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Wednesday, 20 August 1980
Page: 572

Mr Humphreys asked the Minister for Science and the Environment the following question, upon notice, on 21 May 1980:

(   1 ) Has his attention been drawn to reports of growing community interest in the total declaration of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park; if so, when will the total declaration be completed.

(2)   Can he say whether interest has been shown in oil exploration in reef waters north of Cape York, Queensland.

(3)   In view of the fact that the Australian-Papua New Guinea Border Agreement has been settled for some time, will the Government now expand the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's jurisdiction to Anchor Cay, regarded by biologists as the northern limit of the Great Barrier Reef.

Mr Thomson - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(   1 ) I am aware that some members of the community are pressing for a total declaration of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The policy of the Government is very clear. It was stated by the Prime Minister in the House on 1 May 1 980. We are progressively declaring sections of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and by the end of the year we expect that two sections of the Reef representing one-quarter of the length of the Reef of 2,000 kilometres will be marine park. The Government is taking advice from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority which will proceed to investigate and recommend other sections of the Reef for declarations as marine park.

(2)   One offshore petroleum exploration permit, Q11/P, issued in 1968, remains in force in this area. The permit is partly in the Great Barrier Reef Region and partly in the Protected Zone which is provided for in the Torres Strait Treaty between Australia and Papua New Guinea signed in December 1978. Operations on this permit were suspended in 1971 following the establishment of the Royal Commissions into Exploratory and Production Drilling for Petroleum in the Area of the Great Barrier Reef; and no approval for resumption of operations has been given because of the Government's policies on oil exploration in the Great Barrier Reef Region and the provision for the Protected Zone in the Torres Strait Treaty.

Most of the Reef area north of Cape York lies within the Protected Zone defined by that Treaty, which is to be subject to a special regime for the protection and preservation of the marine environment, including a prohibition on mining and drilling of the seabed for an initial period of 10 years.

(3)   In the press release issued on 14 June 1979 following discussions between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland, it was announced that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act will continue unchanged and that the boundaries of the Great Barrier Reef Region will remain as defined in the Commonwealth legislation.

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