Karen Bubna-Litic, Emma Goreham, Taylor Pope, Kvitka Becker, Alex Craig

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The purpose of this research is to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of the participation principle in protecting marine diversity in the current governance arrangements for Marine Parks in South Australia.

Historically, marine areas in South Australia were protected by the establishment of Aquatic Reserves under fisheries legislation. In 1991, the Commonwealth government tried to promote a biogeographic and ecosystem approach through a national representative system of Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s), known as NRSMPA, but despite this push, none of the MPA’s, which were designated as aquatic reserves, in South Australia were specifically designated to protect biodiversity.

The need for marine parks in South Australia to protect marine ecosystems and biodiversity was recognised by the government which released the Marine Parks Bill in 2006. The proposed Act raised a number of conflicting values amongst the community including issues of conservation, commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, and employment. Under the Marine Parks Act 2007 (SA), provision was made for community participation in the declaration and management of the marine parks.

The process adopted by the Minister, on advice of the department, in implementing the community consultation process on designating the outer boundaries, on the development of the draft management plan and review, has gone beyond what was required under the Marine Parks Act 2007 (SA). The department decided that best practice would be to involve the public in the zoning process and to this end, it embarked on the establishment of 13 Marine Park Local Advisory Groups (MPLAG’s). The Minister was very supportive in this process. The consensus from the peak stakeholder group interviews is that there has been an effective implementation of the principle, on the whole, but that lessons can be learnt from the process to improve future participation processes.

The question of the effectiveness of the principle in the context of SA’s Marine Parks is a vexed one. There are some indicators that favour a conclusion that the principle has been effectively implemented. The fact that the department went beyond the legislative requirement by setting up 13 MPLAGs to establish the management and zoning plans, the fact that more than 10,000 submissions were received during the process, and the fact that 19 marine parks were established by the process are all indicators of an effective participation process. But there were some limitations in the process.

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