Speech regarding the Marine Parks (Sanctuary Zones) Amendment Bill. Hansard 2 July 2014
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 17:30 :16 ): I rise to make some remarks. I would like to start by thanking my colleagues in this place for their contributions: the Hon. Mark Parnell, the Hon. John Darley, the Hon. Kelly Vincent, the Hon. Kyam Maher and the Hon. Dennis Hood. In due course I will respond to some of the comments they have made. At the outset, I remind the chamber of the obligations of Australian jurisdictions. In a letter from the Hon. Tony Burke MP, former federal minister for sustainability, environment, water, population and communities, dated 25 January 2011, he is referring to the targets which are required in relation to marine parks under the Convention of Biological Diversity, otherwise known as 'the Convention'. He says:
The biodiversity targets recently agreed under the Convention are contained in the Convention's new Strategic Plan. That Plan notes that all targets are 'aspirations for achievement at the global level and a flexible framework for the establishment of national or regional targets'. As such, the specific targets are not binding on Australia. The Australian Government does not interpret the target that you are referring to (target 11) in the new Strategic Plan of the Convention as requiring at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas to be strictly protected as no-take areas.
The government often refers to the issue of the length of time of consultation, and that is true, but the truth of the matter is that there were the initial out of boundaries which were put out—and I have been through all of this before, I am not going to repeat it all—the large zones that were put out as, I believe, an ambit claim which scared the living daylights out of most of South Australia which resulted in a so-called reset process in April 2012.
The Hon. Dennis Hood has referred to the local advisory group process, and that was established following the great big zones that scared the living daylights out of most of South Australia and all of the input into that. So, after years of trying to express their views to the government this was leaving people quite cynical and tired. What we had in that April 2012 reset process was that the local advisory groups, which were representative of all the stakeholders in the regions including the conservation sector, some of them had come up with unanimous proposals, some had come up with some which were majority, but by and large I think they were all majority. Quite frankly, if the government had gone with that position we would not be here debating this issue now.
What happened was that there was a rather cynical collection of stakeholders who were numerically in favour of having larger zones. There was only one representative of the commercial sector there who objected a number of times and who was told later that minutes did not exist, Minutes were then obtained under freedom of information by the leader of the Liberal Party, Steven Marshall, which that representative said were incorrect as well. So, the government has form on this and it is no surprise that they try to hide behind saying that this is all about conservation when in fact they have gone through an unconscionable process to land at this position and have the Greens complicit in their pocket on this issue.
So, at a whim of a small group of people who happened to be invited to attend that reset meeting in April 2012, the boundaries were changed. Again, we have this bogus kind of consultation that the government talks about, which was not consult and decide, it was announce and defend, because there were absolutely minimal changes over that six-month period from April 2012 as a result of them being advised of the reset process.
There have been broken commitments, and I would just like to quote a couple of them. On 29 January 2009 the then minister for the environment, the Hon. Jay Weatherill, wrote to commercial fishing licence holders. I am not going to read the two pages, but I will just read several paragraphs which are germane to this debate. He says:
There will, however, be some small zones within each park where conservation is a priority and where resource extraction and certain other activities will not be allowed.
Under a few items, point 3:
The following commercial fishing opportunities will be maintained within marine parks;
It goes on:
(b)Rock lobster fishing in important lobster fishing blocks, specifically:
i)west of Kangaroo Island;
ii)around the toe of Yorke Peninsula; and
iii)between Coffin Bay and the Thorny Passage on the lower Eyre Peninsula.
(c)Existing haul net fishers in the following key locations:
i)shallow waters (less than 5 metres) at the Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park;
ii)shallow waters (less than 5 metres) of the Upper Gulf St Vincent Marine Park; and
iii)shallow waters (less than 5 metres) of the Franklin Harbour Marine Park.
Another one from one of the departmental officers who went on the ABC South East, Mr Chris Thomas, who says:
We just need to work out with the community where some small areas we can put aside for the long-term conservation of our habitats and marine species. So, through a three-year process of consultation, we can certainly minimise any impact on commercial and recreational fishers, while still achieving a solid conservation outcome. So, it is about getting that balance between conservation and use, which is a three-year task.
Then further he says:
…I guess the important thing is, we need to make sure that the community, which holds valuable information, particularly about use and activity, that we capture that information and we build it into a marine parks program…trying to determine where are the really important fishing spots, so we don't actually end up putting them in no-take areas.
