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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon. Dr David Kemp
2 June 2003
Federal Minister for Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today announced a major initiative to ensure the protection of the Great Barrier Reef for future generations, detailing a proposed six-fold increase of protected zones and marine sanctuaries within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park that will create the largest network of protected marine areas in the world.
"This historic increase in protection for the Reef will help to ensure it remains a national, and international icon and will also help to guarantee the lifestyles and livelihoods of the many thousands of Australians who depend on the reef for income or recreation."
This initiative recognises that the Reef is made up of many unique ecosystems or bioregions and that each of these bioregions needs sufficient protection to ensure its ecological viability.
"By ensuring a reasonable amount of each of the 70 bioregions is in a protected zone (known locally as a Green Zone) we can retain for future generations the unique and iconic status of the Great Barrier Reef."
"These `Green Zones' and sanctuaries are proposed in the draft Zoning Plan for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, a Howard Government funded initiative that will provide the largest network of protected marine areas in the world and is the largest marine protection plan in the history of the Great Barrier Reef."
"The draft Zoning Plan released today proposes a network of new `Green Zones' to provide greater protection for the Reef's unique and precious biodiversity by prohibiting extractive activity. These will complement existing protection measures in place for the Great Barrier Reef including World Heritage listing," Dr Kemp said.
"Only 4.5% of the Great Barrier Reef to date is protected from extractive practices such as fishing and collecting under current management arrangements. The weight of scientific evidence indicates this is not enough. The draft Zoning Plan will significantly increase Green Zone protection of the Reef to around 30% in close consultation with stakeholders and local communities."
"Great care has been taken in drafting this proposed Zoning Plan to minimise impacts on existing users, particularly commercial and recreational fishers and the tourist industry."
Dr Kemp said the draft plans are part of a vigorous community consultation process. The public have until August 4 this year to send in submissions. The final plans are expected to be released early next year. Any changes to regulations within the Marine Park will not come into effect until then.
"This is a genuine consultation process and I urge all Australians to make their opinions heard. Consultation with community groups and stakeholders is a very important aspect in this entire process. The very fact that more than 10,000 submissions were received in the last phase of public consultation to develop this draft plan shows there is a lot of support for protecting this national icon," Dr Kemp said. "Its progress is also being closely watched by the international community.
"Protected areas already established in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park have proven to be effective with studies showing there are more and bigger fish and other marine species in these zones and sanctuaries. These Green Zones also provide a safe sanctuary for endangered and threatened marine species.
"But this Representative Areas Program (RAP) is only one of the Howard Government actions underway to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Only last week the Federal and Queensland Governments released the draft Water Quality Action Plan to protect the Reef from land-based pollution. It is also funding community-based water improvement projects through the Natural Heritage Trust and has significantly strengthened law enforcement on the Reef which has seen a record number of people arrested for illegal activity."
A new section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) website (www.gbrmpa.gov.au) offers instant access to all of the details associated with this innovative program. They can also be obtained from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority by phoning (07) 47 500 700. Maps of the new zones will also be on display at many council offices and libraries along the GBR coast and staff of the GBRMPA will hold public information sessions in 44 locations along the GBR coast during June.
Minister Kemp's office: Catherine Job 02 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400 or
Nicky Deitz 02 6277 7640 or 0439 438 500
GBRMPA: Chip Henriss-Anderssen 0408 180 760