by Jeni Bone
This morning, Minister for the Environment, the Honorable Greg Hunt, presented the Coalition’s commitment to recreational fishing, in a paper to the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation and Australian Fishing Trade Association Parliamentary Breakfast.
That wonderful natural wonder of the world known as the Great Barrier Reef.
Entitled 'Catching the Benefits', the Minister’s wide-ranging speech covered the marine environment, rivers, dams, the Great Barrier Reef and marine parks.
'For more than 30 years now, Australia has been a world leader in the management, conservation and sustainable use of our marine environment. Ours is a marine nation; we have the third largest marine jurisdiction in the world—more than 14 million square kilometres of ocean.
'Around 85 per cent of our population live within 50 kilometres of the coast, and for centuries our oceans have helped defined our national identity and lifestyle. Coastal communities depend on the marine environment for their recreation and livelihoods.
Greg Hunt Minister for the Environment
'It is important then that we protect and improve our unique environment, both marine and terrestrial, for future generations.
'Australia’s marine resources are a central focus of the Coalition Government’s environment policy – our Plan for a Cleaner Environment. The plan rests on four pillars: Clean Air, Clean Land, Clean Water and Heritage Protection.'
Minister Hunt committed to a Marine Reserves Review, saying 'The Australian Government is committed to restoring confidence in the Commonwealth marine reserve planning process'.
'That is why, as part of our election commitment, we undertook to immediately set aside and review the existing management plans for the new marine reserve networks. The review will ensure that the management of Australia’s marine reserve network is based on scientific rigor and genuine consultation with affected communities and industries.
'We intend to deliver new management plans for the Commonwealth marine reserves, plans that protect marine ecosystems and accommodate the many industries and communities that use our oceans.
'We will be consulting fishers and other stakeholders, so that new arrangements can be put in place to ensure there is ongoing engagement in reserve management and a pathway to effectively advise the Government.
'We will soon appoint an expert scientific panel to look closely at the science supporting the current marine reserves, including proposed zoning and allowed uses. Bioregional Advisory Panels will be established in each of the five regions to facilitate and improve consultation with stakeholders. From these early advisory panels, I am looking to establish regional groups to enable stakeholders to engage in the management of the reserves in an ongoing way.
'The outcomes of the review will inform the development of new management plans for the marine reserve networks for the South-west, North-west, North and Temperate East marine regions and the Coral Sea marine reserve.'
He continued: 'The details of the scientific and bioregional advisory panels will be announced in the near future, with significant work and consultation to be undertaken in the first half of next year. The Government is committed to maintaining the external boundaries of the marine reserves and looks forward to addressing those areas that have caused concern in the management plans signed off by the previous Government.
'The review will build on the success of previous Coalition Government decisions on marine protected areas, including the rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef and the establishment of the South-east network, and will look to enhance management consistency across all marine protected areas in Commonwealth waters.
Mining and water quality are top priorities
'I should point out that the Southeast Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network Management Plan is not part of the review. That plan is already in effect, and puts in place the zoning and management arrangements that were created by the Coalition in 2007.
'For the other reserves, until the new management plans come into effect, there will be no ‘on the water’ changes for users.'
Minister Hunt also revealed the government’s Reef 2050 Plan. The plan will outline a strategic long-term approach to actions addressing key threats to the Great Barrier Reef, including nutrient run-off, Crown of Thorns Starfish and species protection, particularly turtles and dugongs.
Crown of Thorns Starfish eating a coral colony.
The funding announcement of an additional $1.1m complements the Government’s election commitment to $2 million under the Reef 2050 Plan for Crown of Thorns control and supports the existing $5 million commitment to manage starfish and fund research to improve their management.
'An Australian Government funded culling program is currently underway using a single injection method that is harmless to other marine life. This new method will greatly increase how quickly COTS can be brought under control on high value reefs.
'With this more efficient control method the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators estimate they will be able to cull at least another 80,000 COTS from the reef.
Shipping through the Great Barrier Reef is forecast to grow exponentially in the next 20 years.
'The Reef 2050 Plan will also include the development of a Reef Trust, which will combine both Australian Government and private funds to focus on improving coastal habitat and the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef.
'The Government will commit $40 million to establish the Trust, which will be jointly coordinated with the Queensland Government. The focus will be a strategic approach to improving water quality and coastal habitat.'
He ended his presentation with the adage: 'The worst day fishing is better than the best day working'.
'We want to make sure Australians continue to have the opportunity to experience that for themselves with access to a healthy, robust and thriving marine environment.'
More at www.greghunt.com.au