Green groups are one step closer to creating a Coral Sea Marine Park after a move by Nationals Senator Ron Boswell to prevent Environment Minister Peter Garrett declaring the area a “conservation zone” was rejected yesterday in the Senate.
Senator Boswell, along with fishing and boating lobby groups, was dismayed at a “lack of consultation” over the zoning plan.
The Senate vote was tied 31/31 with Independent Senator Nick Xenophon agreeing to a last minute Government deal.
“With the vote tied at 31 to 31 on the disallowance, the motion was defeated meaning the proclamation of the Coral Sea Conservation Zone will stand,” said Senator Boswell.
“The employees of the fishing, charter boat, marine and tourism industries should be shuddering in their boots over this decision.
“This proclamation is a disgraceful abuse of power by the Minister for Environment who has unilaterally declared an area of nearly a million square kilometres of ocean as a conservation zone without any consultation with industry representatives at all,” he said.
Marine Queensland GM Don Jones said: “First we find the declaration of the Coral Sea Conservation Zone without any consultation with industry or the local communities. Now we find the Government and the Greens join forces in the Senate to gag any debate on this important motion.”
Jones said this sends a very clear message to local Queensland communities, leaving industry with very little confidence in the Rudd Government’s Bio-regional Planning Process.
“In this day and age, you would expect a much more sophisticated approach to community engagement and environmental protection … it is clear Government is not interested in the views of the local community,” he said.
Conservation groups yesterday welcomed the Senate’s support which gives them a green light for assessing whether the Coral Sea should be declared a marine park.
“The Senate’s rejection of this motion means that the Government can now focus on determining the future of the Coral Sea,” said Australian Conservation Foundation’s Amy Hankinson.
“In all Commonwealth waters around Australia, the Federal Government is assessing what areas to include within marine parks, so that we can continue to have marine wildlife and beautiful coral reefs into the future.”
National spokesperson for the Boating and Fishing Council of Australia (BFCA) Dean Logan said: “Peter Garrett and Tony Burke lost more than just a vote in the Senate on Tuesday night, they lost the respect and confidence of the Australian recreational fishing and boating sectors.
“What’s ironic is that if Peter Garrett and Tony Burke would have come to us through the Bio-Regional Planning Process and placed the Coral Sea on the table as an area warranting further protection, we would have seriously and in good faith considered the issue.
“Instead the Rudd Government chose to make a unilateral decision that simply overlooked recreational fishing and boating, tourism as well as Queensland community concerns,” said Logan.
More updates to follow.