LETTER: Red tape gone mad

THIS letter from well known charter skipper Tim Dean details the regs etc now needed to operate in the new federal marine park set up. It’s red tape gone mad!

I have been involved with the development processof the new MPA for all Commonwealth waters in Australia since its inceptionmany years ago. I am a charter operator utilising the entire east coast ofAustralia through numerous existing MPA’s, in two different states.

To continue to operate in the newlyannounced MPA’s I have to now apply to the Department of the Environment andWater Resources for an approval from the Director of the National Parks..? Twoseparate Federal Government Departments.

So get your application from someone andget approval from someone else..Seem strange? Well if you have been in theindustry for as long as I, no not strange at all.

Here is why.
To operate my vessel Calypso and to take aPAYING passenger fishing I have the following obligations:

NSW Maritime, NSW Marine Park Authority,NSW Department of Primary Industry from whom I hold a Master Class 5 license,Marine Engineering certificate, NSW Survey certificate, NSW MPA permit for PortStephens Great Lakes MPA and a NSW Charter Boat Fishing license all of whichhave a mandatory submittal of logbook returns to continue to operate or facefines and cancellation of your life as you know it, if you don’t remember tohave them submitted on time.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority(GBRMPA is a federal Government body), QLD Department of Transport, QLDDepartment of Primary Industry from each I hold a GBRMPA permit, QLD survey Certificate,Master 5 Certificate, Marine Engineers Certificate, Commercial Tour Permit(charter fishing).Each of these has mandatory logbook submittals or lose yourlife as you know it and a fine.

My crew and I hold First Aid certificates,Perform CPR Certificate and Oxy Viva operators Certificate each have renewalsto adhere to or risk losing your life as you know it…and a fine.

Now with the introduction of the soon to beproclaimed Federal government MPA around Australia I am invited to apply for approvalto operate inside these new areas to conduct fishing charters, whalewatching and other tourism activities. WOW thanks.

This will mean another permit from theDepartment of the Environment and Water Resources with approval given from theDirector of the National Parks and Wildlife to operate in certain waters amongstothers waters managed by those other departments and regulatory bodiesmentioned above, split between two different states and Federal and StateGovernment Departments. There are also several more logbooks and you guessed itfines and criminal charges if you do not have all this in place BEFORE youleave the dock! I certainly laugh when I hear that old Chestnut about a visitto the RTA office for a driver’s license renewal or car rego. Give me onelicense and one registration any day!

Dazed, drifting and confused I trollthrough the GUIDE for the South East region near Tassie which I base theTemperate East and Coral Sea approval process on I read, “Commercial Operators are invited toapply for an approval” then in the very next paragraph in bold highlightedtext it states “COMMERCIAL TOURISMOPERATORS WILL NEED TO APPLY…AND AGREE TO COMPLY WITH THE CONDITIONS IN ORDER TO BE APPROVED”..?

Back to the GUIDE.

The GUIDE states an “approval is a legal instrument that allows identified activities tooccur in a marine reserve in the absence of a management plan for that reserve…approval is given by the Director of the National Parks OR his delegate, whohas the statutory responsibility for the management of all Commonwealthreserves”. Why I ask, in the absence of a management plan do I needapproval from someone responsible for the management of the area when approvalis based on the assumption there is no management plan. What the..?

Cop this…

Withoutan approval, users of the South-east Marine Reserves are not allowed toundertake any commercial tourism activity or catch native species”.

(I should point out I am sitting in a small village at the foot of theSnowy Mountains at my folks place, right in the middle of the KosciuskoNational Park where one doesn’t have to go far to see the great management thatgoes on down this way..! native species hey?)

To make things a little clearer the GUIDEgoes on to inform me “How will theCommonwealth Marine reserve Network be managed”..?

Now get your head around this lot….

“Reserve management responsibilities for the South-eastCommonwealth Marine Reserve Network rest primarily with the AustralianGovernment through the Director of National Parks. The Director has delegatedthis authority to the Marine and Biodiversity Division of the Department.

Day-to-day management arrangements for the Reserve Network willvary from reserve to reserve. In some reserves, management services will beprovided by state conservation and fisheries agencies, under businessagreements with the Department. In other reserves the Marine and BiodiversityDivision of the Department will directly manage the reserves and engage otheragencies such as the Australian Customs Service to provide compliance andenforcement services”.

Just whenyou thought things were not making sense here are the guiding principles tokeep your faith in the system, please pay particular attention to part 2 and 6.

The guiding principles of the compliance and enforcement programfor the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network

Will be to:

1. provide a comprehensive education and awareness programregarding the values of the network, the location of the reserves and the rulesthat apply in each, with a view to maximising voluntary compliance;

2. Implement collaborative arrangements with appropriate state andCommonwealth agencies to increase the efficiency and reduce the cost ofcompliance and enforcement arrangements;

3. Develop a targeted surveillance and enforcement program basedon good intelligence and risk assessment;

4. Ensure consistent and appropriate responses are employed whencompliance action is required, using a measured combination of administrative,civil and criminal sanctions;

5. Provide a mechanism by which suspected breaches can be reportedand recorded;

6. Minimise where possible the administrative burden and costs tousers of the Reserve Network; and

7. Protect commercially sensitive information. 

If I was as a guide for my industry likethis is a guide for us simple fisherman through this process I would have beenout of business for other reasons than over regulation.

I read on and just get further into thedeep dark abyss of this GUIDE. To my surprise I catch one part standing outlike a beacon on a dark night at sea, something I can take away from this,something I can be certain of…

Conducting commercial tourism operations without approval or incontravention of approval conditions is an offence (Section 354A). The maximum penaltyon conviction is up to two years imprisonment or 1000 penalty units or both.Alternatively, the Federal Court may impose a civil penalty of up to 500penalty units for an individual or 5000 penalty units for a corporation (Section354).

One penalty unit currently equals $110.

Yes be verycertain of the above. Oh I forgot this too,

Howdo I recognise an officer authorised under the Environment Protection andBiodiversity Conservation Act1999? 

An EPBC Act authorised officer is a person who has been trainedand appointed as a warden under the EPBC Act and will hold official identification.

The Department also has arrangements with other state andCommonwealth compliance agencies. Officers conducting compliance activitiesunder these arrangements will be able to identify themselves as either an officerof the agency they are employed by or as a warden under the EPBC Act. 

Compliance,penalties, officers, agencies, criminals and now…… wardens!!!

God helpus all.

Captain TimDean
CalypsoFishing Adventures.

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