Michelle Lensink

Second Reading Marine Parks (Sanctuary Zones) Amendment Bill

Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Marine Parks Act 2007. Read a first time.

Second Reading
 
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK  ( 16:50  ): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I will give a brief recap of the history of the development of marine parks in South Australia. They were initially commenced federally by the former Howard government and they were proposed under the previous Liberal government as well. What we have had in South Australia is the legislation passed in 2007, the outer boundaries claimed in 2009, and when we got to the details is when things really became interesting. We had initial draft sanctuary zone scenarios put out in November 2010. They were created using a Marxan program, which is a computer program using mathematical modelling. I think it is fair to say that there was a lot of consternation about the data that was used to create those draft scenarios.

It was discovered that large areas had not been mapped, or not mapped accurately, and therefore they were viewed as very much an ambit claim. The community outrage led to the establishment of marine park local advisory groups, which were set the task of coming up with the community's preference for where the sanctuary zones should be, and in many instances they had to correct information that the department put out. They worked hard to find outcomes. A lot of people volunteered their time and put in a lot of effort, but it was quite clear that the department had its own agenda, including a set determination of the percentages that should be used.

There have been motions in this place. We also had a select committee established in the previous parliament which looked at the initial sanctuary zones and its interim report reported on that, so I would commend anyone interested to have a good read of that. My own speech was on 20 March 2013 and I spoke in particular about the government spin which was used to inflate the impact of certain scientific data, in particular the over-estimation of the so-called spillover effect, which I think I could only categorise as mystical, wishful thinking in the way that it was promoted by this government.

Anyone who understands the scientific method—and I will go back to the Karen Edyvane report of 1999, which was published by this government and should have been the guiding method to establish the marine parks, and also the NRSMPA, which is the national representative system of marine park areas—the method that should be used is that in the first instance you establish baseline data, including ecosystem mapping, and secondly, you identify threatening processes and then you design the parks from there. That has never been the process that has been followed in this state.

There has been a lot of money spent on this process. It is estimated some $20 million so far just to come up with the boundaries and zoning, including spending money trying to propagandise the people of South Australia to convince them that this program was going to be good for them and that their particular marine parks were great. In April 2012 the stakeholder forum was held for two days. I think the membership of that was stacked in favour of what the government's preferred zones were going to be.

Quite recently I received some more information, under freedom of information, which is, I think, worth referring to. It has come from the government in relation to the process that took place. This is an internal departmental email, but I do respect the privacy of public servants and will not read out the names that are referred to; suffice to say it is very senior people within DEWNR who have made these particular comments. I will just read out some of them:

Day 1 highlights:

•Minister set the scene very clearly, along the lines of the briefing notes.

•Minister (and minister Gago) made it clear that the government was firmly committed to the marine parks outcome, but that we would not be able to achieve a CAR system in this first pass. Interestingly, there was little reaction to this statement.

Also:

•The discussions were productive…with some common ground…reached.

•Some very good pick ups for conservation (larger zones in iconic/ecologically important areas—well aligned with our latest 'concept' map).

I think those concept maps will be quite interesting.

•MPLAG outcomes respected in a lot of cases, so we didn't get the total number of zones down by much.

•Working up a quick assessment of where we got to overnight for the minister. At first glance looks like similar costs to MPLAG outcome with a few less zones. Better conservation/science outcome. About the same impact on GVP.

The second email refers to day 2:

Very much mirrored day 1…Zoning refinements again broadly in line with our 'concept' map. Morgan—

that is Professor Gary Morgan—

had to abstain from KI zones due to potential impact on fishers.

He informs me that he actually objected to those proposals—

I understand Premier wants strong KI outcome (tourism).

I think that is particularly interesting.

Owen—

that is Peter Owen of the Wilderness Society—

felt that not enough done overall but that's to be expected. Still have 84 zones—more than we hoped for.

Someone who works for the minister, who I will not name, was:

Concerned about costs overall as we didn't reduce displacement. Minister suggested possible disclosure of maps more broadly before draft plans released (to test merits). I think Premier wants quick action on any accord.

That is also of note.

We are drafting up a communique tomorrow for possible public release. Wording will be challenging.

A further email the next day, which was between similar senior public servants, read:

I got the sense from minister…that the forum was the end of the reset process. No more time for discussion. Need to move on with the accord we've got.

