Beagle readers and Eurobodalla anglers,
Do we have a NSW DPI Green Goblin? When I was first alerted to this monumental problem weeks and weeks ago a few of the things going through my mind was what to title this article, how to explain it to you and how does it affect us on the south coast in the Batemans and Jervis Marine Parks and the potential Two Fold Bay marine park.
My initial instinct was to title the article “No one gets F#@&*D harder than NSW Rec Fishers”, but it is more complex than just being screwed over.
The moment the editor clicked PUBLISH and this letter went live, a multi vector media campaign has been unleashed on New South Wales and Australia, directed towards the recreational fishing community, which will be delivered in stages over the next few months. While you are reading this somewhere in NSW a similar message is being publicised across the country informing the vast recreational fishing community using print, radio, social media and mostly likely making TV.
What is the message? Put simply, Rec Fishers – you are being screwed over!.....BIG TIME.
Where do I begin? I think the first order of business should be is to thank the young man Simon Horvath whom many have not taken seriously enough in the rec fishing advocacy world and every rec fisher in NSW, if not Australia, owes him a measure of gratitude. This young man took it upon himself to do some deep investigation into a system that has been engineered by extremist of the supervillain variety.
Personally, the whole governance of our marine estate in NSW has never sat right with me but as it was pointed out recently the management system is functioning perfectly, it is doing exactly what its diabolical architects designed it to do.
Before I go any further I want to point out this is not a misguided rant of a crazy conspiracy theorist. The devilish details have been checked by some of the most respected rec fishing advocates in the country and once they had their heads wrapped around the fiendish strategy they were gutted, that overwhelming feeling of gut wrenching despair. I know tat I was gutted.
I mentioned supervillain.... and names like Lex Luthor, Joker, Doctor Evil come to mind. Better yet the term fanatical cultural, heritage and social dictator resonates with me. In my book of principles, the entities, behind this elaborate hideous subversion, are of the same calibre as the villains mentioned.
This super villainous entity is the extreme ideological top management team of the NSW Marine Estate Management Authority otherwise known as MEMA. This authority is the façade for the small group of deep state operatives that have employed all kinds of subterfuge, deceitfully using this front to achieve their goals. What is their biggest goal? STOP FISHING COMPLETELY…..PERIOD.
For those of you who would like to investigate the finer details of how lines on maps are created you can read Simon Horvath’s short article found at the link just below. Over the next few weeks Simon will be producing a short video and further articles explaining how we are being totally misled.
In 1998 it was in draft. Then in 1999 we saw the release of what is called the Comprehensive Adequate Representative System (CAR) signed off by the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council Task Force on Marine Protected Areas. The CAR system was adopted by all the Australian states and territories. Now this system, if implemented by people of incorruptible principles, guided by the CAR system, may have had a marine estate that was workable for all. But unfortunately, the CAR system had several mechanisms in place that allowed for political parties to make deals at the time demanding certain percentages of our marine estate to be locked out from fisher people which would appease the green vote.
No science, no baseline data, no consultation, behind closed doors cabinet in confidence political deals based on idealistic emotionally driven agendas. Absolutely no pragmatic logical scientific method used. Deplorable.
The CAR system was used to create the Jervis Bay Marine Park and subsequently all other marine parks in NSW. Most of us knew this after the fact but there is much more. The CAR system allowed for much political corruption and manipulation of how the current marine parks were created,however another Decision Making Tool was created.
Fast Forward to 2018 and the Marine Estate Management Authority released their draft plan and map of the Hawkesbury Bioregion Marine Park. This plan is supposed to use information gathered from a Threat And Risk Assessment (TARA) to deliver a transparent management plan.
As you will all recall the recreational fishing community was furious and an uprising ensued forcing Minister Blair to come out saying ‘Lock outs are off the table’.
But to the rec fishing community this was just garbage. Simon Horvath and a few others started asking the right questions.
How did MEMA really come to making the decisions on where to lock out rec fishers? Why did the zones on the central coast equate to 68.68% or 57.2% of the total lock out space? How were the social and economic impacts taken into consideration with the selection of size and quantity of sites on the central coast? And many other questions.
Simon and his small team was tapped on the shoulder to direct a GIPA request to Department of Primary Industries Fisheries, and so it began.
A GIPA request is a Freedom of Information request and it is frowned upon and serious consequences can follow if a government department fails to cooperate and deliver on a GIPA request.
The GIPA request asked for all scientific studies, research, correspondence, community submissions, emails and data in relation to the nominated sites of the central coast. But the requests kept being denied claiming that it was unmanageable and too big a diversion of department resources. The Department kept advising to narrow the scope of the requests.
When MEMA released the draft plan for the Hawkesbury Bioregion the Discussion Paper Part One was released also. It attempted to explain in layman’s terms of how MEMA proposed to manage the priority threats that impact the Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion.
Page 29 of the discussion paper peaked the small team of rec fisher’s interest. There was one small box from a graph.
The MARXAN tool is mentioned and only once in the entire discussion paper. What is this MARXAN tool the rec fishing team asked?
