The Federal Government released, on the 14 June 2012, the Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network (CMRN) proposal for 60 days public comment. The CMRN proposes the proclamation of reserves over more than 1/3 of Commonwealth waters.
The effect of the CMRN on Western Australia
A significant proportion of the reservations to be declared will be in areas off the coast of Western Australia, particularly in those areas which are prospective for oil and gas and those areas which support significant fishing communities.
Commonwealth water off the coast of Western Australia will be split into two schemes, the North-west reserves network and the South-west reserves network.
The North-west reserves network will cover 37.1% of the Commonwealth waters in the region, within 13 reserves. Mining activities (including exploration) will not be permitted in 37% of the area. All fishing, including recreational fishing, will not be permitted in 31.8% of the area.
The South-west reserves network will cover 36% of the Commonwealth waters in the region, within 14 reserves. Mining activities (including exploration) will not be permitted in 70.5% of the area. All fishing, including recreational fishing, will not be permitted in 35.3% of the area.
It is worth nothing that the proposed declaration of reserves in Western Australia is in stark contrast to these areas reserved on the south eastern seaboard (comprising 16% of the Commonwealth waters in that region, with the vast majority of those reserves only restricting certain fishing methods).
Where to from here?
Once the 60 day public comment period is over, the Director for the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSWEPC) will review the comments received and report to the Minister for SWEPC who will consider the comments and recommend to the Governor-General that the reserves network be proclaimed.
Once the reserves have been proclaimed, a statutory management plan for each reserve will be created. The management plans will set out how the reserve is to be managed, what specific activities will be permitted within the reserves and how the permitted activities must be carried out.
Lavan Legal comment
The CMRN is likely to impact many fishing and offshore mining communities throughout Western Australia.
It is important for communities and businesses operating within these communities, to assess how these changes may pose a risk to the ongoing economic well-being of an area. By assessing impacts early, businesses and communities can adapt and prepare for change. The implementation of the CMRN is to be accompanied by a $100 million assistance package for communities, businesses and individuals most affected by the changes. Lavan Legal can assist clients in both assessing the impact of changes and if affected, can assist with the attainment of assistance from the Commonwealth to deal with that change.
Lavan Legal has dealt with DSWEPC in respect to developments and mining proposals on regular occasions and can assist clients with obtaining all necessary approvals to conduct their business within the legislative framework.