Marine Parks

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing questions to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation about marine parks regional impact statements.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: During his contribution on the opposition's marine parks bill last year, the member for Frome and Minister for Regional Development, the Hon. Mr Brock, as part of his decision to support the government on that bill, on 18 September last year in the House of Assembly stated:

…I have made clear that I want to see more investigation into the economic and social impacts of sanctuary zones over the next 12 months…i f these  assessments identify areas of…immediate economic concern, then these will be addressed as soon as they are identified, rather than waiting for the completion of the review. 

These comments were reiterated by this minister himself in his media release of 20 November when he said:

Information will be considered as it becomes available and if areas of concern are identified the government will address them immediately rather than waiting until the end of the assessment process. 

I understand that the Marine Fishers Association has recently written to the minister in relation to regional impact statements and I understand that the Hon. Geoff Brock will also convey to the minister soon, if he has not already, similar concerns. My questions for the minister are:

1.Is he aware of any concerns that have come up since the commencement of the regional impact statements?

2.Will he consider commissioning an interim report and then continuing the study research collection for the full 12 months which would take it through to the end of this month rather than having ceased collecting data?

3.Is he aware whether the member for Frome and the minister, Mr Geoff Brock, have written to him on this issue as yet?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER  (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change)  ( 14:32 :36 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. On 18 September 2014 the government committed to preparing Regional Impact Assessment Statements for Port Wakefield, Ceduna and Kangaroo Island to assess the implementation of marine park sanctuary zones. The RIAS, I can report, are on track to be completed by 1 October 2015, as was the undertaking.

This work is being conducted through the support of the Goyder Institute for Water Research Partners, and particularly the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies (SACES) and the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI). SACES is assessing social and economic impacts and SARDI provided SACES with an analysis of commercial fishing data to inform this work.

SACES' work includes consideration of broad positive and negative impacts, including flow‑on effects, positive and negative impacts on employment, impacts on population numbers and demographics, lifestyle and recreation impacts, environmental impacts, equity across regions, solutions to manage negative impacts and incentives to maximise positive impacts.

The government also committed that if any areas of urgent concern were identified, as the regional impact assessment statements (RIAS) were being prepared, the government would immediately consider the best means to address them. However, I am advised that no such concerns have been so far identified. The RIAS will also investigate positive opportunities that might arise from marine parks, such as marine-related businesses and other land-based regional initiatives.

In addition, SACES and the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources officers met with key regional stakeholders to provide them with general information about the RIAS and to seek their contributions. Members of the public were able to make submissions to contribute to the process up to 31 July of this year, and I am advised that six submissions were received. The government recognises the importance of striking the right balance between supporting regional businesses and protecting our marine environment, and this work will help us assess how well we have achieved that balance. The results of the RIAS will be used to inform the ongoing marine parks monitoring, evaluation and reporting program and the future review of the marine park management plans as required by the Marine Parks Act 2007.

I am sure that all members will understand the importance this government places on Kangaroo Island, not just for its highly valued natural beauty assets and abundance of wildlife but also for the contribution it makes towards economic development in the state. Marine park sanctuary zones have now been implemented to help protect iconic sites around Kangaroo Island, including Cape du Couedic, Seal Bay, the Pages Islands, Bay of Shoals, Pelican Lagoon and deep-sea sponge gardens in Backstairs Passage.

When the public consultation provided specific concern about abalone and rock lobster fishing at Cape du Couedic, the sanctuary zone there was significantly reduced in size, which decreased the estimated impact on commercial fishing in the Western Kangaroo Island Marine Park by approximately 60 per cent, I am advised, while still maintaining an excellent conservation outcome for this iconic biodiversity and tourism hotspot. Kangaroo Island is fortunate to have examples of some of the most beautiful and rich marine environments in Australia and, through the implementation of marine parks with sanctuary zones, we can help to keep it that way into the future.

I understand there have been concerns expressed in relation to sanctuary zones also in the Upper Gulf St Vincent Marine Park. It is important to understand just how the Upper Gulf St Vincent Marine Park protects critical marine habitats. Upper Gulf St Vincent is a rare inverse estuary. Inverse estuaries occur in dry climates where evaporation greatly exceeds the inflow of freshwater. As you move up an inverse estuary, the water becomes saltier in comparison to a freshwater estuary, where the water becomes less salty.

The upper gulf is a major nursery area for a range of fish species, important to recreational and commercial fishers, such as garfish, King George whiting, yellowfin whiting and prawns. It is a spawning area for garfish and snapper, and its extensive tidal channels are important habitats for fish, crustaceans and birdlife. The area is of international importance for shorebirds and home to 38 species of waterbirds, some threatened, and 11 listed under international treaties.

The area is a significant contributor to the productivity and resilience of the gulf ecosystems and resources. The significance of this area to the ecosystem of the gulf should not be underestimated, and the government is very pleased that much of the top of Gulf St Vincent is protected by a marine park sanctuary zone.

There were changes made to the draft management plan for this park to accommodate popular recreational fishing near Port Wakefield. In addition, a special purpose area for recreational fishing at Port Arthur was provided. Some important changes were also made to the draft zoning in Nuyts Archipelago Marine Park, located adjacent to Ceduna, to support local fishing and aquaculture.

Changes to sanctuary zones (Lound Island and Barlows Beach) were made to support compliance by simplifying the boundaries. Amendments were also made at Lound Island to change a habitat protection zone to a general managed use zone to accommodate the West Coast prawn fishery. The sanctuary at Davenport Creek was amended to better provide for recreational fishing, as suggested by marine park local advisory group members, the District Council of Ceduna and RecFish SA.

A small sanctuary zone at Smoky Bay was removed to accommodate the local cockle fishery. A habitat protection zone at Cape D'Estrees and Smoky Bay was amended to become a general managed use zone to accommodate existing oyster aquaculture. I put that on the record to highlight the fact that there was wide consultation on these boundaries. There were changes made as a result of those consultations and we have made a sanctuary zone and marine park system that is going to be the envy of the nation into the future.

It will see that we are set up for sustainable fisheries into the future and sustainable biodiversity zones. This is what we need in the face of advancing climate change, where we know there are going to be problems in the marine environment, where we know acidification of the water is going to create great challenges for all marine animals and plants. We have to act, and this government has—unlike the federal government who, unfortunately, whilst they have marine parks on paper, have failed to put in place any of the regulations that would bring them into effect anywhere in the country.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK  ( 14:38 :53 ): Is the minister aware that without taking data for the full 12 months—that is, until the end of this month—the government is actually not fulfilling the commitment Mr Brock made to the parliament? Secondly, if minister Brock makes a submission to the minister, will he consider it and extend the collection of data for that period of time?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER  (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change)  ( 14:39 :22 ): I can say to the honourable member, 'Good try,' but in fact the premise of your question is entirely wrong. It is entirely wrong, but that is no surprise from the Liberals, who oppose marine parks and sanctuary zones. These are people who absolutely have no respect for our local environments, no respect at all. It is only a Labor government that will deliver two things—that is, continued protection of our environment as well as economic development in the regions.