Blog Marine Parks

NSW Mainland Marine Park Network Management Plan 2021-2031

by Katie Walters, Marine Campaigner November 26, 2021
Right now, the NSW Government is proposing a new system for managing marine parks, which could allow further cutbacks to marine sanctuaries, putting our incredible and irreplaceable marine life at risk.
What’s this all about?

The New South Wales Government is proposing a “new approach” to managing mainland marine parks as part of a network in their proposed NSW Mainland Marine Park Network Management Plan 2021-2031. This represents a departure from their previous form of management which considered each marine park separately.

We’ve read the draft plan – and we’re highly concerned about a number of aspects, inclusions and omissions. These concerns are only heightened by the current Government’s lack of transparency and accountability around decisions made for marine parks, as evidenced by the shocking authorisation of illegal fishing in Batemans Marine Park sanctuary zones in 2019, and the Minister for Agriculture’s statement last year that he is eager to remove further sanctuary areas across the state.¹

They’ve asked for your feedback.

We know our supporters feel strongly about marine life, and we know you rely on us to be the voice of that marine life and keep you informed when it’s at risk. 

We encourage you to make a direct submission to the Government’s consultation, especially as it relates to the marine parks that are dear to you. 

To assist, we’ve compiled some feedback that AMCS will be submitting to the Government, to address items of the plan we find most alarming. If you’d like to add your name to a submission we have prepared that includes a summary of these concerns, and raises the alarm with your local representatives in Parliament, you can do that here.

You’re more than welcome to copy and paste from our list to add to your own feedback in order to complete your submission on the feedback portal at the NSW survey website.

We’ve organised our guide to correspond with the format of the NSW survey tool, which asks for your opinion on the following general topics:

  • GENERAL: Will this new plan improve the management of NSW marine parks?
  • VALUES: Will this new plan protect what matters to you?
  • THREATS: Has this new plan adequately addressed the key threats to what matters to you?
  • GOALS: Does the management plan set appropriate targets?
  • ACTIONS: Does the NSW Government plan to take the right steps (to meet their stated goals, or more desirable goals)?



The primary purpose of marine parks, as stated in the Marine Estate Management Act 2014 (the Act), is “to conserve the biological diversity, and maintain ecosystem integrity and ecosystem function, of bioregions in the marine estate”. With consideration that management of marine parks should be aligned in keeping with that primary goal, overall, we disagree that the proposed management plan (the Plan) will improve the management of NSW marine parks.

We support:

  • The intention to form partnerships for a “whole of government” approach to addressing threats to biodiversity/ecosystem functioning within marine parks
  • The objectives outlined in the Plan as representing the general responsibilities the NSW Government must fulfil to appropriately manage current marine parks
  • The specific objective and programs to partner with Aboriginal people for protection of Aboriginal cultural values and improved marine park management. We urge the consideration of all action items and partnerships through other objectives and programs to progress this objective

We welcome, but urge further development of:

  • The reference to the importance of the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development (p12) but we urge the reassessment of action items and “trade off” strategies to assure the first three principles (use of the precautionary principle; assuring intergenerational equity; conservation of biological diversity and ecosystem integrity) have been thoroughly considered and applied consistently throughout the plan.
  • The distinction between fisheries management and marine parks objectives, and the acknowledgement that even well-managed fisheries can have substantial impacts on ecosystems (p23). We urge the reassessment of action items and partnerships (pp48-80) to reflect the non-fisheries expertise of the full NSW community, in particular from the marine and conservation science community, marine educators and citizen scientists, and non-fisheries ENGOs.
  • The stated intention to fill knowledge-gaps with research, and monitor outcomes to assess progress on the performance of the marine parks but we urge the inclusion in the Plan of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) objectives corresponding with the anticipated three, six, and nine year implementation plans for each action (see also Recommendation 5).

We ask for amendments in regards to the following:

The Marine Estate Management Act (2014) describes the primary purpose of a marine park is “to conserve the biological diversity, and maintain ecosystem integrity and ecosystem function, of bioregions in the marine estate” while secondary purposes (to provide for management of uses, development and activity within the marine park) are only to be provided for “where consistent with the primary purpose”. ²

It is thus deeply alarming to see the proposed Plan presents “trade off” scenarios (p15-16) where some outcomes will come at the expense of others, and “judgement” will be applied in accordance with management of the Marine Estate as a whole (p16)³, as opposed to judgement made in accordance with the purposes of marine parks under the Act. 

