Plans for marine parks take effect

Article published in the Regulator | Issue 2: 2019 

On 1 July 2018, new management plans for the south-west, north-west, north, temperate east and Coral Sea Australian marine parks took effect. The plans were finalised by the Minister for the Environment and Energy, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, and introduced to Parliament on 21 March 2018 following a comprehensive review process commenced in December 2013.

The Director of National Parks (DNP) is the statutory authority responsible for the administration and management of marine parks. Marine park management plans enable a range of marine user activities and set rules for what activities are allowed with and without the authorisation of the DNP and what activities are not allowed. Management plans also set out the requirements for ‘mining operations’ which are only allowable in certain areas (zones) of marine parks and encompass offshore petroleum activities and some greenhouse gas activities. This includes associated titleholder emergency response, environmental monitoring and remediation activities.

The finalisation and commencement of the new management plans signifies the final milestone of a carefully considered marine park planning process led by the DNP and Parks Australia. This step also represents the culmination of marine bioregional planning processes, an independent review and economic analysis, collaboration with marine users, and consideration of expert advice and feedback provided by interested parties during a statutory public consultation period. With the new management plans in effect, offshore petroleum titleholders need to ensure that the offshore project proposals and environment plans for their offshore petroleum activities demonstrate that their activities are consistent with the zoning and rules that apply to mining operations in marine parks and impacts on the representative values of the parks will be of an acceptable level; and in the case of environment plans, also managed to as low as reasonably practicable.

It should be noted that if a petroleum title was in force prior to the proclamation of a marine park then it is recognised as a ‘prior usage right’ and exempt from having to comply with provisions of the marine park management plans. NOPSEMA is working closely with Parks Australia to develop guidance on Managing activities that may affect Australian marine parks. The guidance will seek to outline what titleholders need to consider and evaluate during the preparation of environment plans for activities that may impact on the marine parks. The guidance will also outline the requirements for titleholders in consulting with the DNP as a relevant person during the preparation and implementation of an environment plan. NOPSEMA expects the guidance to be published in the coming weeks. To receive an email update please subscribe to environmental management news at nopsema.gov.au/ subscribe.

For more information on Australian marine parks, or to download management plans, please visit the Parks Australia website at parksaustralia.gov.au/marine. Petroleum titleholders, proponents and special prospecting authorities are encouraged to seek opportunities to work with Parks Australia to improve existing knowledge of marine parks, for example, by sharing collected data to inform environmental assessment and management arrangements for their activities.