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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

Monday, 2 June 2003

Subject: Release of Draft Plans to Protect More of the Great Barrier Reef Under the Representative Areas Program

Eleanor Hall: It seems World Heritage listing is not enough to protect Australia's Great Barrier Reef from the ravages of human activity. So later today, the Federal Government will unveil draft plans to radically increase the current level of protection.

The Government intends to create a series of new "Green Zones" where photos and memories would be the only things visitors to the reef could take away with them.

But while a recreational fishing lobby is complaining about the proposal, some scientists say it still falls short of ensuring the Reef's future.

From Brisbane, Gerald Tooth reports.

Gerald Tooth: It comes as a surprise to many to learn that less than five per cent of the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is protected in the same way as land-based national parks.

Today the Federal Government and the Reef Authority will unveil their draft plan to dramatically change that, expanding the Park's maximum protection areas, called Green Zones, to cover nearly 33 per cent of the area that runs for nearly 2,000 kilometres down the Queensland coast.

Environment Minister, David Kemp, says it will make Australia a world leader in coral reef protection.

David Kemp: Well, this is a huge step forward in the protection of the Barrier Reef. All Australians want to see the Reef protected from damage. They want it to be, want to be assured that it's going to survive in a healthy condition into the future and that's what this new plan is all about.

Gerald Tooth: Reef scientists from around the world say 40 to 50 per cent protection is the desired amount to counter future shocks such as global warming, a phenomenon that you recognise will be a problem.

David Kemp: Well, that's right, that's on the pressures on the reef. Population pressures, pressures coming from poor quality in the water flowing into the Reef's lagoon, all of these are pressures on the Reef. It's very difficult to say exactly what is the right level of protection.

This huge step forward, a lift from five per cent in the high protection zones to around 30 per cent will enable us to make an assessment over the next few years about the impact of this increased level of protection.

Gerald Tooth: The Reef tourism industry, while happy at the increased protection, is voicing its concern about policing the new zones. That's because the Federal Government has decided not to renew special funding for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park's Compliance Unit.

David Kemp again.

David Kemp: Well, it's a matter of the Reef Authority having the capacity to do this and I'm very confident that the Reef Authority will continue to be able to lift the quality of its enforcement.

Gerald Tooth: It is the fishing industry where the greatest opposition to the draft plan lies, and it's Queensland recreational fishermen that are most upset.

John Doohan is the Chairman of Sunfish Queensland, who claim to represent 45,000 recreational fishermen in the State. He says they feel ambushed by the draft plan because all the discussions they had in the lead up talked about only 25 per cent Green Zones.

John Doohan: Well, our initial response is it's too much. That's what our initial response is. Look, I think that one of the things that they're doing out here and they haven't, haven't, they haven't looked at it thoroughly, is they're just taking the fishing out, they're not taking anything else out.

Gerald Tooth: So you're angry that tourism hasn't been shut out of these areas as well?

John Doohan: Yeah, absolutely. I mean there's as much damage or more done by tourism than there is by recreational fishing.

Eleanor Hall: John Doohan, the Chairman of the recreational fishing group, Sunfish Queensland, ending that report from Gerald Tooth.


Commonwealth of Australia