I think those comments in themselves are telling; that the department, and indeed the Premier, had a particular agenda, which was, 'Let's sort this out and move on.'

That particular set of zonings was released for public comment, with the final consultation taking place in November 2012. I am advised that there was not a lot of change between that April stakeholder meeting and the final ones the government decided on.

In this so-called 'reset' process the number of regions that have been affected, the large number of regions that were represented at the Burnside Town Hall meeting, was reduced to three, in particular, which have been hit hard and have seen their zones increased. I might add that these three regions did not have the opportunity to have further consultation. There is the top of the Gulf St Vincent/Port Wakefield area, Kangaroo Island and the Fleurieu area, and the West Coast. The commercial sectors which have been impacted in particular are the marine scale, rock lobster and abalone—and I will talk about the sardine industry which has had its own unique situation thrust upon it by the incompetence of this government.

In the recreational fishing sector it has been harder to determine the impact and that is because RecFish—which is supposed to be representative of all recreational fishers in South Australia—unfortunately climbed into bed with the government on the basis that it extracted a special deal from the government which I will discuss in a bit of detail.

If we just look at the issue of the top of Gulf St Vincent, in the initial round the zone did not have a particularly big impact on local fishers, either recreational or commercial fishers, so they merrily put their MPLAG recommendations in and did not expect much more. However, the one which was published following the stakeholder meeting was clearly much larger than the original proposed by the department. I would urge anyone who wants to check that for themselves to go on and do a comparison on the DEWNR website.

I would like to quote from Mr Jeff Sutton, who is a spokesperson for the Marine Park 14 Action Group who has talked about a meeting on Sunday 19 August 2012 at Port Wakefield attended by approximately 235 people—which is a fair number of people in that town. He said:

Our amended Sanctuary Zone clearly takes in the creeks, breeding grounds and nursery areas and Five Mile (head of the Gulf) addressing the scientific demands, whilst excluding traditional land-based recreational areas.

In Minister Caica's own document dated 7/2/2012 it states, and I quote, 'Over 200,000 South Australians enjoy recreational fishing each year, making a valuable contribution to tourism and economic activity in regional communities.

The Government has committed to minimising the potential impact on recreational fishers and has assured that fishers will continue to have access to all jetties, boat ramps and popular beaches, as well as iconic fishing sites around the State.'

We sincerely believe our proposal addresses those Government ideals.

Mr Sutton then goes on to say:

The unjust impost of SZ1 commencing just 450 metres from the Port Wakefield boat ramp is rectified by the Action Group presentation which if left unchanged will cause overwhelming hardship to the Port Wakefield Township and District and completely scare off would-be development.

He describes it as 'anti-tourist, anti-development and shows a complete disregard for people's livelihoods and future'. He says it is in breach of SARFAC guidelines (SARFAC being the old name for RecFish) which says that no sanctuary zone should be located within a five-kilometre radius of an established boat launching facility.

So how did this happen? The MPLAG had put in its particular zoning and it focused on a region which was quite different to the final one which was published, so they did not have the opportunity to have any input. It was a recommendation by the chairman of their own committee that breached the recommendations of the MPLAG who, at that stakeholder forum, went in there and argued that the top of the gulf should be closed off and, lo and behold, that was agreed to.

I do not know of another process where this should be considered acceptable but clearly this is, as has been characterised by Dr Gary Morgan, an exercise in 'negotiating lines on maps' and has nothing to do with any particular science. If one particular stakeholder can have that level of influence over an entire community without their input, I do not think that that is a defensible process at all particularly when, from my understanding, the conservation groups who had been part of the MPLAG had focused on one of the river areas rather than the top of the gulf. It came as a complete surprise, out of left field, and has been a most unfair process to say the least.

I think there is a particular agenda within government to do with Kangaroo Island. It is a fantastic part of the world, but I think they have a view that it is somehow going to become a tourist Mecca by dint of the fact of having sanctuary zones all over the place. We have heard the argument many times that many people who might be involved in fishing can suddenly revert their business to ecotourism, which I think is a fiction.

I would like to refer to some of the issues to do with RecFish because they have been exposed through freedom of information requests by my colleague the member for Goyder, who discovered why they would have jumped into bed with the government, and that is through a deal they had. They had an agreement to be funded $125,000 in order that they would promote the government's marine parks as they were agreed upon—one of their members being on this particular group which promoted this and then, lo and behold, they became great advocates for the process.