The GIPA requests were getting nowhere fast due to the deliberate stalling of the Director of Aquatic Environment of NSW DPI Fisheries.
Then there was an offer for a face to face meeting that fell under the scope of the GIPA request between Simon and one other rec fisher and Director Sarah Fairfull and NSW Fisheries Spatial Planner Joe Neilson.
Luckily Simon and his team were armed with the right questions before they went into the meeting.
The question was put to the Director, “Please explain why I was requested to narrow the scope of my request three times and then the answer received to it was too specific and would require a broad answer of all 25 sites. Why can’t you supply just the emails communications and reports that relate directly to site selections which falls within the scope of a GIPA request?” Got something to hide Sarah? After several questions that were answered within the GIPA face to face meeting, Director Fairfull admitted to the fact the MARXAN software was used in such a way to deliver an outcome they looked for. Basically, if you feed the right data into the software you will get the desired result. In other words, BS in and get BS out. An optimisation program.
It was confirmed in the meeting the ONLY data used in the MARXAN program relating to rec fishing effort were comprised of locations and GPS coordinates found publicly online, discussions with District Fisheries Officers and that there was no actual consultation with the rec fishing community. NO CONSULTATION WITH REC FISHERS AT ALL! Director Fairfull has a long history of avoiding consultation with the rec fishing community and this is just the latest example.
Simon has shared the notes and explanation the NSW Fisheries Director and the NSW Fisheries Spatial Planner provided him with the maps that outline the process for site selection and the significance of the computer models provided by the MARXAN program.
Every rec fisher in NSW should be appalled that the significance of the MARXAN program was explained in one sentence in one box within the entire Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Discussion Paper (image above).
The significance of inputting data on where recreational fishers fished was never discussed or how this data was collected and would be used, especially when some of the data collection may have be funded by the Recreational Fishing Trust, aka our fishing license fees and if the data was credible and representative of the Hawkesbury Bioregion.
Many rec fishing representatives have never heard or been told about MARXAN or the use of recreational data.
Simon and his small team were informed by another rec fisher who had extensive understanding of the MARXAN software. What came next was a crash course of how the spatial software works. This is where Simon’s understanding into the MARXAN program design confirmed what he learnt at his earlier GIPA meeting.
The MARXAN software creators even have several points on their website that describe the software as an assistant tool. “Tools should support. NOT replace stakeholders in a MPA or MSP design process.”
Rec Fishers of NSW were never included in the process which was far from transparent, it was never explained and ultimately fails to detail the process via an explanation on the methodology used. NSW Fisheries has failed to widely consult and acknowledge the linkage of “people with place” which explains the strong attachment of recreational fishers to certain spots, the drivers of satisfaction with recreational fishing experiences.
To sum up this process on how the lines on the maps ended up like they did, all I can say is there was a HUGE failure to adequately consult with the fishing community. NSW Fisheries has been persistent in keeping information from stakeholders and even the Minister's own advisory councils as they embarrassed the Minister and the NSW Government by presenting maps that locked rec fishers out.
Further investigation revealed that earlier versions of the MARXAN software was used on the Batemans Marine Park using very similar tactics gathering information which many of us can recall. Also, the new MEMA’s Marine protected areas policy uses the CAR system to manage the marine parks within their 5 steps management process. So, what is it Director, are we using the CAR system or MEMA’s TARA system to guide management. You can’t have both!
With this new information I now wonder how it affects us in the Batemans Marine Park while it is under review through the new Pilot Program and the other parks.
Will the information gathered by the Pilot Program be used in such a way to disable rec fisher’s access even further?
I honestly believe the DPI manager who is leading the Pilot Program is the right person for the job. He has proven himself to be honest and a man of principle, always truthful to his word. But I also believe he is not being given all the information he needs to do his job well.
With the department's deliberate withholding of information, I believe the manager looking after the Pilot Program is being kept in the dark intentionally. But there is no way of proving this, my “gut feeling” is based on experience. The rec fishing advocacy network has already been tapped on the shoulder again recently telling us that MEMA has already changed its management plan AGAIN since embarrassing their minister in 2018.
How can they change their plan? Isn’t it legislated and must be transparent? Apparently MEMA can or should I say Director Fairfull can. Here’s how.
The Marine Estate Management Act 2014 No 72, Part 3 section 17 states
Amendment, replacement or revocation of strategy
(1) A marine estate management strategy may be amended or replaced by a subsequent strategy prepared and approved in accordance with this Part.
(2) A draft marine estate management strategy that amends or replaces an approved strategy is to be prepared by the Authority if requested by the relevant Ministers.
(3) The relevant Ministers may revoke a marine estate management strategy, wholly or in part.
(4) The amendment, replacement or revocation of a marine estate management strategy by the relevant Ministers under this section takes effect when the copy of the amendment, replacement or revocation is published in the Gazette or on a later date specified in the amendment, replacement or revocation.
How does just one public servant working for NSW DPI Fisheries that has a history of developing complex plans lacking transparency to lock out recreational fishers and not consult with them have so much power?
