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Tuesday, 19 August 1980
Page: 29

Mr THOMSON (Leichhardt) (Minister for Science and the Environment) - Pursuant to section 33 of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975, I present the zoning plan for the Capricornia section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park together with a communique from the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council meeting of 1 August 1980. 1 seek leave to make a statement relating to the plan.

Leave granted.

Mr THOMSON - The Government's policies and initiatives concerning the Great Barrier Reef are based on the need to conserve this outstanding natural asset for all people, while allowing reasonable multiple uses to continue in a manner which is compatible with reef conservation. Finalisation of the Capricornia zoning plan is significant. It reflects a most intensive research and consultation program and demonstrates the Government's commitment to the careful planning of environmental protection to ensure that whatever is done is done effectively and efficiently.

The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Premier of Queensland agreed to establish the Ministerial Council, which comprises two Ministers from each Government. It is a focal point for co-operative effort between the Commonwealth and Queensland in the proper management and protection of the reef. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act specifically states that the Authority can perform any of its functions in cooperation with Queensland. It also provides that the Commonwealth Government may make arrangements with the Queensland Government for the performance of functions by Queensland officers. The establishment of the Ministerial Council to enable both governments to coordinate policy in relation to the reef has reinforced these provisions. The result is that the Commonwealth Government has been able to move rapidly towards the establishment of the marine park. The tabling of the Capricornia zoning plan and our moves towards declaration of a section of the marine park off Cairns provide solid evidence of the soundness of the Government's approach to the administration of the Act and the progressive establishment of the marine park as provided for by the Act.

The Authority is required by the Act to invite interested persons to make representations in connection with the development of zoning plans for declared sections of the park. Representations made in relation to the Capricornia zoning plan were submitted to me together with comments from the Authority. The Act also provides for individuals or groups to channel their views to either myself or the Authority through the Great Barrier Reef Consultative Committee. By taking this co-operative approach and deliberately involving the public in the management process, the reef will be protected and conflicts between various activities will be minimised.

The Capricornia section was chosen as the first section of the marine park as it is the most accessible part of the reef for tourists. Tourist and local use has increased significantly and management is necessary to provide for the protection of the area. Under the plan, the section is divided into six zones which provide a range of uses consistent with the conservation of the reef. There are two general use zones with very few restrictions, one providing for movement of shipping and trawl fishing and the other excluding these activities; two marine national park zones providing unrestricted public access for recreational activities, with certain conditions relating to recreational fishing and collecting; a scientific research zone; and a preservation zone providing areas protected in their natural state undisturbed by man except for approved scientific research purposes. Within certain zones, areas of periodic restricted activity are proposed for management and conservation purposes as described in the zoning plan.

To ensure the most effective and efficient implementation of the zoning plan, the Commonwealth and Queensland governments are developing a set of management principles and guidelines. The relevant Queensland agencies will have the responsibility for undertaking day-to-day management of the marine park. The aim is to rely as much as possible on education and the cooperation of the public in order to achieve the objects of the marine park. However, as with any land park, regulations are required to confer functions and powers, and impose duties upon inspectors. Similarly, regulations proposed will provide for the imposition of penalties for infringements. When the regulations come into effect, probably later this year, an explanatory booklet will be made available to promote understanding of both the zoning plan and regulations.

Considerable progress has also been made on a proposed section of the marine park off Cairns. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has assembled biological, physical and economic information and has evaluated public comment on this section. The Ministerial Council has invited the Marine Park Authority to examine and bring forward to the November meeting of the Council proposals for boundaries for the proposed Cairns section, and the full implication of these boundaries. It is anticipated that this section will be declared before the end of this year. Honourable members may have seen a recent statement claiming that the Marine Park Authority had completed the zoning work on the Cairns section in January. This is simply not true. No zoning plan for the Cairns section, in draft or any other form, has ever been prepared by or for the Authority. The Authority has insufficient information at this time to enable it to prepare a zoning plan. Before a plan can be prepared, the boundaries of the section must be defined, the section declared and public comment obtained on a proposal to prepare a zoning plan. These are the steps required by the Act. They were followed precisely in establishing the Capricornia section and its zoning plan. Experience in the preparation of the zoning plan for the Capricornia section has confirmed the wisdom of the Parliament in making provision for an effective public participation process under the Marine Park Act.

I have previously expressed concern at statements claiming that the reef was not adequately protected. Some people still continue to call on the Government to proclaim without delay the entire remaining reef region a marine park. The procedure now being followed is precisely what was proposed by the then Labor Government and adopted by Parliament in terms of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975.

The Act specifically states that the GovernorGeneral shall not proclaim an area to be part of the marine park except after consideration by the Executive Council of a Teport by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. To undertake a thorough investigation and to prepare a comprehensive report covering the entire region would take the Authority a considerable period of time even if its resources were unlimited. A policy of progressive declaration allows each section of the reef to be thoroughly investigated prior to recommending declaration and for the views of persons interested in the Reef to be taken into account. Whilst such consultation takes time, the Government believes it to be an essential part of the preparation for declarations of sections of the marine park and to the development of zoning plans for those sections.

Zoning of the reef in accordance with the Government's objectives is not simply a matter of drawing lines on a map and promulgating a few rules. The zoning plan identifies many of the issues which require careful and detailed consideration. The plan comprises six separate zones and two areas of periodic restricted use. These were determined after a comprehensive program of research and investigation. From those studies, boundaries, objectives and use and entry provisions were prepared. The zoning plan deals in detail with recreation, commercial and other fishing, the navigation and operation of vessels, the operation of aircraft, collecting, research, construction of facilities and visitor aids. Proposals for the regulation of various activities will obviously extend to matters such as the discharge of waste, dumping of materials, littering and the like. In developing the plan, the basic aim has been to minimise regulations but, where regulation is necessary, to make it as simple as possible.

Nevertheless, the zoning plan and regulations will provide a comprehensive basis for effective reef management and conservation in the area. While this process of progressive declaration is proceeding the entire Great Barrier Reef region is safeguarded from damage as a result of the package of policies and measures agreed between the Premier of Queensland and the Prime Minister.

I have emphasised on several occasions and I repeat that these policies are designed specifically to ensure the protection of the reef from drilling and mining and . to formalise arrangements to ensure that the provisions of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act are fully and efficiently implemented through co-operation between the two governments. The Government has been accused of avoiding questions relating to the reef. The opposite is true. The Government has issued frequent bulletins on its policies and initiatives. The most recent example are publications entitled The Reef, the Commonwealth Government and You' and 'The Great Barrier Reef- The Commonwealth Government Role' which I have just released. I commend the pamphlet and booklet for the information of honourable members.

Implementation of the Government's policies and initiatives will ensure that the Great Barrier Reef and surrounding region remains a spectacular natural phenomenon to be used by people from Australia and the rest of the world. The reef is an essential feature of the world heritage, an area of wilderness which must be protected at all costs. The zoning plan now before Parliament is evidence of that concern and of the Government's commitment to the conservation of our environment.

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