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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.

John Hirst

The Association of Australian Ports and Marine Authorities

Ports interests in the regional marine planning process

Ports affect the livelihoods of all of us. Their role and importance is not widely understood or recognised in the general community, or by governments. Ports are at the operational interface between sea routes and land-based import and export economic activities. They are therefore a complex business.

Australian ports count for more than 90% of all imports and exports of goods into and out of Australia. This covers consumer items, industrial goods, commodities - in fact every one of us is dependent to varying degrees on ports, either as consumers, as employees of companies depending on imports or exports, as providers of services to ports or as beneficiaries of Australia's economic development.

Ports are therefore a major generator of employment directly in the port itself and indirectly through the region that depends on the ports and which supplies the goods that are exported through the port or are required as imports through the port.

There are four parts of a port:

Ports must be competitive and efficient to ensure that the Australian economy continues to grow.

The activities of a port focus a range of environmental pressures from sea and land. Environmental considerations are therefore highly important to a port and to those living in the port community or dependent on nearby marine areas.

In most cases the port has been the driving force behind the development of the port community and will continue to be so. Often new residents or users of marine areas do not wish to accept this and wish to have a marine and land environment that suits their needs only. Ports are already subject to an extremely wide range of legislation that influences all activities within the port ranging from infrastructure and ownership through to environment and safety issues. This legislation is at both Federal and State levels and often there is also considerable local government intervention.

Ports manage their environment in a responsible manner. Most ports have environmental plans, which are part of their overall business plans. Ports work closely and cooperatively with environmental agencies and are often (and highly desirably) involved in working up policy and policy implementation with environmental authorities.

Ports will continue to grow, as will the direct and indirect communities dependent on ports. Cargo flows will increase and change, vessels will become bigger and possibly more specialised. They will require more berths, reconfiguration of existing berths, reclamation of the seabed/adjacent areas, deeper and wider channels, extensions to breakwaters as well as ongoing development of land interfaces. These are not environmental threats if they are approached sensibly, cooperatively and in a pragmatic way.

Efficient ports are essential for Australia's growth. Issues affecting ports must be considered in a broad policy environment and include all the consequences of recommendations and actions that could affect the on going viability of a port as well as the region it serves.

Ports acknowledge Oceans Policy which brings together diverse interest groups with the aim of managing marine ecosystems in a more balanced and integrated manner and are willing supporters of it. However, we cannot be subjected to a further range of rules or requirements which do not add real value to the many wide-ranging existing rules and regulations and impose an additional cost on our operations.

If Oceans Policy is to be a success, it is essential that a balanced approach to the needs of marine ecosystems must be taken recognising the interests of all parties, including those beyond the marine boundaries, not just active minority groups. If Oceans Policy becomes interventionist and goes beyond existing Federal and State legislative arrangements and does not genuinely consider the interests of all parties it will, regrettably, be unsuccessful and ports, as one of the interested parties, will be unable to give their support.

Henry Garnier

Torres Strait Regional Authority


It is a great privilege to participate in this Forum and contribute to the development of an oceans policy which impacts positively upon our nation. My name is Henry Garnier and I am pleased to have this opportunity today to inform you of the environmental issues and key objectives of the Torres Strait region, my home. I am a member of the National Oceans Advisory Group, the Chairperson of Hammond Island and Deputy Chairperson of the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) for which I am also the Portfolio Member for Environment, Marine and Fisheries. The TSRA is a Commonwealth Government organisation based on Thursday Island which aims to improve the lifestyle and wellbeing of Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people living in the region. One of its goals is to ensure the protection of our environment.

My experience with the Torres Strait fisheries industries is extensive. I am a member of the following: the Torres Strait Fisheries Management Committee; the Torres Strait Fisheries Scientific Advisory Committee; the Torres Strait Fishing Industry; the Islanders' Consultative Committee, and the Torres Strait lobster, mackerel, pearl shell, prawn and licensing working groups.

I believe this Forum is a very positive and essential move towards ensuring the protection of Australian waters and the prevention of environmental damage occurring through mismanagement and the dispersion of pollutants. The TSRA has no involvement with the South-east region and I therefore cannot express any views on this area, however I will inform you of the TSRA's objectives and activities in the Torres Strait. As in the South-east region, of principal concern in the Torres Strait are the preservation of all species to ensure sustainable catch and the protection of bio-diversity issues. A national oceans policy will certainly be a great benefit in this regard.