This agreement was to go to boat and camping shows and also to publicly endorse a document which is clearly using data that came out of the environment department—it includes all the maps that the environment department designed—and they were quite happy to put their logo on it and to tell everybody about all the benefits. It is called Recreational Fishing in SA Marine Parks. In all means, it is a DEWNR document. Apart from the foreword from RecFish, it is in every other way a DEWNR document.

It was revealed quite recently that RecFish had been funded for a number of its services. Also, quite surprisingly, it was exposed through this newspaper article, through this FOI, that there were members of RecFish's own committee who were not even aware that they had received funding, which is probably in breach of public funding guidelines and something I have referred to the Auditor-General.

With the new marine parks program, there is some $160,000 for compliance, which is not a great deal for our entire coast. We believe that they could have brought the communities onside with them, as takes place at a number of aquatic reserves that already exist across the state, such as Pelican Lagoon on Kangaroo Island, which I think I might have mentioned in this place before. If they ever see somebody with a reel or a tinny or anything of that nature, they go and tell them that that area is an aquatic reserve and that it is illegal for people to fish in there.

This process has done anything but that in bringing people from regional communities on board; I think that it has actually set the conservation cause back a long a way because it has been such a difficult process. I might add too—and I have said this before—people may have accused members of the Liberal Party of stirring up people. We were not stirring people up; we were just listening to what they had to say. Country people are very reasonable people; they are common-sense people, and they can smell spin a mile off. They are very straightforward and they are very willing to compromise, but this whole process has been a complete disgrace. We will not have a network of marine parks, but a patchwork, I think is the only way to describe it.

What this bill does is it converts 12 sanctuary zones into habitat protection zones. It is out for consultation. These zones will come into effect on 1 October this year, so I will need to call this bill to a vote soon, certainly within the next few weeks and months.

Due to the technicalities of the way this legislation works, I am unable to amend the zones. I think the marine park local advisory group submissions would be the best approach to replace those so that we would adopt the marine park local advisory group sanctuary zones in preference to the ones that the government has currently gazetted, but unfortunately I am unable to do that due to the technicalities. This bill is really to send a message to the government that there is a problem that they need to fix and I am unable to amend the boundaries for them, so I am proposing that they should do that themselves. This is due to the advice of our learned drafters at parliamentary counsel and I do thank them for their assistance.

I would now like to go through each of the sanctuary zones which have been identified to provide some background as to why they have been selected. The marine parks numbering of the 19 parks goes from west to east, so the furthermost western park is the Far West Coast. I do not have any proposed changes to that one.

Park No. 2 is Nuyts Archipelago. There are two zones that have been identified there. Sanctuary zone 1 which is Nuyts Reef and sanctuary zone 8 which is the Isles of St Francis. The feedback that we have in relation to the western zone abalone fishery is that the area fished within these two zones represent 34.31 per cent or 8,248 kilograms of the average annual greenlip abalone catch and 17.19 per cent or 2,592 kilograms of the blacklip abalone catch. However, as noted by one of the industry submissions regarding the impact of the sanctuary zones:

The impact is complicated by the rotational nature of the fishery where divers fish successive reefs in each year thereby allowing reefs to recover. Restricting the area available to fish will impact on the ability to rotate between reefs and therefore may have major implications for the long term sustainability of the fishery.

That is from the Marine Parks Management Alliance submission. The northern zone rock lobster: the impact of those two sanctuary zones will lead to a loss of 7,335 kilograms. Stakeholders, including mayor Allan Suter, the Mayor of Ceduna, suggest reverting to the MPLAG submission and there is an alternative suggestion from the northern zone rock lobster stakeholders.

Park No. 3, which is the West Coast Bays Marine Park, sanctuary zone 2, at Cape Blanche, they say they can live with even though there will be losses in that area. In the Investigator Marine Park the particular zone there is Pearson Island and a significant amount of rock lobster is caught in this region—on average 82,683 kilograms per annum—and the sanctuary zones will result in a loss of up to 5,900 kilograms. It is also an important area operationally as it provides sheltered coast to work from and protection from weather.

Sanctuary zone 5 is Thorny Passage. That is used, I am advised, extensively by recreational fishers and sanctuary zones 1 to 5 are safe areas for families to use; however, I have not had any firm figures for that particular zone to be able to support that that one should be included in the bill.

