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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment


19 May 1998

The Howard Government has announced it will pursue the declaration of a number of new marine parks in Commonwealth waters over the coming 12 months.

Federal Environment Minister, Robert Hill said today that the government is investigating the addition of five new marine parks to the existing 11 marine protected areas in Commonwealth waters.

"We believe that a comprehensive and representative system of marine parks is an essential component of our efforts to protect Australia's unique marine biodiversity.

"We will therefore be pursuing five new marine parks in Commonwealth waters:

"Historically, governments have focused almost exclusively on establishing a reserve system in our terrestrial environment. Those marine parks that have been established have tended to be in Australia's tropical waters.

"We want to broaden the agenda to include areas in Australia's temperate and sub-Antarctic waters.

"I am particularly excited about the opportunity to ensure that the conservation values of the Tasmanian seamounts are protected.

"This region - which is 50 nm south of Tasmania- contains in excess of 60 seamounts which rise from water depths up to 2000 metres from the sea floor. Because of their isolation, the flora and fauna of the seamounts is quite unique.

"The development of these new marine parks will build on the Howard government's declaration of the world's second largest marine park in the Great Australian Bight earlier this year.

"As with the declaration process for the Great Australian Bight, we have begun an extensive consultation process with key stakeholders.

"While our primary goal is to secure protection for the conservation values of each of these locations, we will seek to work through management arrangements with both conservation and industry groups with an interest in these areas.

"I am also pleased to be able to today release, for public comment, a comprehensive issues paper prepared jointly by Commonwealth, State and Northern Territory officials which has been prepared as part of the oceans policy development process."

Australia's Oceans Policy - An Issues Paper describes the ways governments, industry and the community can work together to achieve healthy, productive oceans now and in the long term.

"Through the Coasts and Clean Seas program of the Natural Heritage Trust, the Howard Government is actively seeking to ensure Australia's ocean and coastal resources are used and managed in a sustainable way.

"We are committed to putting in place an oceans policy that will both increase the opportunities for job growth in our marine industries and ensure that Australia's marine biodiversity is protected.

"Australia's oceans contain among the greatest array of marine biodiversity of anywhere in the world, including more than 4 000 species of fish, over 500 coral species in our northern reefs, over 50 species of marine mammals and tens of thousands of species of marine invertebrates, plants and microorganisms.

"A national approach to ecologically sustainable ocean use, including fisheries, shipping, oil and other seabed resources, and to conserving marine biodiversity, will enhance Australia's position as a world leader in marine management.

"Australia's Oceans Policy - An Issues Paper outlines opportunities to enhance our marine related employment and industrial growth while conserving our oceans.

"The release of this issues paper marks the beginning of a final two month consultation stage following what has been an extensive policy development process. We are inviting comments from all stakeholders and members of the community before the policy is considered by Ministers.

"The issues paper sets out a vision for our oceans and the principles and actions necessary for the conservation and sustainable use of our marine resources."

Comments on the issues paper are due by 15 July 1998. Australia's Oceans Policy is due to be finalised and released later this year.

Senator Hill has also released a report from his Ministerial Advisory Group on Oceans Policy, which has been chaired by David Connolly, that provides the views of key non-government stakeholders on the development of an Australian Oceans Policy.

The report makes 99 recommendations covering a broad range of issues the Advisory Group considers need to be addressed in finalising the policy.

A draft Marine Science and Technology Plan, will shortly be released for public comment. The draft plan will identify Australia's existing and emerging priorities in marine science, technology and engineering.

Australia has responsibility for one of the world's largest marine areas covering close to 11 million square kilometres of ocean and another 5.1 million square kilometres of continental shelf. This is nearly twice the size of mainland Australia.

Copies of Australia's Oceans Policy - An Issues Paper and the Report of the Ministerial Advisory Group on Oceans Policy can be obtained from Environment Australia's Community Information Unit phone 1800 803 772.

The issues paper, a questionnaire and the advisory group report are available on the Internet at:

Matt Brown (Senator Hill) 02 6277 7640 or 0419 693 515
Philip Burgess (Oceans Policy Issues Paper - Environment Australia) 02 6274 1418
Peter Taylor (Marine Parks - Environment Australia) 02 6274 1759
19th May, 1998

Commonwealth of Australia