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South Australia’s Marine Parks Bill offers fees by stealth and an unfair weighting to conservation, says MLC

Posted by gmarkets on 11 October, 2007

It was safe to say that no one was happy with the Marine Parks Bill as it stood, said Liberal MLC Caroline Schaefer in South Australia’s Legislative Council on 11 September 2007.

Ecological sustainable development insufficiently acknowledged in Bill: Having said that, she continued, neither were they, in general, opposed to marine protected areas; they simply wanted transparency, certainty and input — none of which are afforded to them in the bill. The primary objective of the legislation did not adequately acknowledge the specific objective of ecological sustainable development (ESD) and the use of the marine environment, and the stakeholders have put forward that, as it is structured, ESD is a secondary consideration.

Equal weight wanted: It was important that ESD was elevated and acknowledged to ensure that future decisions about marine protected areas took account of ESD objectives in balance with other listed objectives. In other words, stakeholders wanted equal weighting given to ecological sustainability and development as well as conservation, where appropriate — not one taking precedence over the other.

Who pays? There was reference in the bill to the vital issue of the cost of managing marine parks and charges to stakeholders and local communities. “While we all support the cost of restoring the damage being borne by those who caused the damage, we cannot support the cost of what is a state, national and even an international program being the responsibility of local regional stakeholders,” Schaefer said. Most user groups — for example, fishermen and aquaculture — were already managed under appropriate separate legislation with cost recovery adequately dealt with. Importantly, the bill did not guarantee stakeholder involvement in managing marine parks and the costs involved.

Fees by stealth? The representative system of marine parks was a whole-of-state initiative for the benefit of the state, said Schaefer. Equity principles dictated that the state should bear any cost of management, policing, research and displaced fishery; regional communities and industry should not pay for the cost of parks established for wider state interests. “I have been assured by the department that the permit system processes referred to in the bill will not apply to any current commercial activities and will not be a way of introducing a recreational licence by stealth. That then begs the question: to whom will they apply? The answer given was perhaps the odd underwater film crew. Well, I am sorry but I am not convinced that there are sufficient film crews to warrant this inclusion in the act. Once it is there the door is open to all sorts of inclusions to pay fees.”

Marine parks council mooted: “I ask again: how does the minister intend to use permits and charges, and how will they be determined and managed? To this end, I will move that a marine parks council be provided for in the legislation.” Schaefer said the council:

  • would be the vehicle to guarantee stakeholder involvement in developing and managing marine parks in the state;
  • would have the responsibility for overseeing the preparation of park management plans, ensuring consultation with and engage­ment of stakeholders, overseeing preparation of impact statements, plan reviews, and for providing advice to the minister on those matters;
  • while expertise-based, would (as with the Fisheries Council) be mostly formed by nominations to the minister from key stakeholder groups; and
  • would be compelled to give advice based on the best scientific information available.

Reference: Caroline Schaefer, Australian politician, Liberal Party of Australia, Legislative Council, South Australia, 11 September 2007.

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