Marine Parks (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Amendment Bill

11 Nov 2010 archivespeech

This speech is in relation to the Marine Parks (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Amendment Bill. It indicates support for the second reading of the bill.

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 9 November 2010.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (16:55): This bill is not a large or complicated measure. From memory, it has four clauses. The history of marine parks in South Australia is that the former Liberal government began the work to create marine parks in the mid 1990s and, in 1998, a document entitled 'Our seas and coasts: A marine and estuarine strategy for South Australia' was released, with the comprehensive Guide to Marine Protected Areas being published in April 2000.

The 2002 Liberal Party election policy indicated our desire to complete the work by 2006. This reflected the state's longstanding obligation to establish a system of marine parks within the state's waters flowing from the commonwealth's international obligations. This Rann Labor government waited until its second term to pass a marine parks bill, which had to be amended by the Liberals, in collaboration with the Australian Democrats and Greens, to ensure that all interests would be properly consulted. I commend the work of my former colleague, the Hon. Caroline Schaefer (who has a very deep and broad understanding of aquaculture, among other things), who took chief carriage of that bill.

The 19 marine park outer boundaries were proclaimed on 29 January 2009, and the original draft outer boundaries took in 44 per cent of the state's coastal waters. Following the usual form of consultation that, unfortunately, we have grown used to in this state, this was reduced by 2 per cent to 42 per cent. Members of the commercial fishing sector and recreational fishers remain concerned that the Department of Natural Resources (formerly DEH) has an agenda which is balanced in favour of reducing their access to existing fishing rights by making large sections of the marine parks 'no take' zones.

The development of zones and management plans for each park, as well as the development of displaced effort regulations (which, in plain English, is compensation for displaced industry), are the critical parts of the process which will determine the extent to which fishing activities continue to exist and/or be viable. The industry remains concerned about this aspect, as well as the formulation of the displaced effort regulations. It has been consistent in stating that the former should not proceed until the latter has been concluded to its satisfaction.

The greatest impact of these policies will be felt by regional communities, which constantly feel subjected to decisions made in Adelaide by a government that is not concerned with what takes place beyond Gepps Cross or the Toll Gate. There are no marine parks to be established along the metropolitan coast, so the impact will not be felt by recreational anglers who regularly use those areas, or beachgoers.

This bill fulfils an election commitment that any changes to marine park management plans would be subject to parliamentary oversight. I note that the minister's second reading speech (which I think is quite misleading) gives the impression that the initial management plans currently covered by legislation will continue to be covered if this legislation is passed in its current form. I say that because I think that the issue of parliamentary scrutiny is important and I think people should be absolutely clear about what this bill will do.

The Marine Parks Act 2007 outlines the time lines, content and consultation requirements for marine parks management plans in division 2 and sections 11 and following, and the act currently makes a distinction between an initial management plan and subsequent management plans as amended. The process for amending management plans is potentially lengthy and, indeed, the statutory requirement for review is only every 10 years.

The bill transfers the parliamentary oversight from the Environment, Resources and Development Committee to the Legislative Review Committee, and the instrument is amended from being something comparable to a development plan amendment (DPA) to a regulation. I concur with some of the comments made by the Hon. Mark Parnell in relation to the oversight being changed from ERDC to the Legislative Review Committee. The committee, of which we are both members, is quite experienced in overseeing environmental issues, whereas the Legislative Review Committee is not so familiar with environmental issues, although it has examined some regulations and local government by-laws that fall into that area.

We have had a number of meetings with stakeholders, not specifically on this bill but on general matters. I appreciate the time of members of the Wilderness Society of South Australia who have met with me and my leader, Isobel Redmond, in the last couple of weeks. They enlightened us on a couple of very important issues, namely, the environmental impacts of marine sanctuaries, based on global evidence and also the economic issues.

What came out of that meeting was to advise us of the uniqueness of South Australia's marine species. I am paraphrasing here (I may not quite have it right; I am sure they will tell me if I have not), they did say that there is not much benefit if there is no policing of areas, including adjoining areas; and, in relation to the percentage of each park's no-take area, each park needs to be assessed individually. I would like to address that issue of percentage of no-take areas later in my speech.

The Wilderness Society also provided some flyers for honourable members which talk about which species the society believes are struggling, which I think is contested ground for the fishing industry. The other turf, as far as I am concerned, would be PIRSA, but some of the language that PIRSA uses is a little difficult to understand. I indicate that I will write to the minister formally to seek a briefing from PIRSA SA about the status of stock.
If what the Wilderness Society has published is correct, the one that stood out is that snapper (not that I necessarily have a particular personal interest in snapper) is fully fished. I have been told that the definition of 'fully fished' is that it is a fisheries management term which means that it is sustainable. That is a highly contested area of evidence, and I think it is important that understand it and understand what the terms fisheries use, such as 'recruitment', 'catch' and 'efforts' mean, otherwise we may be misinformed.

