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Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2001-2004

The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP



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

Port Melbourne
Friday, 21 May 2004

South-east Regional Marine Plan launch

Thank you Max for that kind introduction.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming along today to what is a landmark event in the history of natural resource management in Australia, and a world first in oceans management.

I am pleased to see so many of those who have contributed to the development of the South-east Regional Marine Plan here today. Without your valuable input and insights, the Plan would not be the success that it is.

I am honoured to represent my colleagues from the National Oceans Ministerial Board - the Minister for Transport and Regional Services and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator Ian Macdonald, the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, Ian Macfarlane and the Minister for Science Peter McGauran - in publicly launching the South-east Regional Marine Plan.

I am also pleased to be publicly launching this Plan in the heart of the South-east Marine Region, on Port Phillip Bay, just a stone's throw to the Port of Melbourne.

As we gaze out on this beautiful Bay, we can appreciate the benefits of regional marine planning, a unique system of ocean planning and management pioneered by the Howard Government in Australia's Oceans Policy.

From where we stand, we can see the departure point for the Bass Strait ferries, we see recreational fishing and pleasure boats.

We can see the busy Port of Melbourne, an international shipping centre with its major shipping lanes.

We see the fuel depots towards Corio, where oil and gas from the rich Gippsland field of Bass Strait has been shipped for decades.

We see commercial fishing boats making their way up to the mouth of the Yarra, their crews earning their living from a rich variety of fisheries in the Region.

And we see this city of Melbourne, by far the largest of many coastal communities in the South-east Region, within an island nation dominated by coastal communities.

So when all these elements are put together, we have an illustration of what Integrated Oceans Management is all about. That is the management of each of these activities and our ocean resources as a whole, rather than a set of competing sectoral interests.

Of course, much of what we are managing in the South-east Marine Region cannot be seen. It occurs in an area of two million square kilometres, beyond the horizon as well as below the ocean's surface.

It is vast, covering almost 2 million square kilometres, including the ocean off Victoria, southern New South Wales, eastern South Australia, Tasmania and around Macquarie Island.

The Plan describes the significant progress and outlines actions to improve oceans management in the Region to achieve sustainable development.

The plan takes an integrated approach to marine planing - bringing together under the same management framework all the uses in the region from aquaculture and commercial fisheries to petroleum, shipping, tourism and recreation, surveillance through to marine research and conservation. Through this approach we are aiming to overcome what has been called the 'tyranny of small decisions' that lead to incremental degradation through the negative effects of many small decisions that seem on their own, inconsequential.

Embodied in this Plan is the opportunity to avoid the mistakes that we have seen made elsewhere in the world, such as the Grand Banks of the North Atlantic, where marine ecosystem mismanagement has devastated once great industries and communities.

In Australian waters, science tells us that while our marine ecosystems are largely healthy, they are vulnerable. Today, we have a historical chance to set the management of this region on a sustainable course.

Over 275,000 people are already employed either directly or indirectly in marine industries in the region worth over $19 billion a year. This plan will enable these industries to expand and develop while ensuring that responsible action is being taken to preserve the integrity of the ecosystems on which many of them depend.

This Plan already contains two Marine Protected Area candidate options covering some 40,000 square kilometres - roughly two-thirds the size of Tasmania or twice the size of Kakadu National Park. In addition, there are another nine MPA proposals to be developed which are described the status report on Marine Protected Areas in the body of the Plan.

A clear process has been outlined in the plan and with the close cooperation of stakeholders and using the best available science we expect these 11 MPAs to be implemented in about 12 months time providing a solid basis for the ecological protection and sustainable development of the region for generations to come.

With the world's largest area of ocean territory, marine protection has been one of the Howard Government's key environmental priorities.

Today's announcement builds on the historic decision that we have recently taken to protect the Great Barrier Reef - increasing by seven times the protected zones and marine sanctuaries in the Marine Park.

These achievements mean that internationally, we are increasingly being regarded as the banner bearer on marine issues - be it the sustainable development of our fisheries and petroleum industries or in our quest to protect whales and other migratory species. Just recently the Australian Government was awarded Gifts to the Earth from the World Wide Fund for Nature for our efforts in creating whale sanctuaries as well as creating some of the worlds largest and most important marine protection zones such as the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve in Australia's remote Sub Antarctic waters.

Australia's Oceans Policy, out of which this Plan has developed, is an ambitious Policy - not only in scale, but in its goal of achieving results through consultation with all ocean users, many of whom have regarded their interests to be in competition with one another.

The negotiations have been at times challenging, but perhaps the most enduring achievement of this planning process has been the agreements that have been reached between stakeholders as diverse as the oil and gas industry, commercial fishing and the conservation sector.

These negotiations are ongoing. While the Plan contains more than 90 actions, in 2005 a Supplement will be released containing a number of important outcomes. Among these will be the complete system of Marine Protected Areas to add to the two candidate areas identified in this Plan.

As well, the Supplement will detail progress towards the integration of these MPAs with other spatial management measures. And the performance management system will be further developed so that it will be possible to more accurately measure the effectiveness of our actions.

Of course, this Plan is about much more than MPAs. Some of the most important of the 90-odd actions contained in the document are:

As we all know, the ocean is a fluid environment. Much of what occurs in Commonwealth waters between three and 200 nautical miles from our coastline, also has relevance for out inshore coastal waters, which falls under the jurisdiction of the States and the Northern Territory.

The Government is working closely with the states of South-eastern Australia to ensure the maximum level of cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen, as a world leader in a new frontier of oceans planning and management, Australia has learned much along the way. The development of further regional marine plans across Australia's oceans territory will be streamlined by the lessons learned in the development of the South-east Regional Marine Plan.

Some of these lessons have been incorporated in the planning process already underway in Northern Australia.

We are determined to accelerate the National Representative System of MPAs. To this end, I recently appointed an MPAs taskforce within the Department of Environment and Heritage.

As the lead agency for the continued implementation of Australia's Oceans Policy, I congratulate the National Oceans Office for coordinating the development of the South-east Regional Marine Plan across diverse stakeholder groups, between the Australian Government and the States and within the Commonwealth itself.

Now I don't normally like to single out individuals for special mention. But in this case I want to make an exception.

I want to pay a tribute to Meredith Hall, who led the team within the National Oceans Office that was responsible for developing this Plan. Meredith provided a great source of energy and intellectual rigour in the development of the plan.

Tragically, Meredith died 10 days ago, aged just 32. While she saw the Plan to completion, unfortunately she is not here today to celebrate its launch. And I deeply regret that.

I am very glad, however, that Meredith's parents, Michael and Bonni Hall, and her sister Karen, are here with us today. On behalf of the Office and the Australian Government, I would like to publicly register my appreciation for the fantastic contribution Meredith made in bringing the South-east Regional Marine Plan to fruition.

The Plan represents a new way of doing business on an unprecedented scale and is the launching pad for a series of regional plans that will set the benchmark for the world.

Congratulations to all of you who were involved and I hope to have a chance to speak with you while we enjoy the refreshments that will be provided upstairs in a few minutes time.

Thank you all.

Commonwealth of Australia