Labor vows to block 'largest removal of marine area from conservation, ever'
Opposition condemns Coalition plan to open more recreational and commercial fishing areas
Labor says it will move to disallow new marine park management plans proposed by the Turnbull government, branding the change the “largest removal of marine area from conservation, ever, from any government in the world”.The new management plans were uploaded by officials on the federal register of legislation on Tuesday, cutting across a public announcement the Turnbull government had planned to make on Wednesday.
The shadow environment minister, Tony Burke, said the changes being proposed by the government were a significant step backwards in terms of conservation.
Labor will move to disallow the proposed management plans in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“There has never been a step backwards in conservation area as large as this from any country on earth,” Burke said on Tuesday.
Labor before it lost office in 2013 unveiled a network of 42 marine reserves that was largely welcomed by environmental groups, but was designed to have a minimal impact on commercial activities, which led to some criticism from conservationists and scientists.When Tony Abbott came to government in 2013, Labor’s proposal was suspended. Abbott said he did not want to “lock up our oceans” and that more consultation was needed.
The Turnbull government has taken the process through to its conclusion. Following a scientific review the Coalition released draft management plans for consultation in September last year. The final boundaries appeared on Tuesday.
Burke said the government’s proposal was more negative than the one proposed by its experts. “Josh Frydenberg has looked at those changes and determined that even they didn’t go far enough and has decided to take even more areas out of environmental protection.”
Labor says the plans have also opened up a recreational fishing zone to commercial operators.
“The worst area affected is the Coral Sea,” Burke said. “Purse seine, longlining and mid-water trawling, which is the same method used by the super trawler, are all now allowed across the Coral Sea with a clear uninterrupted path from north to south.”
The environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, rejected Burke’s characterisation. He described the new regime as “a world-leading management regime” for Australia’s marine parks.
Frydenberg said the new management plans would mean Australia had 36% of its waters included in marine parks, and the new plans would be beneficial for recreational fishers.
He said under the revised arrangements 97% of commonwealth waters within 100km of the coast would be open for recreational fishing, and 80% of marine parks.
Frydenberg said the government’s proposal would mean an increase of 200,000 square kilometres in the area with seafloor protection.
The government acknowledges that its new management plans contain fewer green zones, but it contends that “overall” there will be more areas protected by both green and yellow zones.
It also warns if the plans aren’t supported, protections for marine parks will revert to the status quo. Frydenberg says it will “take years to go through the necessary statutory processes and bring forward new plans”.