NSW Marine Parks audit report released
The NSW Government has released the Independent Scientific Audit Report into Marine Parks in NSW, and called for submissions in response.
The two principal recommendations of the panel are that the governance of the NSW Marine Estate be re-organised by bringing the entire estate under one legislative and administrative structure that is closely aligned with the five catchment management authorities covering the NSW coastal drainage systems and that the science for the NSW Marine Estate be re-organised under an independent Scientific Committee.
Other recommendations of the panel deal with specific issues associated with the principal recommendations and terms of reference. They include the adequacy of research conducted for the management of marine parks; the need for significant improvements in social and economic research, and integration of this research into management of marine parks and the marine estate in general; better management of threats to marine biodiversity especially through improved relationships between catchment management authorities and bodies responsible for the management of the marine estate and better identification of local indigenous land and sea knowledge and incorporation of this into management.
As the report noted, controversy about marine parks has been building in NSW since at least 2007, culminating in it becoming a significant issue in the March 2011 state election. The Scientific Audit was announced in early June 2011, with nine terms of reference and a six-month reporting deadline.
Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson said the NSW Government stands by the existing moratorium on the declaration of new marine parks, alteration of sanctuary zones and review of zoning plans.
“The Government will now invite public submissions on the Audit Report and will formally respond to the Audit Report in due course,” she said. “The NSW Government will then consider the Audit recommendations as well as community feedback to develop our formal response”.
Professor Colin Buxton, who was part of the six-member audit team, said that the audit results will have ramifications across Australia.
“What the panel was saying was that more had to be done to bring the different elements of marine management together. We especially need to find a way to break the deadlock between conservationists calling for more no-take areas, and fishermen who see themselves as being unfairly targeted in the process and being locked out of their livelihoods.”
Professor Buxton said that science had an important role to play, but that science was frequently distorted to suit political agendas.