Marine parks consultation ends tonight

THE FORMAL consultation period on the draft management plans for the newly-proclaimed Commonwealth marine reserves closes at midnight tonight.

In a media release sent out today, Environment Minister Tony Burke said the close of this consultation marks the end of one of the Government’s most extensive public engagement processes.

The Gillard Government last year finalised the world’s largest marine reserve network that will protect more than 2.3 million square kilometres of our precious ocean environment.

“Massive damage has been done to our oceans in the space of one lifetime. The Gillard Government is determined to start turning that around,” Mr Burke said.

“We believe in protecting our oceans that’s why we believe in establishing national parks in our ocean.

“The Government has conducted an extensive public consultation and planning process that has helped shape the development of the Commonwealth marine reserve networks and their management plans.

“Over the past few years we have held more than 250 meetings – many of which I have attended myself – and received more than 680,000 submissions on the reserves and the management plans.

“This final public comment period is the fifth round of public consultation on the marine reserves over the past four years and the second one related specifically to their management.

“The marine reserves have been designed to minimise the impact on the recreational and commercial fishing sector wherever possible, while also ensuring the reserves network is representative of the diversity of marine ecosystems and habitats in Australia’s oceans.

“Throughout the consultation period, wherever I could achieve the same level of environmental protection in the way that minimised the impact on them, I have taken that option.”

Mr Burke said there had been calls for the public comment closing date to be extended for people affected by the recent floods and natural disasters in eastern Australia.

“While the deadline for public comments to the Director of National Parks will remain midnight on 14 February, I will accept and consider comments made by those affected by natural disasters that are provided by 28 February.

“I will consider these comments in parallel with advice from the Director of National Parks on the issues raised during the statutory public comment period as part of finalising the management plans.”

An online web form will be established for flood and other natural disaster affected members of the public to provide their comments.

People can access this online form after midnight tonight by going to www.environment.gov.au/marinereserves.

People who are unable to access the internet can post their comments to:

Comments from Flood Affected People
Commonwealth Marine Reserves
203 Channel Highway

The management plans for the new Commonwealth marine reserves network are anticipated to be finalised by mid-2013 – providing a 12-month lead-in time before they come into force in July 2014.

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