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

Doorstop, Parliament House
Thursday, 25 March 2004

Announcement of the rezoning plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef


David Kemp - Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage:

All right, well thank you very much for coming to this doorstop.

Today is a red letter day in the history of the Great Barrier Reef, and I'm going to make a couple of announcements today that follow on from the passage through the parliament of the new zoning plan for the reef.

You'll be aware that, just to give you bit of background, that the zoning plan had to lie on the table of each of the houses of parliament for fifteen days and was subject to disallowance during that period.

Now, it hasn't been disallowed, and I'm pleased to say that there was no prospect of it being disallowed, but now that those fifteen days have expired, it means that the full regulations for the implementation of the zoning plan can now come into force.

And so the first announcement today is that the new zoning plan for the Great Barrier Reef will come into force from the first of July this year. That will be the biggest step forward in the protection of the Great Barrier Reef since the establishment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

This is undoubtedly one of the most important conservation decisions to be taken anywhere in the world this year. It is a quite remarkable advance in protecting the reef against all the pressures to which it's subject.

The new zoning plan will ensure that there is no extractive activity over one third of the whole of the Great Barrier Reef. Now, extractive activity is a technical term but it basically refers to the fact that there will be no fishing allowed over one third of the reef and the marine park.

Now, just to put this in perspective, before this new zoning plan, less than five per cent of the marine park had this level of protection. We've lifted this from under five per cent to one third of the entire reef. This is going to mean more fish on the Great Barrier Reef, it's going to mean healthier corals, it's going to mean bigger fish for tourists to come and see.

And right through this process we've had the very strong support of the tourism industry. The tourism industry on the reef is worth about four point five billion dollars a year in gross value of production. The fishing industry there is worth about a hundred and fifty million dollars a year, and of course, the reef is a tremendous resource for recreational fishers as well.

Now, all of these interests and the communities' will be benefited by the outcome of the new zoning plan, because tourists come to see a reef which is pristine, which is thriving with fish, which has got healthy corals. And this is the biggest investment that has even been made in protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

It means that the series of zones that will now be put into place in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park will be the largest system of marine protected areas anywhere in the world. So this is a very, very significant day for Australia's greatest natural icon, a natural icon which is also a tremendously important economic icon.

The second announcement that I'm making today is that I am appointing Mr Geoff Gorrie, the former head of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, to chair an independent panel that will now be consulting with industry and with communities up and down the Queensland coast on the structural adjustment package that the government has announced.

Obviously, a huge decision of this kind has impacts on various interests. Over the long term, those impacts will undoubtedly be positive, but in the short term of course, it does mean that there are individual adverse impacts that the government has said it will provide assistance to those affected, to retrain and restructure their activities.

So Mr Gorrie will head up this independent panel. The panel will be travelling up and down the Queensland coast getting advice on the precise way in which the structural adjustment will be managed.

So that's the great announcement today, and I'd be happy to take any questions about it.

Reporter:

What sort of penalties will apply to people who break these fishing restrictions?

Kemp:

Well, there are very heavy penalties involved, but of course, what we are looking for is, naturally, voluntary compliance and I believe that the vast majority of users of the reef are very responsible, but the Great Barrier Reed Marine Park Authority will have the responsibly for assuring the compliance with the new zoning regulations.

Reporter:

And in what manner does the Marine Authority police it?

Kemp:

Well, the Marine Authority has inspectors and of course, they get information about whether there are possible breaches. Because of the new zones, they will in fact be easier to police than the existing zones, because they are larger, the boundaries are properly defined so that anyone with a GPS system, which of course will include all the major trawlers and fishers in the reef, will be able to determine exactly where they are.

Reporter:

When will the panel report back by and how long will it take to get an assistance package up and running?

Kemp:

Well, we're very … excuse me … (coughs) … we're very keen that this assistance package be up and running as soon as possible. The panel will be operating during May and June in the run up to the initiation of the new zoning arrangements, but of course some of the structural adjustment will be related to the impacts of the zoning plan and we won't be able to determine what those impacts are until the zoning plan has been in operation for some time.

So, this is a process that will actually go on right through this year and will extend into next year.

Reporter:

Just on another issue on crocodile hunting in the Northern Territory. You're meeting with a delegation from the Northern Territory today.

Kemp:

That's right.

Reporter:

What will you be telling them (indistinct)?

Kemp:

Well, I'll be telling them that I'm aware of the fact that there is very significant support amongst some interests who farm crocodiles and tourism interests for the safari hunting of crocodiles in the Northern Territory.

Equally, there are very great concerns from those who focus on animal welfare, as is very important that they do, and from conservation interests that do not support safari hunting. I will be listening to them. The main purpose of my meeting is really to listen to what they have to say.

There has been an inquiry into this. There has been a large number of submissions. Those submissions are currently under consideration, and I will take into account what these representatives of the Northern Territory, groups that … including the Northern Territory government that favour some crocodile hunting say to me.

Reporter:

The Northern Territory government can go ahead with this anyway, even if they don't have federal support, it's only on the issue of whether or not they can export crocodile skin. Would you be angry if they decided to go ahead with it anyway?

Kemp:

Well, it would be premature for me to make comment before any decision is taken, and I won't be making any comment today. Today's activities are very much about listening to people.

Reporter:

Do they have a strong case?

Kemp:

Well, I'll hear their case later this afternoon.

Reporter:

When will a decision be made?

Kemp:

Well, a decision will be made in the not too distant future. We have indicated that probably a decision would be made during April. So, obviously in the next few weeks, I'll be weighing up the various cases that have been made by all the affected interests and I'll make an announcement.

Reporter:

When will the government release its clean energy strategy?

Kemp:

Sorry?

Reporter:

When will the government release its clean energy strategy?

Kemp:

Clean energy strategy? The government is considering now, of course, comprehensively and strategically the whole issue of Australia's energy strategy, and the greenhouse gas abatement forward strategy is clearly going to be a part of that. It's going to be very comprehensive, and it's currently under consideration by the government.

This will be the first major strategic assessment of Australia's energy over the coming decades that any Australian government has undertaken, and clearly the government is engaged in dealing with this at the moment.

Unidentified male speaker:

Thanks, everyone. Thank you.

Kemp:

Good. Thanks very much.

Reporter:

If I could just … what sort of industries will be impacted by the Great Barrier Reef rezoning? You talk about fishermen and more … commercial fishers, and who else?

Kemp:

Well, the tourism industry is clearly going to be the major industry impacted because it's by far the largest industry on the reef and…

Reporter:

[inaudible question]

Kemp:

Well, recreational fishing would be considered a part of that, but the tourism industry is much larger than that, of course. Many, many people come from all round the world to see the Great Barrier Reef. It's one of the great things to do during a person's lifetime on earth. It's probably one of the two or three greatest environmental icons in the world.

And the tourism industry brings people for all sorts of reasons. Recreational fishing is one of those. The trawling industry, the offshore trawling industry for prawns particularly, will not be impacted greatly by this because a great deal of effort has been made in drawing the boundaries to avoid those areas which are significant prawn trawling grounds.

The in-shore prawn trawling industry will be impacted to a greater extent, and there will be some structural adjustment required there. Obviously, there will also be impacts on the net fishers and the crabbers.

Again, in the total picture, they will be fairly slight impacts, but they will impact very heavily on individual people involved with individual licences.

Reporter:

Is there an amount of money that's available to help these people?

Kemp:

Well, we haven't specified any particular sum of money, but we intend that this shall be dealt with in a very fair way. Okay?

Commonwealth of Australia