Then he talks about trying to minimise displacement of commercial fishers. The economic impact on regions was the subject of an EconSearch report which was commissioned by the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources dated 20 August 2012. In the executive summary, under 'Economic Impacts', it states:
In summary, the proposed draft zoning is expected to have the following economic impacts on the following sectors of the regional economy: potential positive impact in the tourism sector in the medium to long-term; neutral impact in the aquaculture, property, marine infrastructure and operations, mining and coastal development sectors; and short, medium and long-term negative impacts in the commercial fishing sector.
At that point I pause to note that the government's own report identifies that it is the commercial fishing sector which is the one that will be taking the greatest economic impact in the implementation of these zones. Under the heading 'Commercial Fishing' it says:
In aggregate, it was estimated that the impact of marine park zoning will generate the following loss of regional economic activity on an ongoing basis:
Approximately $12.6 million in gross state product (GSP) which represents 0.02 per cent of the state total…
Approximately 124 fte jobs…
Approximately $7.89 million in household income…
Impacts are based on SARDI's average annual displaced catches…
Under 'Tourism' it says:
…the perception that recreational fishing opportunities will be restricted by implementing 'no-take' zones is real.
That goes to vindicate the select committee establishment. Under 'Coastal Development' it says:
Marine parks will not prevent coastal developments approved under the Development Act.
I think this is relevant to the fact that development is one of the main contributors to harming our marine environments. Under 'Social Impacts', it says:
The main group impacted within these communities will be commercial fishing. Commercial fishing is one of the four top industry sources of regional employment for all but two economic regions (Upper Spencer Gulf and Fleurieu & Coorong), and contributes significantly fewer jobs than does tourism in all but two economic regions (Lower Eyre Peninsula and Franklin Harbour)...Most of the sanctuary zones are in low use areas for recreational fishing...with quite localized impacts in six marine parks (Far West Coast, West Coast Bays, Upper Spencer Gulf, Eastern Spencer Gulf, Encounter and Lower South East Marine Parks). A critical factor in determining the ultimate impact of marine parks is how well local communities are able to adapt to change and how cohesive they are in supporting each other through the change.
Further, it has a table (table 4) which lists the specific marine parks and states that the highest impacts will be within the Nuyts Archipelago and the Encounter Bay marine parks.
Wildcatch Fisheries, who were represented at the recent briefing, have done a summary which I think is useful to read into the record:
Commercial seafood harvesters rely on a healthy, unpolluted, productive marine environment to maintain their livelihoods and support their families; hence conservation of marine biodiversity is their number one priority.
The private member's bill proposes to remove 12 high impact sanctuary zones out of a total of 84; a minor amendment that will reduce the regional impact by more than half while going a long way to restoring the community stewardship necessary for a successful marine park network.
The Department for Environment—
the following words are underlined—
did not follow the accepted guidelines for establishing marine protected areas by identifying threats and risks. The process and outcome became purely political, therefore politically is the only way it can be corrected.
I think that that is a very useful statement, because if the government had taken the opportunity—it could correct these zones if it wished—we would not be here debating this issue. I have been forced in effect to stick up for regional South Australia and try to have some amendments made.
Local advisory groups appointed by the Minister for Environment were established with a very diverse cross-section of the local community. These 12 high-impact areas are representative of the minister and Department of Environment's willingness to ignore the recommendations of the local advisory groups. The impact on the regional coastal towns has been assessed by the Department of Environment's own commissioned report undertaken by EconSearch, which I have already referred to.
If I can just refer to some correspondence I have received from Mr Andrew Ferguson of Ferguson Australia, who said:
The only...impact of these sanctuary zones is to impact on sustainable, renewable, high-value, export fisheries. No-where else in...this country, or internationally for that matter, have we seen such an approach adopted. Is there no regard for State fisheries managers who have spent years of research to produce harvest strategies for the setting of sustainable [total allowable catches] etc.?
At this point, I might interpose and say that South Australia's fisheries are sustainable and well managed by PIRSA Fisheries, and this has been something that has been completely ignored by the government. He goes on to say:
The Premier states that 6% of state waters are to be closed to sanctuary zones but forgets to mention this targets over 30%of highly productive fishing grounds within the 6%.
