lacking in this field. Prospective university partners in the CRC are the University of Tasmania and the University of Western Australia.

Prospects within the region

The University is establishing a campus at Nowra and teaching nodes at Bateman’s Bay and Bega that will all be fully operational over the next 5-10 years. The campus at Nowra will include a research institute focused on coastal and estuarine studies.

Managing relationships with other sectors

Comments under this heading are in the context of maritime regulation and enforcement and the jurisdictional questions that might arise with the RMP process. Australia’s various maritime zones and the division of these zones between State/Territory and Federal jurisdiction is described in Appendix 2 to Australia’s Oceans Policy Volume 1. The States and Territories have jurisdiction over waters within the limits of a State, internal waters and the first three nautical miles of territorial sea measured from territorial sea baselines (refer diagram in Australia’s Oceans Policy Volume 1 page 41). The Commonwealth has jurisdiction over the territorial sea beyond three nautical miles from the baselines, the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the continental shelf. The Commonwealth may also exercise jurisdiction on the high seas with respect to the activities of Australian flag vessels, certain crimes subject to universal jurisdiction (such as piracy and drug trafficking) and in some other special circumstances prescribed by international treaty. It is also relevant that Australia has a very broad geographical area of responsibility for marine search and rescue and a general obligation to preserve and protect the marine environment (including the high seas).

While in theory the regulatory jurisdiction of States and Territories ends at three nautical miles from the baselines, in practice State and Territory authorities may carry out their duties and exercise enforcement powers beyond that limit. These may be because State officers have been granted powers of Commonwealth officers, a special management regime has been established (eg for particular fisheries), or simply on the basis of some informal understanding between State and Federal agencies. Some of the State/Territory water police services operate capable sea-going vessels but aspects of their powers beyond the waters under State or Territory jurisdiction are unclear.

Many legal paradigms are based on the premise of sharp boundaries of responsibility reflected in the proverbial expression 'good fences make good neighbours'. On land, concepts of boundaries are generally reasonable because large-scale processes are usually less influential. Physical features such as rivers, soil types and mountain ranges are natural boundaries between different ecosystems. In the sea many processes transcend the scale of most human boundaries.

An extreme example is provided by the life cycle of the Australian sea turtle that hatches in a local government jurisdiction within a State. If it survives, it heads for State territorial waters, moves on through Commonwealth waters to feed, and then grows for 30 or 40 years in national and international waters and often in the jurisdictions of other nations. It then heads back to mate in Commonwealth waters with the female emerging into State and local jurisdiction to start the whole cycle again.

The principal implications of these considerations for the South-east RMP process are that:

Mike Burgess

Tourism industry

For the past 20 years Quicksilver Connections has been involved in marine tourism within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area. Over this time there has been substantial growth within the marine industry and a dramatic increase in tourist visitations to the area. The development of the Great Barrier Reef provides many interesting case studies that may be applicable to the implementation of the South-east Regional Plan and may assist in addressing many of the cross sectoral and cross jurisdictional issues.

Currently the South-east Region offers many unique and diverse tourism opportunities mainly from an eco-tourism base. Some of these activities include recreational fishing, nature cruises, whale, dolphin, and penguin watching, sailing, bay and island cruising and bird watching. They provide an excellent foundation on which to build future tourism development. Tourism is Australia's fastest growing industry. It provides a solid opportunity for employment with the industry currently employing 750,000 people. It also generates around 18 billion dollars in export earnings rating it as one of Australia's most significant industries.

Tourism is largely non-extractive and with the correct environmental controls can provide an inexhaustible resource. The success of marine tourism is intrinsically linked to the standard of the environment offered to its customers but to flourish it also needs to operate in the correct business and regulatory environment. With international arrivals now reaching 4.5 million per annum and an annual growth rate of 7.2%, lack of consumer demand is unlikely to be a problem. Government's ability to maintain pace with the industry through the regulatory process and provision of basic infrastructure however could present problems.

For tourism to reach full potential there are many impediments which will need to be addressed. There is a desperate need for research into the marine environment to provide the necessary data on which to base management decisions to guarantee sustainable development and use. Base information of this type is currently lacking and considerable resources will need to be provided to overcome this. Cultural, social and economic aspects also need to be carefully researched. Successful tourism ventures may cause a range of new problems. Tourism is labour intensive and any increase in the work force contributes to urban sprawl. Supporting land-based developments can also add to this problem. At times local communities can resent rapid change and plans need to be designed to minimize this impact. Recognition of the rights of Australia's indigenous people and their traditional saltwater-based activities and hunting remains an important step towards reconciliation.

Development is always accompanied by the risk of pollution both marine and land-based. Provision of appropriate infrastructure and strict control measures are required to prevent long term damage. From the operators' perspective plans need to be developed within ecologically sustainable development (ESD) principles but at the same time providing a degree of certainty for operators as it is only in this manner that they will take a long term view of their business. Sensitive sites need early identification and appropriate control measures must be introduced to ensure the fragile environment is protected. This may include preservation zones and approved moorings as opposed to the normal practice of anchoring. Ideally plans should be developed as partnerships between industry and managers rather than relying on overly prescriptive regulations.

Cross-jurisdictional issues often cause considerable delay in both the planning process and in day to day management operations and often lead to many lost opportunities for the marine tourism industry. Governments on all levels need to recognize this problem and present a unified front when dealing with industry. A common fault with management agencies in the planning process is their desire to control the industry, rather than to concentrate on controlling the impacts. Government and managers may find that there are significant benefits in providing incentives to industry to implement best practice as opposed to an enforcement regime purely designed to punish offenders.

