Review of the Zoning Plan for Great Sandy Marine Park

The Queensland Government has undertaken a review of the zoning plan for the Great Sandy Marine Park.

Each marine park has a zoning plan that outlines the rules to manage the multiple activities that occur within each park and defines the locations of different zones which in turn provide for different levels of protection and use .

The Great Sandy Marine Park is a multiple use park established in 2006 to protect its significant natural and cultural values while providing opportunities for a range of different uses.

The need for change

Globally, marine biodiversity is under threat from a range of factors including climate change, population growth, pollution and increasing use. The Great Sandy Marine Park is being impacted by these global trends.

The Great Sandy Marine Park:

  • boasts 23 broad habitat types, however several of these are under-represented in the highly protected zones of the existing zoning plan, placing the marine park’s biodiversity and critical species at risk
  • has seen a significant decrease in its extent of seagrass habitat
  • is seeing a significant increase in mature marine turtle and dugong strandings resulting from a range of causes including boat strike, poor health and flooding
  • includes the only known gestation site on the east coast of Australia for the critically endangered grey nurse shark, however the existing zoning plan does not effectively protect sharks at this key aggregation site from being hooked or accidentally caught by recreational and commercial line fishers
  • is seeing a decrease in the numbers of many migratory shorebird species, some by more than 10% per year
  • is subject to increasing coastal impacts from severe weather events caused by climate change
  • is subject to a range of demands from competing uses.

Changes need to be made to the Great Sandy Marine Park zoning plan in order to address threats to the long-term conservation of wildlife and their habitats and preserve and enhance the region’s lifestyle and economic strengths.

The opportunity

The zoning plan review provided the opportunity to:

  • better protect cultural values, respect and recognise First Nations peoples’ native title rights and responsibilities for caring for their sea Country
  • improve biodiversity and provide better protection of several iconic and threatened species, which are significant nationally and internationally including whales, dolphins, dugongs, turtles, grey nurse sharks and shorebirds
  • largely maintain the use of the marine park by the commercial trawl, crab, line and harvest fisheries, and those components of the net fishery that are of a lesser risk to threatened species
  • enhance the region’s enviable nature-based and recreational fishing lifestyle
  • support future economic growth in the region based on nature-based tourism, recreational and charter fishing and, where appropriate, aquaculture
  • assist local councils to address coastal impacts of climate change.

Zoning Plan review process

A four-stage process:

Stage 1: Information gathered about the conservation, social, cultural and economic values of the marine park.

Stage 2: A discussion paper released to gain public feedback on the management of the marine park.

Stage 3: A draft zoning plan and associated Regulatory Impact Statement released for further consultation and feedback in September-October 2022.

Stage 4: Informed by feedback from the consultation, legislation reflecting the outcomes of the review prepared. The new legislation will take effect at a nominated date in 2024 following implementation of impact mitigation processes.

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Great Sandy Marine Park process diagram

Since 2019, the Department of Environment and Science (DES) has undertaken a significant program of consultation with the community, First Nations peoples, local councils, scientists and key stakeholder groups on the zoning arrangements in the marine park.

A draft zoning plan was developed, informed by community feedback, advice from First Nations peoples, recommendations from an independent scientific reference group, socio-economic information and scientific research, as well as best practice marine park management principles.

In developing the draft zoning plan, consideration was given to the primary objective of the Marine Parks Act 2004 to conserve and manage the state’s marine environment while providing opportunities for a range of ecologically sustainable uses by the community.

Between 23 September and 23 October 2022, the draft zoning plan and associated Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement outlining proposed changes was released for broad public consultation and feedback.

Stakeholders and the community were invited to have their say on how well the proposed changes would conserve and manage the marine park and/or affect them via an online survey or by submitting their feedback in writing. The online survey targeted the following key topics relating to the marine park:

  • Habitat protection
  • The designated Great Sandy Area and commercial net fishing
  • Recreational fishing
  • Protecting threatened species
  • Coastal management
  • Protecting cultural values
  • Platypus Bay

Information about the draft zoning plan was distributed via traditional media, social media, newspaper and online advertising, email, posters, stickers and flyers, likely reaching more than 1.5 million people and generating more than 21,000 visits to the consultation website.

