The Beagle Editor,
Our local Batemans Marine Park is now under review to deliver a management plan that works for all stakeholders. Supposedly, this is achieved by a risk assessment that is used to inform decision makers, who will then listen to experienced locals with a range of community interests, who in turn provide advice on the risk assessment issues identified. From there, evidence-based management plans are created.
The days of making plans that affect the entire community based only on ideology or a gut feeling are behind us. Instead, a methodical scientific approach that is practical and pragmatic must be used to get the right balance for an environmentally-sustainable marine park and the needs of the community. However, dark clouds are looming.
Last week the NSW government’s Marine Estate Management Authority (MEMA) released plans for a Hawkesbury Bioregion marine park. The park would extend from Newcastle, down past Sydney, to Wollongong. Public recreational fishing will be banned or restricted in 25 locations. Social media has gone berserk; members of the public say they are gobsmacked, have been blindsided and are seething with rage! Why has there been so much outrage?
Thousands of hours were put in by members of the public—consulting, preparing submissions, attending meetings, informing stakeholders and working with MEMA to develop scientifically-sound outcomes. These efforts have been completely ignored. It is very clear that this process cannot be managed by two state agencies with conflicting positions (MEMA and the Office of Environment and Heritage) and must be transferred to one agency—the Department of Primary Industries and its Minister for Fisheries.
Our local community doesn’t want a similar mess with the Batemans Marine Park. Politics must be kept out of the process; it is not the time to pressure government employees to rush to a goal for political gain. Our community should be part of the best model for a marine park—surely this is the government’s objective. There is a greater chance of this being achieved if time is allowed for all aspects of the pilot program process to be explored and examined in detail.
The government would be ill-advised for any sub-standard proposal to be rammed through Parliament—the community has waited 10 years to improve the process and not rush the plan as occurred in 2005, with a resulting backlash.
The answer is to allow the appointed Marine Park Manager to do the job; he is well regarded and very experienced. The Batemans Marine Park Committee has confidence in his appointment. We believe that the Manager has demonstrated sincerity, seems genuine, is conducting himself with integrity and professionalism, and wants to see a balanced outcome for the marine park and the needs of the community. Simply restricting access is not the solution and we look forward to exploring more effective management tools.
Those attending recent meetings and workshops have expressed new faith in the process with one simple request—it should not be rushed; community comments need to be discussed in detail not just noted. We are starting to see a genuine commitment to delivering the best outcome for a NSW Marine Park in our region.
Will there need to be compromises? Of course, there will, but let’s not go down the Sydney marine park track!
Max Castle| Vice President, Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW