Question

Legislative Council

QUESTION: Marine Park Sanctuary Zones

December 30th, 2017

On the 30th of November, Mark asked the Minister for Environment, Conservation and Sustainability a question about marine park sanctuary zones.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I received some correspondence from a constituent who is possibly a frequent flyer in terms of correspondence with government, a person who has been most helpful in pointing out some illegal activities that have occurred in marine parks such as illegal fishing, yet he has written to me with some degree of frustration in relation to the Encounter Marine Park and in particular the northern area of the Encounter Marine Park around the former Port Noarlunga Aquatic Reserve.

My constituent's issue is quite a simple one and he has a suggestion for the minister. His suggestion is that it would be a nice Christmas present to the reef system at Christies and Port Noarlunga if the government could install some signage and some information to assist people on the land to know exactly where the boundaries of the marine park are and the types of activities that are allowed or not allowed in that park. That is my question to the minister: is he up for a Christmas present for the park, to include some new signage to help people understand their obligations and responsibilities in interacting with marine parks?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change): I thank the honourable member for his most important question. It is important, I think, to go back a step and talk about marine parks, why they are so important and why constituents of the honourable member's that he raised—and others of course—view marine parks as being so very important to our state. It was this state government that created a marine park network that is one of the most significant conservation programs ever undertaken in this state, and indeed one of the most significant marine conservation programs ever undertaken in this country.

I have contrasted our approach in this state to the commonwealth's, of course. Very significant marine parks were established by the former Labor government, but on change of government to the federal Liberal government, they just refused to enact all the regulations and instruments that would bring the marine parks into effect, effectively white-anting the commonwealth marine parks. All the benefits that would have flown from those over the years have failed to materialise because, of course, the commonwealth government, as we know, under the Liberal National Party has absolutely no commitment to the environment, particularly the marine environment and conservation principles.

Our marine parks were developed using, as always, the best local, national and international scientific advice we have available to us. Each marine park is zoned to provide for conservation and ongoing community and, of course, industry use. I am advised that a public perception survey that was carried out in early 2017 indicates that around 90 per cent of South Australians support marine parks.

Scientists, local businesses, tourists and the South Australian community are, of course, right behind our marine park network. They understand that it is not only important for preserving biodiversity, but also it is very important to our state's economy. That's why it's incredibly surprising that Steven Marshall, the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Dunstan, was out in the media earlier this year—about June, I think—having, as is the usual practice for him, an amazing whinge about marine parks. It joins the long queue of negativity, whingeing and moaning that the Leader of the Opposition in the other place has become known for.

I would encourage the member for Dunstan to consider the booming industries that have built up and will be building up around our marine parks. We have talked about some of them previously. Our shark viewing industry out of Port Lincoln generates about $13 million annually and currently employs around 80 people, I am advised, and is ready to build bigger boats and create more jobs, all underpinned by our marine park network and based on good CSIRO science and PIRSA and DEWNR monitoring.

It would astound me, but unfortunately it is the case. The member for Dunstan, Steven Marshall (the Leader of the Opposition), would proudly declare on 16 June on FIVEaa that his party worked very, very hard to scale back the marine park legislation, but we know that for a fact. We were here watching it. We were participating as the Liberal Party in this place desperately tried to destroy one of the state government's great achievements: the marine parks in South Australia. He was on radio showing off about his party's position, that they are not only anti-jobs, anti-tourism and anti the regions but they are also anti-science.

It runs counter to the opinion of the vast majority of South Australians who recognise the value of our marine park network to our economy, our environment and, of course, the important job that we embark on, which is to create employment, particularly in regional South Australia. That's our commitment. As I said, the federal government is rolling back plans for marine protections and marine parks, 'the largest undoing of conservation ever'. That's not my quote; it is what others are saying about it.

We know that the Liberal Party has the ideological mindset to oppose conservation. They don't get it, they don't understand it, they have no empathy for it. The anti-science agenda we have seen on evidence all this week. They don't ask experts for advice. They just make up policy as if it was a thought bubble, an afterthought, and then respond when the experts say, 'Why didn't you ask us? Have you considered these implications and the negative impacts of what you have proposed?'

Only around 6 per cent of state waters—about 3,700 kilometres—have been assigned the highest level of protection as a sanctuary or restricted access zones, and yet this is what seems to get the Liberal Party in this state more agitated than anything else. This leaves, of course, the vast majority of our state waters available for fishing. Other resource use is about 94 per cent. What's often overlooked in the approach the Liberals have to marine parks is that there is a greater variety—in our state waters, at least—of marine life than you would find in the Great Barrier Reef. Our government recognises this.

We take the advice of our scientists about what zones are the most important in order to protect this incredible biodiversity and preserve those elements of the underwater environment, as we would on land and terrestrial parks. Of course, part of the problem has always been that underwater marine parks are difficult to see—unless you are a diver, they are difficult to participate in—and somewhat less valued, unless people actually understand what's at risk here. It's important that we get this right and it's important that we have the marine parks in place, protected for the long-term, so that we can preserve this important marine habitat for future generations.