The Torres Strait's main environmental concerns and the TSRA's involvement

The Torres Strait region evokes much pride amongst my people, the Torres Strait Islanders. It has been our home through the ages and possesses a distinct natural beauty, as yet unspoilt by the rapidly changing times and growing population.

Its pristine waters stretch between the tip of Cape York Peninsula and the south coast of Papua New Guinea, enhanced by numerous islands, coral cays, sandbanks and reefs. These waters have been our life source throughout time and you will understand that protecting our environment is of utmost importance to our people and to future generations of Torres Strait Islanders. The TSRA works consistently towards its goal of protecting the environment and employs a full- time environmental officer.

Chevron gas pipeline

TSRA representatives have been engaged in discussions with energy giant Chevron which is planning to build a $2 billion gas pipeline from Kutubu in the Papua New Guinea Highlands, across the Torres Strait and down the Queensland coast. The TSRA is working to ensure that prior to the establishment of the pipeline the appropriate environmental and cultural management plans are completed. The communities are being consulted extensively about these plans, and employment opportunities for Torres Strait Islanders are being identified. The environmental and cultural management plans are expected to be finalised by December, 2000. Members of the TSRA are included in the Pipeline Reference Group which was formed in 1998 to consult directly with Chevron and the island communities to ensure everyone in the Torres Strait is aware of the pipeline and its possible effects on the Torres Strait. The Reference Group is negotiating an appropriate comprehensive agreement to ensure Torres Strait Islanders' interests are adequately protected and to ensure that the grassroots views of traditional owners are obtained as a result.

Ok Tedi mine on the Fly river, Papua New Guinea

For many years the people of the Torres Strait have been concerned about the proximity of the Ok Tedi Mine on Fly River in Papua New Guinea. Our principal fear is that pollutants from the mine, including high levels of copper and other heavy metals, are being washed into the Torres Strait, affecting marine life. Sea grass could die back and problems may develop with the coral. Due to these concerns the TSRA is currently conducting a Heavy Metals Monitoring Project to monitor the levels of heavy metals contained in dugong, turtles and other marine species in the Torres Strait. The project aims to ultimately contribute to information regarding the diet-related health of Torres Strait Islanders in the region. The project's interim reports were completed by the end of 1999 and the final reports will be completed in 2001.

Marine strategy for Torres Strait

In 1999 the TSRA and the combined island communities' organisation, the Island Coordinating Council, adopted a Marine Strategy for the Torres Strait. The Strategy identifies both indigenous and non-indigenous stakeholders in the marine, tourism and community sectors and charts a course of action in the sustainable exploitation of ocean resources and conservation of bio-diversity. As part of the Strategy a Community Management Plan is currently being developed in our region aiming to ensure that communities are involved in the monitoring of dugongs and turtles and in implementing a management program for everyone to adhere to so that the population of these species does not decline. Ideally each community would modify the program to suit their individual aspects.

TSRA objectives for the Torres Strait region

The TSRA is aiming to achieve a number of goals over the next five to 10 years. One of these goals is to achieve greater autonomy for the people of the Torres Strait region so that Torres Strait Islanders will have the power to make decisions regarding issues affecting the Torres Strait. This would enable Torres Strait Islanders to take control of the region's fishing industries allowing us to implement restrictions on the amount of catch taken by commercial fishermen, thereby ensuring that our resources remain bountiful.

The TSRA, through our Native Title Office, is also assisting the region's native title holders in achieving recognition of their native title rights over the land and the sea. The Native Title Office is proposing to lodge a regional sea claim, believing this to be the most effective way for Torres Strait Islanders to achieve maximum rights in the shortest possible time frame. The TSRA is still discussing this proposal with the Torres Strait communities. Once Torres Strait Islanders' native title rights over the region's seas are recognised by the Australian legal system, we will be able to protect our resources because we will be in the position to make decisions on who can fish in our seas and to what extent. Another of the TSRA's goals is to develop a sound economic base in the region. The TSRA recognises that there is potential to develop the fishing and pearling industries and aquaculture in the Torres Strait. The development of an economic base would result in the generation of wealth and employment opportunities for Torres Strait Islanders.

