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Wednesday, 3 December 2003
Page: 23695

Ms LIVERMORE (7:49 PM) —Tonight I wish to pay tribute to the work of Capricorn Sunfish and others in what has been, for Central Queensland, a worthwhile outcome from the rezoning of our part of the Great Barrier Reef. When first released by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Representative Areas Program, RAP, generated broad community concern in Central Queensland because of the likelihood that it would close many popular recreational fishing areas, both inshore and offshore. Together with the executive of Capricorn Sunfish, I was concerned by this hostile feeling in the community and we called for genuine public consultation to be allowed to take place and for those consultations to be given the opportunity to work. We agreed that the final RAP had to respect the interests of the local fishing community and that, in fact, GBRMPA would produce a better zoning map with the inclusion of valuable local knowledge built up over many years. As a result, on 14 June this year I had a four-page supplement inserted into our local newspaper, calling on our local fishers to support the consultative process.

Capricorn Sunfish carefully considered its options and decided to try and develop a more publicly acceptable alternative for our area—one that would reduce the amount of popular fishing locations that would be lost while still meeting the basic objectives of the Representative Areas Program in terms of bioregion closures. A public meeting was called for 8 July 2003 to discuss the recently released draft zoning maps and to identify the areas of contention in our Central Queensland region. Nearly 200 people attended this meeting, which was successful in documenting all areas in Central Queensland that were proposed for rezoning about which local fishers were upset. It also identified a number of generally acceptable alternatives to the draft zoning proposals.

A second meeting was convened on 22 July 2003, and this meeting was attended by over 230 people. A consolidated alternative zoning map and rationale was presented and some minor refinements made as a result of further input from that meeting. At the end of that meeting those supporting the alternative plan were asked to sign a petition, and 230 signatures were obtained on the night. These alternative proposals were distributed around tackle stores and interested groups for a further two weeks, resulting in a final tally of 630 signatures being obtained in support of the alternative proposals. This represented a single community backed response which was forwarded by Capricorn Sunfish to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Capricorn Sunfish was able to channel the community's concerns into a constructive engagement, and ultimately a rational and reasoned alternative zoning proposal was developed. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority was very impressed with the manner in which Capricorn Sunfish and the Central Queensland community approached the problem and with the alternative plan that was presented. I am delighted to advise the House this evening, and the people of Central Queensland, that the new plan released today by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage contains almost all of the changes asked for by the people of Central Queensland and so ably presented by Capricorn Sunfish. There is no doubt that the majority of Australians want to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Nowhere is this more so than in Central Queensland. The result of today's announcement should be one which provides acceptable access to most of the area's popular recreational fishing locations while still meeting the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's objectives and bioregion protection thresholds.

The environmental focus now needs to move to ensuring the state's inshore fishery is not destroyed as displaced fishing effort inevitably is pushed into this fragile fishery. I hope that our local Capricorn Sunfish members will again come forward to help find a suitable solution to the problems which will arise from these new challenges for our environment and our fishing community. The other outstanding issue is that of assistance to the commercial fishers, whose livelihood depends on the health of the Great Barrier Reef. Compensating the commercial fishers, whose businesses have been adversely impacted by these new closures, seems fair and reasonable. I call on the federal government to move quickly to ensure that any impact on the livelihoods of our commercial fishers as a result of these zoning changes is minimised. I would like to finish by congratulating once again Capricorn Sunfish for the leadership they have shown on this very difficult issue.