This is important because it goes to the issue of sustainable fisheries management, and that in order to be sustainable effort is best rotated over the broadest possible area so, if you like, you give those areas a rest, but if you close those off then that reduces that opportunity. Mr Ferguson goes on to say:
…the process to establish the quantum of displaced commercial fishing effort, and its subsequent removal, was undertaken within an extremely compressed time frame.
This is a reference to the period April to November or December 2012. Wildcatch has recently written to the minister, and I will quote from their letter from 5 June. They say the following:
The persistence of the Department for Environment, Water & Natural Resources (DEWNR) to ignore the outcomes of the Ministers own appointed Local Advisory Groups process only highlights a lack of integrity; opinions supported by the findings of the Legislative Council Select Committee on Marine Parks in South Australia. Unfortunately, this bullish process has alienated key stakeholders and irreparably undermined the local community stewardship required to successfully manage extensive marine park zoning.
WFSA fully supports that any catch/effort displaced by Marine Park zoning (commercial & recreational) must be removed to ensure sustainability of the state fishery resource.
And so on. The Premier has highlighted his own lack of understanding of how marine parks should work in his recent replies in the House of Assembly question time. He said on 22 May:
The ambition of the marine parks scheme for South Australia is not to cost jobs: it is to actually grow jobs in regional South Australia.
Yet his own EconSearch report, which was commissioned in 2012, says that there will be a loss of 124 FTEs. He then goes on to talk about urban development, run-off from agriculture, fishing and other activities. He says it is how bait is left behind in fishing grounds, ropes are left behind, lines are left behind. These are things that are managed through other means already. Certainly, the issues of urban development and run-off from agriculture are not remotely addressed by these marine parks.
He referred to Gulf St Vincent and the damage that has been done to the marine environment. It is an interesting point to note Gulf St Vincent, because we know that there has been seagrass loss and that has not had anything to do with fishing. That has been to do with stormwater and wastewater that runs into the gulf. Indeed, it was one of the areas that Karen Edyvane covered in her report, which really did outline the science, and I have spoken about this before. In the late 1990s she identified Gulf St Vincent as one of the biodiversity hotspots and yet it was completely omitted from the outer boundaries and it was completely omitted from the sanctuary zones. I think that just goes to show that there is no scientific integrity. They have ignored their own advice.
The Premier then went on to talk about regions being able to promote themselves to the world and businesses on the West Coast which will promote themselves as having grown their fish in marine parks. Yet this again is contradicted. I would like to quote from Dr Gary Morgan, an individual who is consulted by other countries around the world in establishing marine parks. He is quite involved in the issue of overseas marketing and he says the following:
On the issue of the continued claims that commercial fishers will benefit from being able to claim their product was caught in a marine park…I was a guest speaker at the Australia/China Business Council's Food Summit in Sydney on Friday—
so this was about 24 May or a bit earlier—
(…Barnaby Joyce and Craig Emerson were also there) and there was a lot of discussion around the 'image' that Australia projects in China and what 'Brand Australia' means in an agribusiness environment.
The issue of marine parks was briefly brought up in this context and the general reaction from the Chinese side was that product labelled as being caught in a marine park would be seen as a negative influence because of the confusion it would create. They think ALL of Australia is pristine and would question why fish caught in a marine park is any better than one that is not and would anyway consider it 'bad' to catch fish in a marine park because marine parks in China are strictly no-go areas.
I had discussions later with Mrs Jihong He, the President of the China Food Association who confirmed that promoting things like regional branding, marine parks and the like would create enormous confusion in the market.
Incidentally…the Australian rock lobster industry…now accounts for over 10% of Australia's total food exports to China, which makes it larger in this market than either the wine or dairy industry.
As a major export industry not only for the State but for Australia, it worries me that comments such as this coming from Government officials…could undo a lot of the work the industry is doing (with DFAT and Austrade as well as with New Zealand) around branding and marketing.
EconSearch looked at some of the environmental impacts, and table 3.1 on page 11 of that particular report has quite an extensive list. Under the title 'Extraction of living resources' we have examples of uses as fishing activities, water extraction (for instance, desalination) and aquaculture. Under 'Modification of fauna behaviour' is berleying, mammal interactions, including noise and provisioning trawler bycatch discards.