Cooperation with other organisations

The TSRA and the Island Coordinating Council both work towards similar goals to improve the wellbeing of Torres Strait Islanders living in the region. Both organisations liaise with the State and Federal Governments as they progress towards these goals. The TSRA maintains a cooperative working relationship with both governments. For progress to occur there must be a mutual agreement between the government and the people. The TSRA believes it is important to work with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and the Fisheries and Boating Patrol as these organisations will play a big part in developing the fisheries industries in cooperation with Torres Strait Islanders. AFMA will play a principal role in the development of the industries and the Fisheries and Boating Patrol will be involved in monitoring and policing the industries.


Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share the environmental concerns and regional goals of the Torres Strait. Our region will certainly benefit from a national oceans policy as it will protect our environment from potential threats and dangers. Such a policy is not only essential in the Torres Strait but right across Australia where environmental damage has already taken its toll. Australia as a nation must look to the future and try to prevent further environmental damage where possible. Australians must be made aware that the natural resources available today may not be available in the future and that the planning and implementation of preventative measures such as the oceans policy are essential.

Alistair Gilmour

World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF)

Profile of interests in the region

For well over three decades WWF has been advocating marine conservation policy at the international and regional and levels, and more recently in Australia. It has had significant influence in the many conservation and industry fora.

It has been particularly involved in the processes of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the establishment of marine park authorities. A very important part of the marine work has been in the area of Integrated Coastal Zone Management.

In Australia, WWF has worked with Commonwealth governments to improve the delivery of good conservation results into the marine environment. This has included working for the listing of albatrosses and petrels and the key threatening process of longlining (seabird bycatch). The development of the National Representative System of Marine Park Authorities and the accompanying Management Plans has also been an area of high commitment.

Since it was first proposed WWF has been involved in the development of the Oceans Policy and is now working towards its implementation. WWF believes that the Oceans Policy is capable of providing opportunities for delivering meaningful conservation in our precious marine and coastal environment. With strong legislation such as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) with which WWF has been engaged, we will continue to work to achieve the best results.

Regional marine planning must be fully integrated, taking advantage of some of the mechanisms that already exist in order to implement the Oceans Policy. WWF further believes that the conservation of biodiversity is the solid platform on which all other objectives should be based. For this reason WWF works closely with industry sectors to achieve environmental management standards where they do not exist, and improved standards where they already exist.

The South-east Regional Marine Plan development and implementation, and the standards applied to all marine activity will be a critical factor in the success of the Policy's delivery.

WWF is of the opinion that our marine environment has many values that benefit us directly or indirectly, but the intrinsic value should also be acknowledged.

Current status of activities in the region

WWF and other marine non-government organisation (NGO) conservation activities are well documented in the South-east Region. They include:

Objectives for the region

As stated above, the South-east Regional Marine Plan must give primacy within its objectives to the protection of marine biological diversity, since the benefits derived from the ocean environment and its resources depend on the maintenance of healthy ecosystems and the biodiversity contained therein. Identifying the biodiversity, ecological processes, the natural resources and the key threatening processes will be necessary to achieve conservation in the South-east Region.

WWF objectives for the region include:

Prospects within the region

It is critical to the success of applying the Oceans Policy through regional marine plans and other mechanisms that environmental NGOs are engaged in the process from the development and planning stages through to the management plans for implementation and the monitoring of that implementation. Good examples of benefits to be derived from such engagement in the resources sector can be found in the MSC certification of the WA Rock Lobster Fishery. In WA the NGO Peak Group will have a representative on the Advisory Committee for the management of the fishery and on the Threat Abatement Plan for seabird bycatch on longlines.

Community perception and ownership of the process is heavily reliant on the feedback from the conservation sector.

Managing relationships with other sectors

WWF is already working with the fishing industry including the commercial, recreational and aquaculture sectors, and is starting to work with indigenous fishers. WWF stresses the importance of partnerships. Working to achieve mutual goals for best practices will more quickly achieve real conservation around our coasts and on the seas. WWF will be looking to establish discussions with the managers of those land- based industries and developments which are presently discharging nutrients and pollutants through freshwater systems into the estuarine, coastal and marine systems, with a view to mitigating the impacts.