To ensure appropriate management, including monitoring and compliance, the government is investing an additional $4 million over four years. This started in 2014 or 2015, or thereabouts, bringing our total marine parks budget to around $12 million over this time. A further $3.25 million has been provided over three years to encourage community use of marine parks and to support recreational fishing in and around our marine parks. I have to say, I am again a little bit puzzled by a Liberal Party policy release this week, where they are attacking recreational fishers. They are attacking recreational fishers and they are trying to cram them into a policy environment where they sit down to talk about their fishing issues with commercial fishers. I can't believe it. Do they not understand the different issues—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —that industry have compared to recreational fishers, who like to drop a line in on the weekend and spend some time in our unique environment? They have completely different issues, but, of course, the Liberal Party in this state don't understand. They think they can stick recreational fishers in with commercial fishers and don't understand that there is some disproportionate power structure involved in that, not least being the amount of money behind the commercial sector, who can just shout down the recreational fisher. Clearly, that is what they want to do.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: That's clearly what the Liberal Party in this state want to do. They want to ignore recreational fishers. They don't have any concern about the issues that they think are important, and they come up with this wacky policy. Guess what? They didn't even ask recreational fishers what they thought before they announced the policy. They didn't even ask them. Out of the blue, RecFish SA said, 'No, we weren't consulted about this. My goodness gracious, how could they bring out a policy without checking with us first?' I have to say that the Liberal Party are just sticking to form, ignoring advice from the experts and ignoring advice from stakeholders who will be most impacted by the policy decisions they are making.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I have to say, this just shows the incredible disrespect they have for the population of South Australia. They don't believe they need to consult with anybody. I don't actually believe that they think they can win the next election, and so they are not actually going through what a proper process would be for a party in opposition who think they are going to transition into government. I don't think they actually think they are going to win, and that's why they are not bothering to get expert advice on these issues or other policy issues, or why they are not even bothering to consult with stakeholders who are crucially impacted by these policy decisions. You can list them all. The NRM approached the policy and it has outraged people in the NRM community.

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: We did a survey. Even some people employed by DEWNR answered the survey.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Yes, you did a survey. The Hon. Mr Ridgway said he did a survey, and a few hundred people, who are all probably signed-up Liberal Party branch members and their office staff—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —repeatedly pushed the button that they were told to push. That's the sort of survey they do.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Just take a seat for a minute, please. This is the last question time for this parliamentary term. There are a number of crossbenchers and the Hon. Mr Dawkins who are very keen to get a question. As long as you keep on interrupting the minister, the longer it is going to take for the answer, so I ask you to desist right now and allow the minister to finish his answer without interjection. Minister.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Enough about the Liberal Party's lack of policy. When they do have one, of course, they don't consult anyone who is impacted—crucially impacted—by these policy decisions. As I say, I think that just shows that they have actually, in their heart of hearts, no real belief in themselves—

The Hon. G.E. Gago: They've given up.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —no real belief that they can actually win the next election and, as the Hon. Gail Gago says in her wise way, they have given up. They have just given up. That is not surprising, given their history in this place, and it’s little wonder that the people of South Australia have absolutely no respect for the Liberal Party, either as an opposition or as a potential government.

The PRESIDENT: Let's get on with finishing the answer.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: In response to the Hon. Mark Parnell's—

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: Oh, so now we are ten minutes later and we get to the question.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: This is the key thing, Mr President. The Hon. David Ridgway, on behalf of the Liberal Party, don't give a damn about marine parks. They are trying to hurry me up because they don't want to hear the great work we have done on marine parks. They don't want to hear about the investment we have made as a state in marine parks because, really, they hate marine parks. As we've seen recently, too, they are not too fond of recreational fishers in this state. But that will come back and bite them. In terms of signage—

An honourable member: The fish are biting, are they?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Well, someone's biting. In terms of information, it is very important of course. The honourable member may recall there was a lift-out in the Sunday Mail some time ago now—I can't remember exactly when it was, last year sometime—detailing the changes coming into place; the maps that are appropriate around our marine parks; there is an incredible amount of digital information—

The Hon. M.C. Parnell: But it's the sign on a beach. The sign on the beach.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Yes well, a sign of the times, but we are going digital now, Mr Parnell, as you are. Most of that information is available. You can print it for yourself on the internet. You can probably get it on an app, for all I know. You might want to do your app research whilst I am speaking, Mr Parnell.

The Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins: What is an app? Do you know what an app is? Can you tell us what an app is?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I think it's short for application, the Hon. Mr Dawkins, but I stand to be corrected on that one because I don't think I have actually used one, and if I have I didn't know about it. Of course, there is signage around our marine parks in certain places. I'm not quite sure where they might be in terms of Port Noarlunga. I was down at Aldinga recently with the member for Mawson—the next member for Mawson—and I did see some signs there about the marine park. I am sure they are dotted around the place. It may be not enough for your constituent, the Hon. Mr Parnell, but we need to balance in all these things the physical signs—

The Hon. G.E. Gago: Aesthetics.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —with the local aesthetics, of course, but also with the greater availability to more people by putting it up in the digital interweb thing. Apparently, a lot of people actually use it. We do have copies available for people who seek it and who don't want to do their own downloading. I'm sure they can ring us up and we will provide them with that physical information they seek.

I understand the honourable member's constituent's concerns. I understand his obvious love for marine parks and his commitment towards them and if I had my way I would probably dot signs right up and down the coast every hundred metres, but I think I might get a few complaints about that as well. So, the compromise is we put in some signs at key places: at car parks and where there are public restroom facilities. We have also funded a lot of those bins for fishers to put their used fishing line in rather than throwing them away into the environment. We have put signs in those crucial places of key access and we are relying on the internet to provide the other information for people on the go or who want broader information.

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