Under 'Pollution of water/sediments' we have industrial discharges, wastewater, stormwater, coastal and catchment land use and spills; under 'Modification or destruction of habitat' we have coastal engineering (such as marinas, pipelines, dredging, trawling and mining). Under 'The introduction of pest species and diseases' we have shipping, recreational fishing and boating, imported products and aquaculture. Under 'Climate change' is a broad range of activities, mainly land based, that result in the generation of greenhouse gases, acidification, temperature change and sea level rise.
I note that that list, which I think is probably quite a comprehensive list, also includes berleying, yet berleying is allowed within marine park sanctuary zones, while scientific research has been deemed illegal and requires a permit. I have had some feedback since I tabled the bill from some of the recreational fishing sector, who have said that, in particular, the Investigator Marine Park, sanctuary zone 2 at Pearson's Island, is a huge tourism charter area, and for recreational fishing also provides shelter.
Most of Thorny Passage was agreed upon by the LAG, and that is not included in this particular bill in any case. For the North Neptune Islands, which the Hon. Kyam Maher referred to, the response is:
This is unbelievable to think it can be a sanctuary zone. It's used by all fishing groups, including the shark diving crews. Fishing is what the shark diving crews do when they are waiting for the sharks to turn up. A massive impact on their business, the area provides great shelter with the anchorages. It's hard to understand how we are not allowed to feed dingos, but are allowed to burley and tease the most dangerous predator in the water (great white sharks) and then say we are not changing the behaviour of this species.
I note that the CSIRO has said that berleying does in fact change the behaviour of great white sharks. Rapid Head, in Encounter Marine Park, is a very important launching area for recreational fishers.
That gets me on to the issue of RecFish, which I understand oppose this bill, and that is because they have a particular view about what happens in Gulf St Vincent. This issue was put directly to the Director of Fisheries, Professor Mehdi Doroudi in the marine parks select committee. When I said to him, 'You would be aware that RecFish have been critical to do with garfish management in the top of the gulf, which they say justifies the sanctuary zone,' he said, 'I do not agree with their position, and I have been in contact with them.' He goes on to talk about a range of management measures that have been put in place.
A recreational fisher, who has extensive knowledge of fishing has said to me that, in relation to RecFish's support for that zone, the chairman is under the belief that the zone will provide significant stock management benefits through additional protection for spawning or juvenile fish, but this is not supported by scientific research. The previous officer of RecFish, which used to be known as SARFAC, is Mr Trevor Watts. He sent me an email in response to the tabling of this bill in May, stating:
I have just read your [marine park] amendment bill, thank you for sending it…I still have an interest in fishery management in SA and have been appalled and ashamed at the way SARFAC [that is RecFish SA] have conducted themselves since my retirement.
SARFAC had a good reputation with the media and public and was respected by Government but we never expected to be liked because anglers views were always different and that they felt they were always 'dudded' by those in power. And there is plenty evidence to support that.
Along with the now retired Chairman, we together since 1998 and before spent most of our time gaining the public's respect with professionalism and expertise. I now read this as all going down the drain.
I note that a fair chunk of the government's commitments to environment spending in the election and in the budget relate to recreational fishing, which speaks to me of a stinky deal, particularly at a time when we have record debt levels. Quite frankly, some of that funding would be better off being spent on re-establishing seagrasses in the gulf. What I say to people who may be involved in RecFish SA is that, if you care for your reputation, run for the hills, run now, and run fast.
It has got to the point where Mr Holmes, the CEO of the department, in his recent remarks in relation to large funding cuts to the department, has said that the public will have to become primary custodians of marine parks, which is certainly what we have been saying for some time. It is hard to understand how those regional communities which have been so mistreated by this government are going to be remotely interested in dobbing in anyone because they are very cynical.
The Greens, I think it is fair to say, have for many years seen campaigns as a mode of conservation. What I would like to say to them is that the model of Landcare is the one that has been sustainable in many ways over many years and imposing a 'we know best' approach, which is what DEWNR did, is going to result in a backlash. I think that, in some ways, there are DEWNR staff who, from what I have been told, would certainly have breached public sector codes in some of the things they said and did in this whole process.
I think the modus operandi for this campaign style does not work, and it leads to the term 'green' being a pejorative term. Most of us would like to say that we are green. We recycle and, if you are a landowner, you try to preserve your soils and your native vegetation. But this program, primarily between this process and NRM, has led to the massive loss of confidence in DEWNR by the right wing of the Labor Party, and we see those cuts now, which are being implemented. We have seen the right wing Treasurer making jokes in budget lockups about getting rid of the department, so I think that is a message for the conservation sector that they need to work more collaboratively in the future rather than allowing this 'we know best' approach.