WWF can play a key role in brokering better working partnerships between industry, government (policy and management agencies) and other NGOs with which it already networks. Partnerships and cooperation are a most effective tool in realising the environmental, economic, social and ethical goals in our coastal and marine systems.

WWF has taken part in many global, regional and national marine initiatives and fora. Its overarching mission is the conservation of biodiversity.

WWF can see enormous opportunities for all sectors, working together, to achieve the conservation of biodiversity while allowing best practice managed uses to occur in the marine Commons. Where knowledge is insufficient to allow decisions on best practice to be made WWF would advocate that the precautionary approach be applied.

Angus Horwood

RECFISH Australia

Profile of interests in the region

As the representative of Recfish Australia, it is my responsibility and mission 'to represent the interests of recreational and sports fishers at a national level to ensure quality fishing'.

Current status of activities in the region

There are a lot of shore-based anglers, inshore boat fishers, divers and game fishing activities in the area. Shore-based anglers fish in inshore waters and are dependent on a healthy aquatic environment for their chosen activity. These activities are well established in this area and I anticipate that they will not only continue but also actually increase. There is no doubt as to the benefits these fishers bring to the country in economic terms - they bring employment and attract investment. The Federal Government recognizes this. In its 'Oceans Policy' issues paper released in May 1998, it was reported that international and domestic marine tourism and recreative use of our oceans was worth a combined $15.2 billion. The area under review gets some of this economic benefit but only proper surveys will come up with a more precise figure.

Objectives for the region

In my view the Specific Sectoral Measures of the Oceans Policy summed up the situation stating that the challenge was 'to ensure ecological sustainable fisheries that contribute to the social, cultural environment and economic wellbeing of Australians'; maybe it's not good enough to just 'contribute' - we should be trying to maximize these objectives.

Prospects within the region

If we can maintain the ecological health of the ocean throughout the South-east Region it should be possible to increase investment in the recreational and tourism area. There has been a steady growth in charter boat activity all around Australia, and I see no reason why this should not be the case in this South-east corner of our great land. Activities such as whale watching have become very popular with the ever-increasing number of people who are becoming more environmentally aware. When the management guidelines for the South-east region are established it will make investment decisions much easier.

Managing relationships with other sectors

This was a difficult task some years back but in recent times the various sectors of the fishing industry have come to understand each other. I know that we do not always agree over various issues but instead agree to disagree in a much more understanding manner. Recfish Australia wants its fair share of our natural aquatic resources and if in the near future, a good method of determining the worth (commercial versus recreational) of a particular fishery emerges, then the fishing should be divided according to its economic value to the Australian community.

In the meantime, we will continue as we have done for some time with the usual arguments - Recreational versus Professional - which now have nowhere near the heat in them as has been the case in the past. There will always be a fishery by fishery and region by region debate on the actual worth and, as I previously stated, only a good method of determining a fishery's worth will subdue the arguing.

Barry Jones

Executive Director - Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA)

Profile of interests in the region

APPEA is the representative organisation of the Australian upstream oil and gas industry. APPEA's membership encompasses exploration and production companies and associated service, construction and supply companies. APPEA member companies are actively involved in oil and gas exploration and production activities in many parts of the South-east Region. Large parts of the Region contain sedimentary basins that are of interest to the industry, both now and in the future.

Current status of activities in the region

The oil and gas industry in this region engages in exploration activities (marine seismic surveys, aerial surveys, drilling exploration wells) and production activities (installation and operation of production facilities, construction and use of oil and gas pipelines to shore and the drilling of development wells).

Each of these activities is undertaken in accordance with the requirements of the Commonwealth Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 (PSLA) and other relevant legislation. Exploration activities are normally undertaken in accordance with the conditions of an exploration permit while development and production operations are undertaken in accordance with a production licence. Exploration permits are issued for an initial term of six years and may be renewed for further five year periods, with 50% of the acreage held being relinquished at each renewal.

Production licences are awarded for an indefinite term and are terminated when production activities have not been carried out for a continuous period of five years. Exploration permits do not allow companies to commercially produce oil or gas from any discoveries made; this can only occur under a production licence. However, exploration activities can be undertaken within the area of a production licence. Pipeline licences have a similar term to production licences and allow for the construction of pipelines and the transmission of oil and gas.

