Reef fishing bans stay

Controversial no-take fishing zones covering 32.5 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef will be locked in for seven years.

Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell said yesterday that the Government had accepted the recommendations of a two-year review that there be no changes to the zonings introduced in 2003.

Releasing the review, which was headed by Environment Department secretary David Borthwick, Senator Campbell said the Government accepted the Reef was under pressure.

“Keeping the zonings in place gives certainty to the fishing industry and conservationists. That’s what they wanted,” he said.

The review also recommended that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority remain based in Townsville and that a report be produced every five years documenting the park’s condition, risks and pressures.

WWF Australia spokesman Richard Leck said his organisation supported the review’s recommendations, but wanted to see GBRMPA take immediate action to attack the effects of climate change and declining water quality.

Senator Campbell said the report showed the Reef was better protected than others around the world, and in good condition thanks to 30 years of agreement on its management between the Commonwealth and successive Queensland governments.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act would be revised so that power to initiate rezonings would reside with the minister rather than GBRMPA. Senator Campbell said this was no diminution of GBRMPA’s power or independence.

“The minister is ultimately responsible for it and we pay for it,” he said.

Nationals senator Ron Boswell said the change would rein in GBRMPA, putting more responsibility for issues such as rezonings back with the government of the day.

It also would mean the minister could veto any further GBRMPA proposals for green zones.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said the recommendation that GBRMPA remain intact would help ensure the protection of Australia’s most famous tourism asset.

Senator Campbell said the 30-year-old Act would be streamlined so it would better sit with the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act on issues such as sustainability.

The development project approval system would be refined so developers would have more clarity and deal with fewer organisations, although GBRMPA would still handle 90 per cent of approvals.