Director Sarah Fairfull, the boss of MEMA, has developed legislation, policy and strategic plans for the management of the NSW marine estate, marine parks, aquatic reserves, aquatic habitats, threatened species and aquatic biodiversity.
The Director also supervises and manages approximately 100 staff and resources to deliver on the NSW marine estate reforms, marine protected area management, aquatic habitat protection and rehabilitation and threatened species recovery programs. The Director project managed the NSW marine estate threat and risk assessment and drafting of the 10-year NSW Marine Estate Management Strategy.
Remember the supervillains mentioned earlier?
Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin is probably the best fit. Norman Osborn/Green Goblin a well-resourced wealthy industrialist that a has a small army of workers, a significant Research and Development department, constantly devising plans to destroy Spiderman and working from a distance, only striking when there are certain insulating factors working to his advantage.
Just like the Green Goblin, Director Fairfull, the boss of MEMA, developed the legislation, policy and plans to suit her and her team’s ideological position of how the marine estate should operate. The director has a small army of 100 people working towards that end. A substantial budget and resources to pull it off too. They are always 10 steps ahead of 850,000 strong rec fishing community because they have set it up to be that way while using whatever minister to unknowingly do her bidding.
Judge, jury and executioner anyone? No public servant should have this much power. This is not professional, its personal.
Many in the rec fishing advocacy community, and for that matter any rec fisher who makes an effort to notice what is going on, knows that NSW DPI FISHERIES is split in two.
50% are rec fishers working towards improving the fishery so there are more fish. The other 50% are trying to stop all forms of fishing. It is a continual game of strategy trying to anticipate what one side is going to do to the other within the department. The amount of cloak and dagger is astounding. The upcoming state election is a time when both major parties really need to step up and grow a pair. But rec fishers know the history all too well. The Batemans Marine Park was brought in by Labor and stole the majority of popular fishing locations under the CAR system through political deals in Cabinet in Confidence meetings. Yet, the Libs/Nats only recently displayed that they were every bit as untrustworthy.
Niall Blair is currently coping an absolute flogging over several fishery and water related issues and I just cannot see him retaining his current role. Honestly, if I was him I wouldn’t want it. But this comes down to those who work for him. His managers have failed him miserably so many times it is disgraceful.
Perhaps Labor may realise that they have the opportunity to right some massive wrongs from the past. Who knows?
The only way forward I can see is tar all the DPI fisheries management with the same brush until a process is in place to weed out those who are actively undermining the core objectives that the Fisheries department was created for.
By painting them all with the same brush, internal pressure will build to weed out the saboteurs and allow whatever incoming minister to clean house if they have the courage to stand up against the department.
Ultimately, I just can’t see any transparent marine estate management plan being delivered while the current Deputy Director General is in place who has a track record on not delivering for the recreational community and Director Fairfull pulling the strings from the shadows.
Whoever the new minister will be there must be consequences for these non-transparent activities. Perhaps future minister you need to force retirement on the current DDG for supporting these activities and promote the Director of Recreation to that position as he has experience in most aspects of the department (an allrounder) and a legacy goal that will be one of the biggest improvements to NSW’s entire marine fishery for decades to come. Also, perhaps the immediate sacking of Director Fairfull for what appears as corrupted and non-transparent behaviour will send the right message to others with Senior Manager Gallagher replacing her and a complete review on all management and conservational positions within the department to see if they are of good value to the core objectives of NSW DPI Fisheries.
At the end of the day the questions must be asked and answered adequately:
How do we go from CAR to TARA and why are MEMA holding onto the old system? Do they still want to manipulate outcomes using the CAR system?
Will the CAR system be used as a decision-making tool for the Batemans Marine Park? If so, why?
Will the MARXAN with Zones software be used on the Batemans Marine Park in the same fashion as the Hawkesbury Bioregion with no rec fishing community engagement?
Why hasn’t the NSW DPI Fisheries Spatial Planner explained the zone creation process to the minister so in turn the minister can show the rest of us how this turned into the biggest debacle in NSW Marine Park history?
If just one GIPA request has uncovered all this information pointing to a of lack of transparency and will be released over the coming weeks to the public, what will 10 GIPA requests or 50 GIPA requests uncover?
Why are we allowing a wing of Fisheries to continue to operate that effectively has the ideological goal to lock out rec fishers from their favourite locations? This wing is undermining the efforts of the other sections of the department.
Why hasn’t the minister started to come clean on how the data was collected and used and to start actually involving the people, including his advisers?
Just like a termite infested house that is structurally compromised the only way to fix it is to tear it down and rebuild it. As we get closer to the state election the rec fishing community should be demanding a clean-up of the department, removing the cancerous infestation and allowing the good-wood within the department with the intentions to improve our fishery to continue with new habitats creation, stocking and creating new opportunities for fishing, not restricting it. It is time for the minister to revoke a marine estate management strategy, wholly or in part as mentioned in the Act.
These people have made it personal the moment they decided to subvert the consultation process and hide the truth. We can make it personal too, remember We fish and We vote. Adam MartinPresident Euro Fishing Association