Three other forms of title exist under the PSLA. A special prospecting authority is a non-exclusive title that can be issued for six month periods to enable limited exploration activities (such as marine seismic surveys) to be conducted - no drilling is allowed. A scientific investigation authority can be issued for short periods for limited work and is normally reserved for scientific surveys by universities and scientific bodies. A retention lease can be issued for five years over discoveries that are currently not commercial but are likely to be so within fifteen years. Retention leases may be renewed for further five-year periods. While exploration permits generally cover large areas, production licences are restricted to the approximate aerial extent of discoveries.

At the present time there are 23 exploration permits, 10 retention leases, 19 production licences and over 30 pipeline licences in the region (see tables below):


Adjacent State

Exploration Permits

Eastern South Australia

2 (1 in State waters)




15 (1 in State waters)



Adjacent State

Retention Leases

Eastern South Australia





9 (1 in State waters)



Adjacent State

Production Licences

Eastern South Australia








Adjacent State

Pipeline Licences

Eastern South Australia





33 (6 in state waters)



There has been exploration activity in various parts of the region since the late 1950s and this is expected to continue both in existing exploration permits and in new exploration permits awarded as a result of new areas being opened up for exploration. Following the discovery of world-class oil and gas fields in the Gippsland Basin (off the South-east coast of Victoria) in the mid-1960s, there has been continuous oil and gas production since the late 1960s. The Gippsland Basin has been Australia's dominant oil producing area for the best part of thirty years. It is only in recent years that oil production from Australia's western and northern offshore oil fields has surpassed the level of production from the Gippsland Basin.

Objectives for the region

The region is a key area for exploration and production activities. Due to its proximity to markets in the eastern States, it is ideally located to supply oil and gas from any new discoveries. As much of the region is under-explored, its potential for large new discoveries is unknown at this time. APPEA, through its member companies, is keen to ensure that there is continued access to areas in the region for exploration and production activities under multiple and sequential use principles. At the same time, APPEA member companies are committed to operating at the highest possible safety and environmental standards.

The oil and gas industry in Australia provides important sources of energy to the Australian economy. Together they provide more than half of Australia's primary energy consumption - about 36% for oil and 18% for gas. The share of gas in the fuel mix is expected to rise significantly over the next 15 years, possibly rising to 28% by 2010 according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE). Australian oil and gas production is currently valued at over $8 billion each year. Direct contributions by the industry through taxation (company tax, resource rent tax and royalties) are currently over $3 billion annually. Each year the industry invests over $2 billion in exploration and production activities. An ABARE study in 1996 found ‘that a $1 million increase in the output of the oil and gas sector increased real gross domestic product by between $1.8 million and $2.4 million, implying an output multiplier of 1.8 to 2.4'. ('Net Economic Benefits from Australia's Oil and Gas Resources', ABARE Research Report 96.4, 1996).

Prospects within the region

The Gippsland Basin fields are the major source of gas for the Victorian market, and gas supplies will soon extend to the New South Wales market via the eastern gas pipeline. Consideration is also being given to providing gas to the Tasmanian market via pipeline from the Gippsland Basin and possibly linking gas supplies from the undeveloped Yolla gas field that lies in waters to the north of Tasmania. A further gas development is actively under consideration from the Minerva discovery off the southern Victorian coast (in the Otway Basin south of Warrnambool).

While the Gippsland Basin is considered a mature oil and gas basin, there remains scope for new discoveries to be made and production from existing fields will continue for many years. The remaining sedimentary basins in the region are under-explored and in some cases there have been no commercial exploration activities. Some basic data in what could be termed frontier areas in the region, are now becoming available from surveys conducted by the Australian Geological Survey Organisation and this could be of interest to the industry within the next ten years.

Impediments to the industry can be many and varied. Government policy on taxation, energy and environment (including oceans policy) will all have a bearing on the future of the industry.

Managing relationships with other sectors

The oil and gas industry regularly consults with other parties who have interests in the marine area. This ranges from contact with fishermen and fishing industry associations and relevant community groups through to local, State and Commonwealth agencies. The PSLA requires (section 124) that companies holding titles under that Act conduct operations so as not to unduly interfere with navigation, fishing, and conservation of the resources of the sea and sea-bed.

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