More than 443,000 of this audience was within the Great Sandy Marine Park local communities of Fraser Coast, Bundaberg, Gympie and Tin Can Bay.

How feedback was provided

More than 6,580 pieces of feedback were received, including:

  • 1,245 submissions via the consultation online survey – over 59% from within Great Sandy Marine Park local communities of Fraser Coast, Bundaberg, Gympie and Tin Can Bay.
  • 215 written submissions, which included 2 form letters. The form letters produced by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Queensland Seafood Industry Association generated 4,227 and 1,066 letters respectively.

What the feedback said

Community and stakeholder consultation indicated strong support for the majority of changes that were proposed in the draft zoning plan.

In most cases the proposed changes were either supported as is, or with suggested modifications. These modifications mostly related to the location or boundary alignment of particular Marine National Park (green) zones.

The one key proposal that was strongly opposed by the majority of respondents (70 per cent) was the retention of commercial tunnel netting within the Conservation Park (yellow) zone of the Great Sandy Strait and Tin Can Inlet.

  • The majority of people who completed the online survey chose to respond to questions relating to the revised zoning network and indicated strong and broad support for increasing protection of marine park habitats.
  • Online survey results:
    • 63% agreed with the proposed increase of the Marine National Park (green) zones from 3.9% to 12.8% of the park
    • 79% agreed with proposed new or expanded Conservation Park (yellow) zones
    • 75% agreed with proposed new or expanded Habitat Protection (dark blue) zones
  • The recreational fishing sector provided the majority of survey consultation feedback and were broadly supportive of the draft zoning plan but suggested several modifications to reduce impacts on recreational fishing access at some key fishing locations.
  • Commercial fishers, seafood processors and various support industries strongly opposed the proposed changes to the zoning network and in particular, the prohibition of large mesh gill nets and ring nets from the Conservation Park Zones within Baffle Creek, Elliott River, Burrum River system, the Great Sandy Strait and Tin Can Inlet, due to the significant impacts on the local industry.
  • The conservation sector provided clear support for most of the proposed changes and made suggestions to further enhance marine conservation.

Informed by consultation, most changes proposed in the draft zoning plan will be included in the final zoning plan.

The final zoning plan will increase the Marine National Park (green) zone network, remove some forms of commercial net fishing in certain areas; improve threatened species protection and improve protection of cultural values. Key changes include:

  • change in zoning to represent 12.8% of the area of the marine park in green zones contributing to a total of 28.6% of the marine park in highly protected zones (green and yellow zones)
  • removal of commercial large mesh gill nets and ring nets (operating under N1 and N2 fishery symbols) from the Conservation Park zones within Baffle Creek, Elliott River, Burrum River system, the Great Sandy Strait and Tin Can Inlet
  • measures to increase protection of threatened species, including shorebirds, turtles, dugongs and grey nurse sharks
  • measures to protect cultural and amenity values
  • zone changes to facilitate local government responses to increased coastal erosion from climate change impacts.

The following resources provide further information :

As at July 2023, following the completion of the review phase, there are several steps required to finalise the Great Sandy Marine Park Zoning Plan:

Next steps

  1. A commercial fisheries impact mitigation package will be developed and implemented to assist the commercial fishing sector and post-harvest seafood businesses directly affected by these changes.
  2. Processes will be finalised to legislate the final zoning plan. As part of these processes, a proposal to revoke 15 small areas from the Great Sandy Marine Park, totalling approximately 26 hectares, is currently being considered by the Queensland Parliament. The revocation of these areas will support the consistent management of public boating infrastructure across the park and better define the upstream extent of the park in three waterways. For information on these proposed revocations, please view the public notice.
  3. Community education to prepare marine park users for the commencement of the new zoning plan.
  4. The final zoning plan comes into effect in 2024 following implementation of the impact mitigation process.
  5. Ongoing implementation of a Regional Economic Enhancement Package which will include infrastructure such as boat ramps and artificial reefs to support recreational fishing and tourism opportunities in the marine park. Further opportunities to explore the expansion of aquaculture in the region will also be investigated.

Community awareness

In the lead up to the final zoning plan taking effect, there will be public education and awareness programs to help support marine park users understand and prepare for the new zoning plan.

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Further information will be communicated through updates on this web page, through direct engagement, as well as ongoing community awareness and education in the marine park region.

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