The Sir Joseph Banks Group was not going to be included but because of the incompetence of the environment department and the unwillingness of the government to find a solution for the sardine industry it has been included, so that is sanctuary zone 1 at Salt Creek which is a key production area for sardines—South Australia's largest fishery by volume and a key supplier to tuna feed lots.

Initially the South Australian Sardine Industry Association (SASIA) supported the LAG submission. There is a whole set of correspondence from SASIA where they tried to seek a response on time. They sought advice from the department about whether their particular method of fishing would be in breach of the act and, after the close-off date, they received a reply from the environment department that said that it actually would, even though they use what is called the purse seine method of fishing which is not harmful to the environment, where their catch is collected within a net and they pump aboard the vessel a mobile school of fish which has been captured. During this period the vessel is stationary but it is at the mercy of wind and tidal flows and may drift several miles, so the issue for them is whether they happen to inadvertently drift into a sanctuary zone while they are completing this process.

DEWNR has advised SASIA that vessels will have to have all their fishing gear stowed at all times while travelling through a sanctuary zone, which may lead to a situation whereby to comply with the act they will have to dump their catch, which sounds rather silly. SASIA has sought an exemption from this via a permit but this has been refused by minister Hunter.

Marine Park 7, the Neptune Islands Group, sanctuary zone 1 (North Neptune Islands) is an important area for northern zone rock lobster. An alternative was suggested which would have drastically reduced the impact from between six to seven tonnes to one tonne of annual catch. It is also an important area operationally because it can be fished in a variety of weather conditions. I might add that for some reason it has been viewed by the government that shark cages with berley are allowed. It may well be because Rodney Fox is an ambassador for the marine parks, so one must question why he is happy with marine parks when his activities are deemed okay but activities which do not harm the environment are not.

Marine Park 8 (Gambier Islands Group), Marine Park 9 (Franklin Harbor) and Marine Park 10 (Upper Spencer Gulf) are not proposing any changes to those particular zones. Moving to Marine Park 11 (Eastern Spencer Gulf), there is a sanctuary zone 1 which is Cape Elizabeth which is a lot bigger than the marine park submission and a productive winter fishing ground for marine scale fisheries. However, we are not proposing that that one be included in the bill.

There are no proposed changes to the sanctuary zones of Marine Park 12 (Southern Spencer Gulf) and Marine Park 13 (Lower Yorke Peninsula). As to Marine Park 14, which is the Upper Gulf St Vincent, which I mentioned previously, sanctuary zone 1, the Clinton Wetlands and Port Wakefield, there are early estimates from the Marine Fishers Association—and I am seeking confirmation on whether these figures are up to date. Their early estimate was that there will be displacement of 16 marine scale fishers from that area, a loss of 35 tonnes of garfish ($315,000), 20 tonnes of yellowfin whiting ($160,000), 33 tonnes of calamari ($396,000), 80 tonnes of snapper ($720,000), 20 tonnes of salmon ($50,000), nine tonnes of King George whiting ($107,000), and 13 tonnes of other species ($66,000), for a total of $1.8 million, which is a huge amount for one town of that size to lose and it will have a significant impact. As I have explained, I do not believe that there are any environmental credentials for the way that that whole process took place—certainly not on a fair basis. We recommend reverting that to the marine park local advisory group submission, but we have had to include the whole zone within this bill, because that is the technical nature of the way it has had to be drafted.

Marine Park 15 is the Encounter Marine Park. There are quite a number of zones there that we think are unfair, the first one being sanctuary zone 5 at Rapid Head which, according to the Marine Fishers Association, will displace 2.5 marine scale fishers with a loss of 15 tonnes of calamari at $180,000 and five tonnes of garfish at $35,000. There is also a popular boat ramp which is in contradiction to previous commitments that were given.

I have had representations in relation to sanctuary zone 6 and sanctuary zone 7 which is Coorong Beach North but they are not included in this bill. However, sanctuary zone 8 (Shoal Bay) is included and that will displace three marine scale fishers with the loss of annual catch of some 24 tonnes at $195,000. We recommend that that should revert to the marine park local advisory proposal north of Kingscote towards Carrickalinga.

