Government backing of marine parks moratorium angers Greens

The NSW Government appears to have joined the National Shooters and Fishers Party in supporting a bill to introduce a moratorium on marine protected areas in NSW.

The move has angered Green groups because – if passed – the bill will effectively put a stop to the implementation of additional NSW marine parks, and the extension of pre-existing ones, until 2015.

On ABC radio this week, it was reported Green groups are concerned the proposal – tabled in June by the leader of the Shooters Party, Robert Brown MLC – could end their hopes of the introduction of a Sydney-based marine park.

In the radio report, those opposed to more NSW marine parks were described by conservation groups as a “vocal minority” who have swayed the NSW Government into siding with Brown on the issue.

In a June 3 press release announcing the bill, Brown had said its introduction will give “breathing space” for the Marine Parks Authority, and Department of Fisheries, to carry out the research priorities recommended by an independent panel, before any further parks are declared.

He added, “There is enormous division within the community on the issue of Marine Parks, and my Bill will take the politics – perceived or real – off the agenda, because it allows the current Government, and any new incoming Government to undertake the necessary work to assess Marine Parks in accordance with the recommendations of the Government’s own Scientific Panel”.

Greens MLC Ian Cohen was reportedly outraged at the development, which occurred on the last day of NSW Parliament, saying NSW Labor had hit rock bottom in its management of the State’s environment.

“NSW Labor’s support for a moratorium of marine protected areas in the International Year of Biodiversity and in the face of recent independent economic modelling of marine protected areas in Western Australia is simply irrational,” he said.

However, the Government says that this is not an attempt to break down the marine park system, but rather a decision not to expand it any further at this stage.

“The NSW Government has made it clear that it has no intentions to establish additional marine parks at this time,” a spokesperson for NSW Environment Minister Frank Sartor said.

“The Government does not oppose the Marine Parks Amendment (Moratorium) Bill 2010 but will seek to amend the Bill to exclude any changes to the zoning plans for Solitary Islands and Jervis Bay marine parks, including any increases in sanctuary zones.

If the moratorium bill passes through NSW Parliament in the latter part of this year, the NSW Government has said the outcomes of reviews of the Jervis Bay and Solitary Islands marine parks currently underway will not be affected. For more on these reviews click HERE.

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