Shadow Fisheries Minister, Colin de Grussa has again expressed grave concerns about the credibility of the consultation process for the proposed South Coast Marine Park.
In response to questions raised in Parliament by Mr de Grussa, Environment Minister, Reece Whitby admitted that both he and his department had no clue whether the critical Tourism Sector Advisory Group had even met.
This is despite the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attraction’s own South Coast Marine Park Community Engagement Strategy stating that “Sector Advisory Groups (SAGs) will be a critical pathway for information flow from the sectors to the Community Reference Committee and from the community.”
“I suspect that the Tourism SAG had actually never convened a meeting in the manner which was set out in the Engagement Strategy meaning that critical advice and input from the tourism sector was never provided to the CRC.” Mr de Grussa said.
“If this is the case, it is a damning indictment on the consultation process and gives further credence to the increasing concerns expressed by key stakeholder groups that the whole marine park planning process is a sham.”
Mr de Grussa said that the tourism industry, along with commercial and recreational fishing will be the industries most affected by the proposed marine park.
“It beggars belief that an industry so important to local regional economies on the south coast would have been effectively excluded from providing input into the marine park planning process, even though it was an explicit requirement of the Engagement Strategy” Mr de Grussa said.
“Even worse is that the Minister has tried to distance himself and his department from any responsibility for this latest blunder, deeming the Tourism SAG as an ‘independent group’, when in fact it was not.”
Mr de Grussa said what is fundamentally at issue here is that DBCA, as custodians of the consultation process, should have taken all reasonable steps to ensure that the Tourism SAG was providing the ‘flow of information’ so vital to the integrity of the process, and it failed to do so.
“Given what we have seen up to this point, it is easy to draw the conclusion that the Minister simply doesn’t care what the tourism sector had to say.”
“This Labor government is charging full steam ahead towards a pre-determined outcome which will cause irreversible damage to communities and economies along the south coast”.