Marine Queensland blasts Coral Sea Conservation Zone

Last year’s Coral Sea interim emergency protection move labelled a “stunt”

Marine Queensland blasts Coral Sea Conservation Zone
Marine Queensland blasts Coral Sea Conservation Zone

Marine Queensland said the Environment Department effectively confirmed that former Environment Minister Peter Garrett’s move to declare interim emergency protection of the entire Coral Sea last year was a "stunt" to keep green groups happy.

In Senate Budget Estimates last week the department is said to have declared that the Zone would be treated as just another potential site for marine reserves, like anywhere else around the Australian coastline, with no special deadline or consideration.

According to Marine Queensland, former Minister Garrett’s declaration of the Coral Sea as a conservation zone last year, using emergency provisions in federal environment law, implied an immediate or emerging threat that justified interim protection, and special assessment of longer term protection.

"It was obvious at the time that the Minister was using the process just to provide a sop to those green groups that wanted to see the Coral Sea become a 100 per cent no take zone," said Senator Boswell. "They were the only people he discussed the move with.

"By indicating to the Senate… that the zone will simply be treated like any other Area for Further Assessment in the marine park planning process, and it’s fate will be part of the East Bioregion plan, department officers have effectively confirmed Garrett’s use of the special provisions in environmental law was just a stunt.

"All the Minister was doing was dog whistling to the greens, by suggesting he agreed with them that the Coral Sea ought to have some special status."

Senator Boswell said he was concerned about the motive for the latest delays in marine planning, which were also discussed in the Senate hearing.

Marine Queensland said Garrett had earlier in the year switched the announcement on East Coast marine reserves, including in the Coral Sea, from mid to late this year — until early next year.

"That delay got Labor past the potential of backlash at the election, and now the latest delay will ensure the plans aren’t considered until the Greens take up their balance of power role in the Senate next July," Boswell said.

"And the Greens, like the green groups Peter Garrett so carefully courted, want the Coral Sea to be 100 per cent no-take."

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