South Coast Marine Park unravels amid release of internal documents proving Cook Labor Government ignored community feedback

Shadow Fisheries Minister, Colin de Grussa has again raised significant concerns about the integrity of the South Coast Marine Park (SCMP) planning process following the release of internal documents by the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development (DPIRD) under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.

The planning process for the proposed South Coast Marine Park has been dogged by controversy since its inception.

“We now have internal documentation which tells a very disturbing story” Mr de Grussa said.

“Despite its role as a marine planning partner, DPIRD has levelled extraordinary criticism at the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) about its management of the planning process for the marine park.”

Mr de Grussa said the comments made by DPIRD almost exactly mirror the concerns continually expressed by key stakeholder groups and members of the Community Reference Group, which have been so casually dismissed by the Environment Minister, Reece Whitby.

The revelations also place the Fisheries Minister in an untenable position, as he has to sign off on the draft sanctuary zones for the marine park plan before it is released for public comment, in circumstances where his own department has explicitly stated such things as:

“Noting inadequate time was provided for DPIRD to properly analyse and provide well-considered feedback on a marine park of such size and complexity, this rushed approach poses serious risks to the planning and outcomes of the South Coast Marine Park”

“Based on the draft zoning scheme it does not appear that DBCA has adopted a pragmatic approach to the zoning of the proposed SCMP…..”

“The current draft zoning scheme will likely result in the loss of several South Coast fisheries and impact on the livelihoods of numerous fishers”

“It is DPIRD’s view that these impacts are not in the community’s best interests and that the impacts can be largely avoided or minimised if DBCA are genuinely serious about doing that in designing the zoning scheme for the SCMP”

“Despite overwhelming feedback and agreement on recommendations to specific areas across numerous stakeholder groups their recommendations have not been taken on board and changes made to candidate areas.”

“These statements are not ambiguous and go to the heart of describing a fundamentally flawed process” Mr de Grussa said.

“It will be very telling if the Cook Labor Government decides to release the draft zoning scheme in the form that drew so much criticism from DPIRD, as well as the Goldfields Esperance Development Commission, Shire of Esperance, WA Fishing Industry Council and members of the Community Reference Committee” Mr de Grussa said.

“What it will show is that the Cook Labor Government is continuing the McGowan Labor Government’s legacy and is utterly incapable of listening and certainly incapable of undertaking consultation in good faith.

“It will also show a Fisheries Minister who is complicit in the whole charade, given the extraordinary advice provided by his own Department”.