In response to some of the remarks that were made, the Hon. Mark Parnell misrepresented me when he said that this was at the behest of the commercial industry. It has not just been the commercial industry; there have been recreational fishers and regional representatives who have also spoken to me. I note that, even in the government's own report, they identify that the biggest impact will be on the commercial sector. He also said, quite mischievously, that the commercial sector does not like marine parks. That is just not true in any way, shape or form; in fact, some of them have actively campaigned for marine parks. This process, I think, was overtaken by some agendas within the environment department.
I have also talked about the furphy of the long consultation. The Hon. Mark Parnell talked about compromise. Well, a lot of people compromise with the LAG process. In my second reading explanation, I went through a whole range of zones I had not included in the bill because some people had said that they were not very happy but that they could live with it, and those regional communities have already compromised.
We are at the point where decisions are being made about closing fish factories, selling vessels and shutting down operations. Be it on the head of the Greens and this Labor government if changes are not made to the boundaries.
He has also—and the government, as well: they are one on this—tried to portray this as anti-environment. It is not anti-environment. Quite frankly, the Edyvane approach was not used from the start. We have not used a threats-based approach. The major impact that is going to be implemented when these come into force on 1 October is on fishing. It would be nice if the honourable member would speak to people who understand fisheries management and how they are sustainable and also speak to people in regional communities who have undertaken measures over the years to implement fisheries management so that those stocks are sustainable.
This is where the Hon. Mark Parnell and I really see this approach to conservation quite differently. He talked about easy in, hard out. I can understand why the conservation sector feels that way because there are probably numerous examples over the years where the environment has lost out to things. But there is a major difference between terrestrial and marine conservation. The biggest threats to terrestrial biodiversity are land clearance and invasive pest species.
We have set aside parks. If anybody goes walking around Morialta Conservation Park or Mount Lofty conservation park, or a number of conservation parks, you can see why people did not necessarily want to use those as arable land because they are so steep. Historically, the legacy of some of the earlier proclaimed terrestrial parks that we have are there because they were not really of much use for growing things on. Now we are at the point where in the Adelaide Hills we need to revegetate if we are going to maintain those species.
A lot of our marine environments are pristine and that is not going to change in a lot of cases because of fishing. It is going to be other factors. It is going to be invasive species and more run-off, and those areas. To try to just randomly lock away areas I think does the conservation cause no good at all because it just makes people cynical.
I also say to the people of South Australia, and in particular to the Hon. Kelly Vincent, that those with a social conscience and those who care for the environment should be wary of the Greens and the Labor Party because their views are often based on misplaced understanding.
The Hon. K.L. Vincent: I like to make my own decisions.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Well, I am just saying that as a point of warning.
The Hon. K.L. Vincent: I don't need to be warned about making my own decisions, thank you very much.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Okay, that's fine. One example is the Kangaroo Island local advisory groups who pointed out to the department an area where there is a particular leafy sea dragon habitat which was just not even included. I think there are a lot of examples where there were locals who tried to point out good areas to the environment department that should have actually been included and would have provided some benefit but that was not done, for whatever reason.
Finally, I would like to thank the many South Australians in regional South Australia, particularly, who have continued to speak out, through the select committee process and others, at the unjustness of this process. My door was open to anyone and everyone. There has been no secret about this bill. It is no secret that I had hoped to be the minister at this point in time and that we would be able to undertake a complete review, but that is not the situation before us. The best I could do to force the government's hand is come up with this piece of legislation which reverts the sanctuary zones.
It is not like we are suddenly going to be opening the sanctuary zones to people who go barging in with a Margiris, or anything like that. It is just that there will be habitat protection zones, for which there are a number of protections already, so it will be a higher level of protection than they have now. The passage of this bill will be a win for common sense and, if the government had followed the LAG advice, we would not be debating it.
The council divided on the second reading:
Lensink, J.M.A. (teller)
Gago, G.E. (teller)
Second reading thus carried.
Bill taken through committee without amendment.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 18:10 :02 ): I move:
That this bill be now read a third time.
Bill read a third time and passed.