Next is sanctuary zone 10 which is Cuttlefish Bay-Cape Coutts, which would lead to the displacement of half a marine scale fisher with a loss of five tonnes of shark and five tonnes of snapper. It will have a very heavy impact on charter boat operators who operate in that area and will therefore also impact on tourism, which is in contradiction to the Premier's edict to the April 2012 stakeholder group that tourism was to be a main focus. I am yet to confirm the figures from the charter boat operators about that impact.

Sanctuary zone 11, known as The Pages, will impact on a number of fishers there. This particular zone and sanctuary zone 3 in Marine Park 16 will have a very heavy impact on the Central Zone Abalone Fishery with losses of 5,606 kilograms of blacklip and 5,543 kilograms of greenlip at a combined export value of $464,000, which is a huge amount for that particular region. Rock lobster fishery informs us that there would be a minimal impact of 300 kilograms.

Marine Park 16 is the Western Kangaroo Island, and sanctuary zone 1, which is Cape Borda, will displace one marine scale fisher with a loss of 3.5 tonnes of marine scale species. It is also a very important northern zone rock lobster fishery with an average annual harvest of 13,228 kilograms almost entirely within this zone. An alternative boundary was suggested which would eliminate 90 per cent of the reduction. Again, this is an area where sardines are harvested, so there may be similar issues with inadvertent drifting while pumping aboard as per my previous comments.

The other zone is sanctuary zone 3—Cape Du Couedic, which will have a major impact on northern zone rock lobster as it represents some of the best areas in the entire northern zone. It is estimated that 15,794 kilograms would be lost, affecting up to 16 fishermen. An alternative suggested zone could reduce this to about five tonnes. In the report that the sector commissioned to examine the impact, Mr I. Knuckey states:

There was extreme concern from fishermen about the level of impact this sanctuary zone would have on the industry, individual operators (many of whom operate out of Vivonne Bay) and the economy of Kangaroo Island itself. This area is so important to fishermen, partly, because it offers areas to fish (and safe anchorages) either side of Cape Du Couedic, so it can be worked with weather coming either from the east or west.

I mentioned the Central Zone Abalone Fishery, that this is that area, and the two combined would lead to loss of some $464,000 in blacklip and greenlip. Southern Kangaroo Island, sanctuary zone 1 has been identified as an issue, but has not at this stage been included in the bill. The Upper South-East Marine Park and the Lower South-East Marine Park presented some concerns, but they were not significant enough for them to seek to have these zones amended.

To return to the Kangaroo Island impact: the Kangaroo Island Marine Action Group, of which Andy Gilfillan is one of the spokespersons (son of our former colleague, the Hon. Ian Gilfillan), has stated that its strong advice is that all the zones should revert to marine park local advisory group advice, and their estimate is, for all those zones combined, a loss of income for fishermen on the island: for abalone $598,000; rock lobster over $2 million; and, the marine scale sector $323,000, so a total for Kangaroo Island of just under $3 million per annum—$2,956,600.

That is the complete list and rationale for each, and I would like to thank all the stakeholders I have spoken to—probably about 30 stakeholders—and have provided me with advice on all these areas. A number of regional stakeholders appreciate the audience they have had and the ability to speak to the Minister for Regional Development, the Hon. Geoff Brock. When he has attended he has said that he is listening—he acknowledges that he is not the Minister for Environment, but he certainly is the Minister for Regional Development, and these sanctuary zones will have more than a significant impact—I think significant is a understatement—and will certainly tear apart the fabric in some areas.

It should not be seen as environment versus people's livelihoods; I think we can have both, but the government has been bloody minded and unreasonable and has sought particular outcomes. Perhaps they have been trying to prove they are a bit hairy chested to certain stakeholders and are quite happy to displace people unfairly, but I hope that the minister is able to do more than listen, that he will seek information from the affected stakeholders and that he will also seek answers from the government on this, as it really has been quite duplicitous in the entire way it has gone about it. The minister needs to satisfy himself about where the facts lie and, if he thinks there is a problem with it, then he absolutely has to demand changes to the system. They will come into effect on 1 October, and there will be repercussions if there are not changes. We will see some more activity, that is for sure.

Without changes to the marine parks there will be multiple job losses and a loss of millions of dollars from those regions. There are lost opportunities for genuine conservation. This whole process has been a complete sham and poorly designed at the start because the government has not wanted to own up and lose face about where it took it, that it overcooked the omelette to start with. It is a missed opportunity for genuine conservation as well. With those comments, I commend the bill to the house and look forward to contributions in due course.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. G.A. Kandelaars.

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