Often marine plans lack consideration of the land-based facilities that invariably follow. These need to be developed in unison if growth is to occur in a coordinated and controlled manner. Provision of marinas, slipways, jetties, roads and hotels may be provided in such a manner as to assist in dispersing visitors and reducing the impact on local communities. Tourist operators should be encouraged to actively participate in management plans by assisting in monitoring and gathering research data as well as developing best practice measures. An industry peak body needs to be appointed to liaise with management agencies.

Cross-sectoral issues and competition for resource use can give rise to many complex issues in allocation of marine sites. A better understanding of individual industries' needs and requirements can assist in reducing conflicts. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park policies in regard to multiple use can provide many lessons on how to deal with such problems. Opportunities exist for marine tourism to encompass other industries within their daily programs. For instance, visits to pearl farms or mariculture facilities can be of immense interest to visitors. Forums involving representative peak bodies should be encouraged by management agencies to assist in resolving conflict and producing harmonious working relationships.

The National Oceans Policy and the South-east Regional Marine Plan offer many exciting opportunities and challenges. From marine tourism's perspective there is the chance to expand the base of our tourism assets while increasing employment and contributing to Australia's wealth generation. Early participation and involvement in the research and planning stages is urged if we are to maximize the benefits to our industry.

Ian Delaney

Indigenous peoples


I thank you for the opportunity to speak at this forum. As it is my custom, let me begin by acknowledging the Palawa People, the Traditional Owners of Tasmania.

Aboriginal interests in the region

For thousands of years Aboriginal groups living along the coast of southeast Australia have maintained a strong interest in the sea and its resources. The sea and the coast are very important spiritually and economically.

Local Aboriginal people want to be able to maintain their cultural activities without the need to ask for permits and licences to fish and do other traditional things. The local communities have had to fight in court for the recognition of their traditional rights. For example, the Gurnai, Ngarrinjeri and Gunditjmara people have lodged native title claims, and the Palawa people have had to justify in court why they take abalone or mutton bird.

Current status of Aboriginal activities in the region

The main activity in the region is taking fish and other seafood for personal use. Communities would like to take more to feed their families but this is not possible because traditional rights are not adequately protected by State laws.

There are very few professional Aboriginal fishermen operating at present. In the 60s and 70s there used to be more involved in commercial fishing but they have been squeezed out of the industry because of licence costs.

The involvement of Traditional Owners in fisheries and marine parks management is very minimal. This is due to current policies for recognising and allocating interests in the sea and the coast. The policies have denied Aboriginal people their inherent rights to control and manage the use and occupation of their traditional land.

Objectives of indigenous people for the region

Aboriginal people would like to achieve many objectives. I will summarise the main ones:

Prospects within the region

Opportunities exist for local communities to rely more heavily on sea resources to meet their personal needs. But governments need to remove impediments.

There is also great potential for communities to benefit from the commercial fishing, aquaculture, and natural resource development industries. Aboriginal people who were put out of business in the last 30 years have a good knowledge of the fishing industry. If support is provided for them to re-enter the industry, a healthy Aboriginal fishery could be developed.

There are also opportunities for greater Indigenous involvement in the management of marine parks. The knowledge of Aboriginal elders in marine management and conservation has been under-utilised by Governments.

Managing relationships with other sectors

Professional fishing industry

Commercial fishing operators need to recognise the rights of Aboriginal people in practice and develop industry policies that promote employment of Indigenous people, make consultation with local communities compulsory, and require operators to keep out of zones used as fishing grounds by Aboriginal communities.

Aboriginal people and professional operators need to come together and discuss these issues, and try to develop joint ventures and cooperative agreements.

Local, State and Commonwealth Governments

Governments need to give more consideration to Indigenous interests by:

Cr Rodney Dillon

ATSIC Commissioner for Tasmania

My name's Rodney Dillon, I'm the ATSIC Commissioner from here in Tasmania. I've dealt with sea problems for quite a while to say the least. There's a few things that I'd like to just talk about that have probably already been talked about, but some of them are pretty important and close to our hearts.

Just to give you a little of the history on it, the government has sold a lot our rights out without our OK, I'd suppose you'd say, to the fishing industry and the fishing industry has run with that and they've brought all that in good faith and we've always felt like the Aboriginal people have been opposed to the fishermen, but it's actually the government we've been opposed to.

In that whole mix up there has always been a conflict with the fishermen thinking that we want their fish and we're saying that the fishermen have got our fish. It should be made very clear that we are not opposed to the people who have brought licenses and stuff like that, but we are opposed to the government selling out what was ours in the first place.

Just with how this has gone, we feel a bit like black fellas. You get us out of the cupboard, shake the dust off us and put us up for something like this and give us a bit a shake and we move our arms and then you put us back in the cupboard.

Well, we've been rifled on the RFA and a few other programs and we've smartened up a little bit, I don't know whether we're right on the ball at the minute, but we are getting there, and this is where we want to have a fairly big stake in this industry and what's going on because it's not only for your children, it's for our children as well and we're all going to come together and work together that we need to at least have a fair standing.

There's a lot of inquiries gone on since 1991 and I've put them around the tables for you to have a look at there, so I don't feel that we need to give you too much more on recommendations from Aboriginals. Some of you are probably already sick of it.

We've had people do fishing sort of things like this for us before and they've said that the government hasn't put anything into to it, and that's right they haven't helped us a lot. There's thousands of these reports if anyone wants to look at them and we're to the stage where we do want to work with the people but we've found it very hard and we hope that we can have someone on both of these committees and be able to work in with what's going on for the future. Thank you.

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