Burke urged to show compassion to flood ravaged fishos

MARINE park submissions sent in late by anglers affected by recent natural disasters would be “considered”, federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has promised.

But angling groups and the Opposition are calling on Mr Burke to show “compassion” and extend the consultation period – which closes next week – to allow anglers battling to clean up after record floods and fires time to properly consider final plans for the Government’s proposed marine parks.

“Most people are more interested in cleaning up after the floods and storms than they are in worrying about government submissions,” Judy Lynne, the executive officer of Sunfish Queensland, said.

“We’d like Minister Burke to extend the closing date for comment to the standard 90 days in consideration of the hardship and suffering of those residents affected by the recent disasters.

“This would allow all Queensland anglers the opportunity to provide collaborative comment, not just token consultation.”

Last month the Government imposed the minimum 30-day consultation period for comments on draft management plans for the marine parks. This last round of consultation before the parks are implemented closes on February 14.

Paul Aubin, spokesman for the Cairns-based CAREFISH community group, said the federal Government was using “political tactics” to limit public involvement in the marine parks process by starting the process during the Christmas holiday break.
“To make matters worse, this has all occurred amongst a devastating period of natural disasters with floods in the north and fires in the south,” Mr Aubin said.
“CAREFISH calls on Tony Burke to declare a reasonable extension to the consultation period to allow individuals and groups to fully discuss and respond to this most important plan.”

A one-line statement from Minister Burke’s office given to Fisho yesterday seems to indicate that the Government will not extend the consultation period.

“If submissions are late because of natural disasters, then we will make sure they are considered,” the statement says.

Angling leaders have criticised Mr Burke’s statement, saying he was “just paying lip service to our concerns”.

“If Tony Burke was fair dinkum he’d give us all the opportunity to have our say,” Allan Hansard, CEO of the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation, said.
“Saying he’ll ‘consider’ late submissions means nothing. The decisions will have already been made.”
Read related media release from the ARFF HERE.

The federal Coalition has echoed angler concerns by calling on the Environment Minister to show “compassion” for people disadvantaged by the floods.

Coalition Fisheries spokesman Senator Richard Colbeck said it was not fair for the Government to expect fishing communities to comment on management plans at the same time as dealing with the effects of catastrophic natural disasters.

“It is about time Tony Burke gave some consideration to those he is locking out and had some compassion for their current situation,” Senator Colbeck said.

“An extension of the comment period to 90 days to give them a fair chance to comment and deal with the impact of these natural disasters is very reasonable.”

Fishing World contacted Pew, the US-based environment group which has been instrumental in driving the Government’s marine parks plans, to obtain its position on extending the consultation to allow flood-affected citizens adequate time to make submissions to the management plans. Pew did not return our calls or emails.

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