Industry urged to disengage from Marine Management Plan process

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The Australian Marine Alliance (AMA) is urging industry to seriously consider the merits of consulting over Draft Management Plans under the Marine Bio-Regional Planning Process (MBPP) when the process under the Gillard Government’s leadership was unanimously viewed as flawed.

Dean Logan, AMA CEO argued, 'Yet again industry is being asked to ‘comment’ on serious resource management issues, that deliver negligible environmental benefits, with a gun pointed to its head.

'We were therefore left – along with others - with no alternative but to disengage and to ask the Commonwealth Ombudsman to formally investigate the administrative handling of the MBPP, addressing but not limited to the following.'

• Major structural processes within the MBPP were decommissioned by SEWPaC without notice. This is in breach of Federal Government guidelines that stipulate key stakeholders should be consulted at all stages of the regulatory and policy cycle;
• The relationship between SEWPaC and Bureau of Rural Sciences (BRS) was considered a commercial in confidence relationship raising concerns of policy transparency;
• SEWPaC has failed to articulate scientifically the threats fishing poses to the marine environment and therefore clarify action proportional to the threat, as required;
• A range of feasible policy alternatives including a co-regulatory management framework and the associated environmental benefits, have not been placed on the table, as required;
• The greatest net benefit to the community is not being achieved at any level, as required;
• Local councils, shires and governments have not been effectively consulted Competition Principles, as stipulated and required;
• Total closures are over 10 times the size of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP). Compensation for the GBRMP sits at $250M and yet only $100M has been set-aside for the MBPP. Industry has already disengaged from this process for this reason;
• The ABARES socio economic assessment and modeling was rushed, lacked formal structure and considered one of the worst processes many have seen in over 20 years. Again this is in breach of stated guidelines and principles that SEWPaC must follow;
• The Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) is widely and independently viewed as flawed, breaching a range of stated principles and guidelines set down by The Office of Best Practice Regulation.

Mr Logan continued, 'It is clear that a range of additional breaches are evidenced some of which will most certainly be subject to legal challenge.

'What concerns many is that the Gillard Government substantiated moving forward on 487,434 submissions - 480,000 of which were computer generated from overseas - and yet have categorically failed to effectively implement their own rules and guidelines and therefore consult Australian communities, businesses, and families.

'It is also interesting to note that it took SEWPaC 6 years to table the South East Draft Management Plan and only 3 months to table the South West, North West, North, Temperate East and Coral Sea Draft Management Plans.

'Industry should question the merits of a rushed consultation of management plans until a full investigation is complete, structural reform evidenced or until the federal election is over. In our view industry, communities, families and the environment deserve better,' ended Mr Logan.

More at www.australianmarinealliance.com.au