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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 2211

Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

(Question No. 1526)


Senator Cormann asked the Minister representing the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, upon notice, on 2 February 2012:

With reference to the proposed development of a network of marine parks, (the South-west Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network), in Western Australia:

(1) When will the boundaries proposed by the Commonwealth Government be released to the public and what is the process following their release.

(2) Has the Western Australian Government been consulted in the preparation of the proposed boundaries; if so, what is its position.

(3) Can the Minister confirm that Australia has more marine areas in sanctuary zones (with no commercial or recreational fishing) than anywhere else in the world.

(4) Can the Minister confirm that, when the current marine planning process is finished, Australia will have more sanctuary zones than the rest of the world combined.

(5) Do the boundaries proposed by the Commonwealth Government include new areas of marine national park near the Abrolhos Islands, the Perth Canyon or other areas off the coast of Western Australia.

Did the proposal of the new marine national park area originate in: (a) the department; (b) the Minister's office; or (c) a non-government organisation; if so, which organisation(s).

(6) Have any submissions to the Minister or the department been received in regard to the proposed boundaries of the marine national parks; if so, will the submissions be released to the public.

(7) What scientific data was used to establish the proposed boundaries for the marine park areas.

(8) What other advice did the Minister receive in regard to the development of the boundaries and the conservation goals of the proposed reserves.


Senator Conroy: The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

In regards to the South-west Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network in Western Australia:

(1) A final marine reserve network proposal will be released to the public during 2012 following the Government's consideration of submissions received during the public consultation process conducted in 2011.

Once a final marine reserve network proposal has been released, there will be a separate process to formally proclaim the marine reserve network under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

(2) The Western Australian Government has been consulted throughout the marine bioregional planning process and provided a written submission during the public consultation stage. In its submission, the Western Australian Government confirmed its general support for marine reserves and its commitment to working with the Australian Government on marine biodiversity protection. The submission of the Western Australian Government will be made available on the website of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

(3) Australia's existing highly protected zones (within Commonwealth marine reserves), including within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and external territories, covers approximately 300 000 square kilometres. This figure excludes the areas of proposed highly protected zones across Australia as these have not been finalised. Currently the Chagos Islands have the largest single highly protected marine protected area in the world at over 500 000 square kilometres.

(4) Australia's marine reserves and their zoning have not been finalised. Therefore it is not possible to compare the size and extent of highly protected zones within the Australian system with what exists or what is proposed in other countries.

(5) The South-west marine reserve network proposal is being finalised following public consultation. All of the proposed marine reserves subject to public consultation were new areas.

(6) Work on the development of new marine reserves is being carried out by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. The public consultation process afforded all interested members of the community the opportunity to provide comments on the proposed South-west marine reserves.

(7) The formal consultation period invited submissions on a marine reserve proposal released by Government. The submissions that were received are being considered in revising the network. Where individuals and organisations have nominated, their submissions will be made publicly available on the department's website. It is anticipated that this will occur shortly.

(8) The reserve design is based on the Goals and Principles for the Establishment of the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (NRSMPA) in Commonwealth waters which were finalised in 2007 by the former Government, drawing on lessons learnt through the earlier development of marine reserves in the South-East region.

The department's website has a list of online datasets that have been used in developing marine bioregional plans http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/. The list includes datasets from CSIRO and Geosciences Australia. The Goals and Principles for the Establishment of the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas are also on the department's website.

(9) Key inputs into the process include:

existing scientific information underlying the Integrated Marine and Coastal Regionalisation of Australia (IMCRA v.4.0) (e.g. bathymetry, geomorphic features, distribution of endemic biota)

additional regional information on habitats, species distribution and ecology gathered during the marine bioregional planning process

data on the location and distribution of human activities in a marine region

views of ocean users and stakeholders in each marine region

consideration of the contribution that existing spatial management measures can make to the NRMSPA, and

consideration of potential management effectiveness (e.g. feasibility of compliance).