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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

Hill Announces Intention to Establish Australia's Second Largest Marine Park


26 October 1997
(123/97)

The Howard Government has announced its plans to establish Australia's second largest marine park in the Great Australian Bight.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says the proposed park would be the first declared by the Commonwealth in southern temperate waters and provide new protection for the endangered Southern Right Whale, the Australian Sea Lion and a large sample of the extraordinary marine life which inhabits the sea floor.

The Park will complement a marine park proclaimed last year by the South Australian Government in its state waters.

"The Great Australian Bight is a sensitive breeding and calving ground for the Southern Right Whale and provides habitat for the Australian Sea Lion and bottom dwelling plants and animals such as sponges, marine algae, sea cucumbers and delicate lace corals.

"The park will be an excellent example of a multiple use approach under which the conservation needs of the area are sensibly balanced against its other attributes, in particular its natural resources.

"The proposed management arrangements for the park have, as their primary concern, the need to adequately protect the area's conservation attributes but have been designed to reduce, and where possible avoid, any impact on existing users of the area, particularly the fishing industry.

"The draft arrangements also take account of the management arrangements for the South Australian park and those for other activities, such as the fishing industry."

The Commonwealth's proposal covers a total of 2,290,989 hectares. An area adjacent to the state park would be designated for mammal protection and a band 20 nautical miles wide which extends from the state park boundary to the edge of the Exclusive Economic Zone, would help conserve benthic flora and fauna.

Senator Hill says the government is determined to speed up the process of ensuring Australia's marine environment is protected by a national representative system of marine protected areas.

"Today's announcement is a down payment on that process."

Issuing a Notice of Intent for the Great Australian Bight Marine Park marks the start of the formal phase of public consultation on the proposal under the Commonwealth National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act.

Comment on the proposal is due to the Director of National Parks and Wildlife, PO Box 636, Canberra ACT 2601 by 30 January 1998. Following these comments the government will decide whether to proceed to proclamation of the park.

Contact:
Matt Brown, Senator Hill, 0419 693 615; 06 277 7640
Peter Taylor, Environment Australia, 041 929,3465; 02 6250 0359

BACKGROUND FOR MEDIA

Supporting Information on a Proposal to Proclaim the Commonwealth Component of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park

On 26 September 1996, the South Australian Government proclaimed the Great Australian Bight Marine Park in the coastal waters (out to three nautical miles) of the Great Australian Bight. The Commonwealth, in accordance with its statutory responsibilities in relation to the establishment of marine parks and the protection of whales and endangered species, has carried out an assessment of the conservation attributes in the area. This assessment has identified significant conservation attributes in the Bight both within the Territorial Sea (out to 12 nautical miles) and in the EEZ (out to 200 nautical miles). These attributes are summarised below.

Biodiversity Attributes in the Commonwealth waters of the Great Australian Bight

Marine Mammals



Endemic Bottom Dwelling Fauna and Flora Unique Seabed Sediments

Representativeness

The unique southern temperate waters of the Australian coastal waters are virtually unrepresented in Australia's existing marine reserve system. The Commonwealth waters of the Great Australian Bight contain marine habitats and ecosystems typical of the southern region and, due to-their isolation from human activities, remain in relatively pristine condition.

A more detailed assessment of the conservation attributes of the Commonwealth waters of the Great Australian Bight is included in this package.

Commonwealth Government Policy Framework

In its environment policy, the Commonwealth Government endorsed the goals and principals set out in the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity. Relevant sections of this Strategy, which has been endorsed by all State, Territory and Commonwealth governments, call for:

Multiple and Sustainable Use within a Conservation Framework

Cooperation with industry is fundamental to the Commonwealth Government's policy on the management of Commonwealth waters. In relation to marine protected areas, the Commonwealth is committed to further developing the concept of multiple use management regimes where the interests of conservation, the community and marine industries such as tourism, fishing, mining and petroleum can be accommodated through an integrated management framework. For long term ecological and economic sustainability of our oceans, stakeholders at all levels need to become effective players in the planning and management of marine protected areas.

Oceans Policy and the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas

The Commonwealth government is committed to conservation of marine biodiversity and the establishment of the sustainable use of the resources of Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone.

A National Oceans Policy to guide the achievement of these aims is being developed and coordinated by Environment Australia. The National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas has been identified as a key tool to ensure effective conservation of our ocean resources.

Environment Australia is currently developing an action strategy to identify priority areas within Commonwealth waters for declaration and management of marine protected areas, which will cover the whole range of management arrangements from no-take areas to multiple-use depending on the particular conservation values involved.

The proposed Great Australian Bight Marine Park offers an excellent practical model in the context of this policy development process.

