By Joe Bourke
The State Labor Government has announced plans to build an extensive marine park in Sydney Harbour, should they win the next state election.
The marine park would stretch from Pittwater to Port Hacking and aims to provide protection for the 3000 species living in the Harbour.
Under the current zoning, there are aquatic reserves in place in ten areas in and around Sydney Harbour. Luke Foley, Shadow Minister for the Environment, said the pressures on the Harbour were growing.
“What we’re trying to do is ensure that for the first time there is comprehensive planning from the government in the state in order to balance all of the competing uses and pressures on Sydney Harbour and Sydney’s waterways.”
“The major goal is to protect the stunning diversity of marine life in Sydney.”
Sydney Coastal Council’s Executive Officer Geoff Withycombe has been campaigning on the need for effective marine management for a long time, but said it’s important to balance the marine area’s many uses.
“We support good marine management, not necessarily in terms of no take provisions, but a well-regulated, well-justified, backed by science and well-enforced marine management approach to Sydney.”
Mr Foley said that the first step for the park to be created is to bring together an advisory committee that includes marine scientists, fishers, conservationists, and the Indigenous community among others in order to create a balanced approach.
“We want balanced zoning arrangements which deliver wins for both conservation and for fishers and recreational users of the waterways as well as those for whom Sydney Harbour is a working harbour.”
Alexia Wellbelove, the Senior Program Manager at Humane International, has pledged the organisations’ support for a marine park.
“We are strongly supportive of a marine park in Sydney. It’s one of the most biodiverse harbours in the world and we think it deserves protection.”
“The harbour’s been improved in recent decades but marine parks just give it that added layer of protection to take it forward so that everyone can enjoy it.”
Although likely to prompt concern for fishers in Sydney Harbour, Mr Withycombe said that if well balanced and managed, the marine park may not necessarily disadvantage fishers.
“I haven’t seen the detail but research around the world shows that marine parks can potentially increase productivity of fisheries because you are locking up certain areas but not others, so fisheries have the potential opportunity to be enhanced.”
Mr Foley shared this belief and said fishers have nothing to fear of the proposed marine park.
Mr Withycombe also said that there are other benefits associated with marine parks, including marine education.
“There are many opportunities for a marine park including a whole range of education activities which leads to enhanced sustainable tourism.”
With just under six months until the 2015 state election, Mr Foley is confident that voters will see these positives for the city.
“I think that Sydney harbour is iconic and the people of this city are in love with our world famous harbour.”
“I think they do expect that their government will act to protect Sydney’s stunning marine environment and to properly consider and genuinely balance all of the different uses and demands that are based on Sydney Harbour in particular.”
John Robertson said that he has invited NSW Premier Mike Baird to join Labor in offering bipartisan support for the marine park.