Honourable members would also have received letters from Wildcatch Fisheries SA. I interjected during the Hon. Mark Parnell's speech in relation to the fishing industry; he said that they were latecomers to the cause of marine parks, and I think that is not the case. If one thinks about it logically, for anybody who is involved in the fishing industry (a lot of these are family businesses) it is not in their interests to fish themselves out of next year's catch or catches in 10 or 15 years' time.

A lot of the licences and so forth are passed to the next generation, so they would like to retain them for their children. I want to quote from a letter from Dr Gary Morgan dated 28 September just to place on the record their views in relation to a sustainable fishing industry. He says:

The fishing industry is a strong advocate of marine conservation in all of South Australia's waters simply because our members' livelihoods depend on a healthy marine environment. The fishing industry therefore supports the conservation of representative areas of marine biodiversity through the legitimate NRSMPA process, which is the agreed national process for doing this and which is based on Australia's international commitments. However, we believe that this legitimate NRSMPA process has been used, and continues to be used, to pursue more fundamentalist marine park agendas that have their origin with, and are often funded by, overseas and national conservation groups.

There is further comment on that issue, but I think that indicates their position that they are concerned that the process is being overtaken. I think it is important to note that when you do have a process that is as critical as this you need to have all the stakeholders on side.

The designing of the outer boundaries was a vexed process and one in which I think members of the Marine Parks Council of South Australia felt that they had been disenfranchised, and that continues to be the case in the ensuing processes. I do not think it is in anybody's interest for any sectors of this process to feel that way; so I would urge the government to ensure that it has a transparent process. For this reason, I foreshadow that I will have an amendment which I think will assist the parliament to be involved in that process to a greater degree.

Wildcatch also have made representations to the government, no doubt, that they are very concerned about the displaced effort process. The figure has been thrown around that it will be no greater than 5 per cent, but they are very clear that displaced effort must be sorted out prior to the finalisation of the management plans. In that regard, the industry is concerned that, in relation to the 5 per cent figure (I place these questions on the record) who assesses the 5 per cent? Is it just DENR? Is Treasury involved? Is PIRSA involved, and to what degree? Is that in the form of a multi-officer committee?

I think that if we look at the example of what happened federally with the home insulation program, which you could argue had some business impact, and which the environment department was in charge of, they really did not understand the process. And why would they? They are an environment department. That can go very badly astray if that is the way that it takes place.

In relation to the issue of targets, the Convention on Biological Diversity had a recent meeting in Nagoya, Japan, where it looked at the next round of its targets. The first meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was in 1993. This process is for the next 10-year plan. There was a guiding document from 2000 until 2010, which looked at some 10 per cent of major ecosystems to be protected, including terrestrial and marine.

Just in the last couple of days they have come out with a new agreement, that 17 per cent of the land surface of the planet and 10 per cent of marine areas are to be protected. The goal for Nagoya was 25 per cent on land and 15 per cent in marine; and we still believe that much higher targets are necessary to maintain the full range of critical ecosystem services essential for human wellbeing. We are currently at 13 per cent.

In noting that there is a global target, Australia has already been meeting its targets. I am still to receive advice from my stakeholders as to whether Australia has met national representative MPA targets. However, the word around the traps, coming out of the state department, is that the starting point for the no-take zones is 25 per cent. I specifically asked the Wilderness Society what their view was on whether or not that was an appropriate target. From memory, their response to me was that arbitrary targets are not really much use; you have to know what it is protecting and, therefore, each case is different.

Policing of marine parks is going to be one of the really critical areas. It is all very well to have a park but if there is nobody to police it, if there are no park rangers, then what's the point? My colleagues in another place did try to pursue this through the estimates process. We were not given much information. We do know from the budget papers that the marine parks program will effectively be $1.5 million less per annum in the out years, that is, 2012-13 and 2013-14.

We asked questions about the number of extra monitoring vessels and whether it would be self regulation and I would have to give it to minister Caica: he is very good at giving non-specific answers that leave you none the wiser at the end of it. That is something that will be teased out in due course, but before we pursue this bill further I would like an answer to this question: what is the current total budget for the marine parks program and what will it be in 2012-13 and 2013-14?

Specifically turning to South Australia and what we have been doing, we actually have one of the best managed fisheries in the world, that is the West Coast/Spencer Gulf fishery. It has received the highest assessment—this is according to its own website but I assume the information is accurate—by the commonwealth Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts under the EPBC Act.

I refer here to comments on the fishery in relation to the good management practices undertaken It has been recognised in the recently released Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations Technical Paper 475 and under the seafood assessment program established by the Australian Conservation Foundation as being sustainable with a very good management regime. The South Australian fisheries as well are managed under the Fisheries Act by PIRSA and, as honourable members who have studied their correspondence from Wildcatch Fisheries SA would know, Australia has the second best managed fisheries in a study of 56 fisheries world wide by the University of Columbia. We come second only to Germany.

I indicate that we will support the second reading of the bill but I have an amendment which has been circulated only this afternoon and which ensures that the initial management plans will also be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. They will be excluded by the government's bill, and I am not entirely sure why the government thought that was appropriate but, given that it is such a controversial issue, I strongly believe that the South Australian parliament should have some oversight of that process.