The proposal

The Director of National Parks and Wildlife has indicated his intention to recommend the establishment of a marine park in Commonwealth waters in the Great Australian Bight to complement the marine park proclaimed in State waters by the South Australian Government.

The proposed Commonwealth marine park is shown on the attached map. Two Areas are proposed;

The Marine Mammal Protection Area would be immediately south of the existing SA marine park extending to 31o47'S. This Area would provide a buffer to the whale and sea lion sanctuaries in the State park by allowing for the integrated management of all activities in the Area which may affect these endangered and vulnerable mammals.

The Benthic Protection Area is a strip 20 nautical miles wide and centred on 130o40'E extending from 3 nautical miles offshore to 200 nautical miles south. The objective of this Area would be to protect from disturbance a sample of the unique and diverse bottom dwelling fauna and flora and the unique seabed sediments.

Both Areas include the waters and sea-bed beneath the sea and the subsoil beneath the sea-bed to a depth of 1000 metres below the sea- bed.

Management intentions

The process to date

The Commonwealth has concluded an initial round of consultations with stakeholders in the Great Australian Bight. These consultations were particularly useful as they provided an opportunity to further develop the park proposal with stakeholders so that the best outcomes are achieved for all concerned.

During the current Notice of Intent stage there is a further opportunity to comment on the proposal.

The development of a plan of management follows proclamation. A plan of management is required for any park declared under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975. Plans of management enable management to proceed in an orderly way; help to reconcile competing interests; and identify priorities for the allocation of available resources. They also provide a degree of certainty for existing and potential users of the park.

There is significant public consultation during the process of developing a plan of management where stakeholders and the general public can have substantial input. As indicated above this process follows on from any proclamation of a park and proceeds over a period of some months a least. For the purposes of the Great Australian Bight marine park proposal, however, it has been decided to provide information on the current management intentions for the park as they relate to commercial and public access and use of the park at this stage in the process. Providing this information now will provide certainty to industries operating in the Great Australian Bight and allow more informed comment from stakeholders on the proposal.

In line with the multiple-use philosophy of the park it is proposed the park be classified as a Category V protected area under the IUCN protected area management categories, ie. that it be managed to ensure long-term protection and maintenance of biodiversity, while providing at the same time a sustainable flow of natural products and services to meet community needs. The IUCN categories are an internationally recognised set of guidelines prepared by the IUCN- World Conservation Union.

Management areas

There are four principals on which these management intentions are based:

  1. the primary concern is the conservation of the biodiversity attributes within the Great Australian Bight;
  2. other uses of the area will be allowed where the use is not incompatible with the biodiversity values, ie a multiple use model will be applied;
  3. as far as possible the management arrangements should be compatible with the arrangements in the State park; and
  4. the management arrangements for the park should be integrated with the management arrangements for existing users of the area.
The Marine Mammal Protection Area

The objective of this Area would be to provide a buffer Area to the whale and sea lion sanctuaries in the State park by allowing for the integrated management of all activities in the Area which may affect these endangered and vulnerable mammals.

Access

Activities permitted The Benthic Protection Area

The objective of this Area would be to protect a sample of the unique and diverse bottom dwelling fauna and flora and the unique sediments of the Great Australian Bight from disturbance.

Access

Activities permitted Where the Benthic Protection Area overlaps the Marine Mammal Protection Area the management arrangements as outlined for the Mammal Area (ie seasonal closure) will take precedence but the protection of the benthic communities and the seabed sediments would also apply.

Duration of the plan

The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975 provides for a plan of management to be in force for a period of up to ten years. In most instances the first plan of management for a park would be set for 5 years to test the proposed management arrangements with subsequent plans being of longer duration. During the initial consultations, however, the fishing industry expressed their need for the greatest amount of certainty possible about future management arrangements.

Another relevant consideration is that the plan of management for the South Australian parks is expected to be in effect for a period of seven years. It is proposed to set the duration of the first Commonwealth management plan to coincide with the expiry of the SA Plan, to allow both plans to run concurrently, but Environment Australia would be interested to receive representations on this issue.

The impact of the proposal

An economic assessment of the proposal to establish a park in the Commonwealth waters of the Great Australian Bight has been carried out. In the light of the above management arrangements for commercial activities, it has been concluded that the proposal will have minimal adverse impact on existing industry and will potentially boost tourism in the Bight area. While parts of the Great Australian Bight are considered to have medium to high petroleum prospectivity in the medium to long term, the economic value of this resource remains unknown.

Comments on this proposal are invited and should be received by 30 January 1998.

Contact:
Peter Taylor, Marine Conservation Section, Environment Australia, 02 6250 0359

Commonwealth of Australia