Over 300 people from all walks of life flocked to Narooma on Saturday 21 November to send a clear message that they want the NSW Government and local member for Bega, Andrew Constance, to urgently restore sanctuary protections in Batemans Marine Park.
This comes after six sanctuary zones were revoked in December 2019 without community consultation or scientific justification.
In one of the biggest environment-focused community gatherings in the region for years, people came from all over the Eurobodalla and further afield to paddle out to support Batemans sanctuaries - including families, fishers, traditional owners, scientists, surfers, kayakers, business and ecotourism operators, conservationists and other diverse users of the marine park.
Auntie Sue Heycox welcomed everyone to Walbunja country. The crowd heard from some great speakers, including science educator Laura Wells (below), Walbunja man and Native Title claimant Wally Stewart, local recreational fisher and underwater videographer Dave Rowland and Bodalla business owner and conservationist Fiona McCuaig.
The Eurobodalla-based Nature Coast Marine Group was the driving force behind the event. Bill Barker, a spokesperson for the group said, “the turnout shows that whenever the broad spectrum of Eurobodalla people are given a chance to speak out, they are overwhelmingly in favour of strong protection for the marine life of our area.
“Indeed, pretty well everyone agrees that our lifestyle, our economy and the well-being of future generations depends on a healthy environment, both marine and terrestrial. It would be good if the Government listened to this message and tried to facilitate a cooperative community-oriented approach. This would be a much better alternative to the short-term political decisions that have been foisted on the local area over recent years.”
Wally Stewart told the crowd about the Native Title claim on the lands and waters of the South Coast. He said that “registration of our Native Title gives us a right to have a say in management. So they should have never rolled that sanctuary back without consultation”.
Fiona McCuaig, a local Bodalla business owner and conservationist said “It was so amazing to see so many people from the region come down to support our marine sanctuaries. People understand that we need to put away some sections of the marine park for protection – for the health of our environment, our future local economy and for our kids to enjoy.
“As a small business owner I rely on tourists coming to visit the marine park and spend their money in the area. I was so encouraged to see the level of support from the community today – it really made me proud”.
Nature Coast Marine Group President Jane Elek said “It was heartening to see such a great South Coast atmosphere prevailing at the event – happy, positive, good-natured, and with a family and community orientation. I’d like to thank NSW Maritime Narooma, for ensuring the safety of the event and all the volunteer helpers from Nature Coast Marine Group and other community groups who made this event such a success.”
The community campaign will continue to build until the NSW Government including Member for Bega, Andrew Constance, reverses the decision to lift protections in six sanctuaries zones and commits to maintaining current sanctuary protections.
Photos by Deb Flynn