Community Participation

The extensive public consultation program during the RAP included some 1000 formal and informal meetings and information sessions involving engagement with people in over 90 centres along and beyond the GBR coast. This included local communities, commercial and recreational fishing organisations, traditional owners, tourism operators, conservation groups, and so on. Meetings were held with representative organisations such as Sunfish, the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, World Wildlife Fund Australia, and all branches of the Queensland Seafood Industry Association within the GBR catchment area.

As required by the relevant legislation, there were two formal phases of community participation during the RAP; the first calling for input into the preparation of a new zoning plan, and the second providing the draft zoning plan for public comment. The resulting 31 690 public submissions (10 190 in the first formal phase; 21 500 in the second phase), many of which included maps, were unprecedented compared to previous planning programs in the GBR. They necessitated the development of new, fast and effective processes for analysing and recording the range of information that was received by the GBRMPA.

A large number of the submissions included spatial information, including approximately 5800 maps in the second formal phase alone. All submissions, including this spatial information, were considered, coded and analysed, and the maps were digitised and/or scanned.

Many modifications were made to the Draft Zoning Plan as a result of the detailed information provided in submissions and other information received; however, in some locations there were limited options available to modify proposed No-Take Areas, particularly in inshore coastal areas and still achieve the minimum levels of protection recommended by the scientists.

The significant changes between the initial zoning, the Draft Zoning Plan and the final Zoning Plan, as accepted by Parliament, are readily seen in the 'Review of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975' - Review Panel Report, released in 2006. Maps 9, 10 and 11 on pages 69-71 of that report highlight the differences.

Report available at http://www.environment.gov.au/ coasts/publications/pubs/gbr-marine-park-act-chapters-5-6.pdf [Verified 21 March 2008]. Many of the aspects outlined in this chapter are illustrated in the Capricorn-Bunker case study shown in more detail in the same report (i.e. pp. 78-90 of the same webpage).

In accordance with the legislation, the Zoning Plan was submitted to both Houses of Federal Parliament in December 2003. Following a statutory review period, the Minister announced that the new Zoning Plan would be implemented on 1 July 2004.

In November 2004, the Queensland Government 'mirrored' the new zoning in most of the adjoining State waters (i.e. intertidal waters and some other areas deemed to be State waters), so now there is complementary zoning for virtually all the State and Federal waters within the entire GBR World Heritage Area. Table 12.1 indicates the area of each zone type in effect today (2008).

In conclusion, the approach that was undertaken in the RAP is now recognised as one of the most comprehensive global advances in the protection of marine biodiversity and marine conservation in recent decades. The final outcome, including the increase in No-Take Zones to more than 33% (over 115 000 km2) and including representative examples of every habitat, today comprises the world's largest systematic network of No-Take Zones.

The rezoning efforts alone will not ensure the future or sustainability of the GBR, however, they do provide a fundamental component for effectively conserving habitats, biological communities and ecosystem processes for future use.

Other spatial management 'tools' include statutory Plans of Management, permits, agreements with traditional owners and industry-specific accreditation. These have been found to be more effective for managing specific industries or activities such as tourism, shipping, ports, traditional use of marine resources, defence training and some fisheries regulations.

Similarly, a variety of temporal management tools are now applied in the GBRMP, including Special Management Areas, GBR-wide closures at specific fish-spawning times and a range of other fisheries regulations.

Table 12.1 Total area of zone types within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (as at 2008)

Zone name

Equivalent IUCN category

Area (km2)

Area (hectares)

% of GBRMP

Preservation*

IA

710

71 000

<1

Marine National Park*

II

114530

11453000

33

Scientific research*

IA

155

15 500

<1

Buffer

IV

9880

988000

3

Conservation Park

IV

5160

516000

2

Habitat protection

VI

97 250

9725000

28

General use

VI

116530

11 653 000

(Commonwealth1)

Various

185

18 500

<1

Total

344400

34 440 000

100

*, no take zones where extractive activities are generally not permitted.

*, no take zones where extractive activities are generally not permitted.

The GBR continues to be under pressure from a wide range of human uses and natural impacts, and neither the GBR World Heritage Area nor the Marine Park are static. Use patterns and technology are constantly changing and the marine environment itself is dynamic. For example, the use of the Marine Park has escalated rapidly in the 30 years since its establishment. Despite various complexities, the integrated governance and management model that has been functioning in the GBR has proven to be effective and successful.

A range of strategies continue to ensure the GBR is protected now and into the future. These strategies, designed to maintain the health and increase the resilience of the GBR to cope with escalating pressures, include:

• maintaining compliance with the Zoning Plan and supporting Regulations;

• improving water quality through the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan;

• promoting sustainable fisheries;

• developing sound policy regarding the effects of climate change on reefs, and

• promoting sustainable tourism.

As the Marine Park moves into its fourth decade the new legislative framework along with the various other management strategies will collectively contribute significantly to the conservation of the entire GBR ecosystem. Collectively these will enhance significantly the health and resilience of the GBR, assist industry to achieve increased levels of environmental and financial sustainability, and provide benefits for all users and industries that are dependent on the GBR.

For more information about the Marine Park, visit www.gbrmpa.gov.au [Verified 22 February 2008].

Detailed information on the rezoning is on the GBRMPA website under 'Zoning' and then follow the link 'Information for Managers and Planners'.

All the zoning maps are on the website and copies are available in major centres along the GBR coast.

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