Recommendation 1: that “Making Decisions for Marine Parks” (pp15-16) is reconsidered, and rewritten to provide clear assurance and a commitment that trade-off decisions will favour biological and ecosystem outcomes in accordance with the purpose of marine parks under the Marine Estate Management Act (2014).

The CAR (Comprehensive, Adequate, Representative) principles described in the proposed Plan as providing guidance for spatial management of marine parks (p44) were developed by, and agreed by, all jurisdictions of Australia, including New South Wales. The Plan describes CAR principles as guidance in identifying areas for sanctuary protection only within currently existing marine parks (p44), in contradiction with the CAR principles which urge spatial protection at the scale of bioregions.

The included map of NSW marine estate (p6) entirely omits two bioregions of the NSW Marine Estate (Hawkesbury Shelf and Twofold Shelf).⁶ These bioregions remain entirely unprotected under CAR principles, and the Plan contains no action or initiative which provides for extending or creating new marine parks in line with CAR principles.

Recommendation 2: that the Plan provide thorough disclosure on marine spatial management in NSW by including the Hawkesbury Shelf and Twofold Shelf bioregions in the map of the NSW marine estate. 

Recommendation 3: that the Plan note NSW’s unfulfilled commitments to Marine Protected Area (Marine Park) management using CAR principles.

Recommendation 4: that the Plan includes Actions for Implementation that commit to applying the CAR principles to identify and protect areas for sanctuary and other spatial protection beyond current marine park boundaries as well as within them.


There are no measurable objectives within the proposed plan, nor timelines which will enable transparent evaluation of the ongoing implementation of actions toward those objectives, either by marine park managers or by the public.

Recommendation 5: that the Plan includes SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) objectives to correspond with the planned three, six, and nine year implementation plans (see also Recommendation 9). 

The proposed Plan contains no description of methods or avenues for keeping the community actively engaged in decisions that affect their marine heritage throughout the coming 10 years. Given that social capital necessary for public trust in management is at an all time low due to the history of opaque and politicised NSW governance of marine parks, the lack of clarity and accountability measures included in the Plan is unacceptable. 

Recommendation 6: that the Plan shows, in detail, the methods and opportunities for the general public to be a) informed and b) consulted with about the implementation of management actions through the 10 years timeframe of the Plan.



The proposed Plan describes stakeholder input into the Values upon which it is based, but it does NOT provide information on which values were primarily informed by expert scientific advice, peer-reviewed evidence, input from the community, or input from identified stakeholder groups.

The resulting list is therefore unweighted, with no transparency on the cogency of values in relation to stakeholder interests. 

Additionally, the “community values” framework does not recognise the nature of socially-assigned values for natural resources, which are variable through time, and may be informed, expanded, or influenced by familiarity, education, social norms, and simple proximity.⁷

Recommendation 7: that the Plan commits to transparency by making expert, stakeholder, and community advice available to the general public, prior to taking any management action that may result in a reduction to biological diversity, ecosystem integrity or ecosystem function.

Recommendation 8: that the Plan includes a clear description of the nature of “community values” and commits to education and engagement activities that will result in enhanced values for the biological diversity, ecosystem integrity and ecosystem function protected by marine parks.



While the Threat and Risk Analysis has attempted to comprehensively address a broad range of threats, the Plan is immensely complicated, confused, and confusing in its description of Activities, Threats, and Values at risk (pp29-36). This is, in no small degree, due to the attempt to treat threats to community activities and uses as equivalent with threats to environmental values, rather than prioritising as per the legislated primary and secondary purposes of marine parks under the Act.

Noting the current approach to Marine Estate Management is based upon the Threat Assessment Risk Analysis (TARA) framework, and the Plans’ own acknowledgement that “Environmental values critically underpin social, cultural and economic values” (p28), the Plan should make it clear that management action in marine parks that enhances biological diversity, ecosystem integrity and ecosystem function cannot, by definition, represent a threat to any other value. By contrast, an action that enhances social, economic or cultural values, during the 10 year timeframe for this management plan, can or may represent a threat to biological diversity, ecosystem integrity and ecosystem function.

Within the existing legislation and framework, the Plan should set out Threat Themes accordingly:

  1. Threats to biological diversity, ecosystem integrity and ecosystem function of bioregions in the marine estate (primary purpose for NSW marine parks)
  2. Threats to social, economic and cultural values (secondary purposes for marine parks) because the biological diversity, ecosystem integrity and ecosystem function of bioregions in the marine estate face a threat under 1.

Recommendation 9: that the Plan clarifies Threat Themes in the network management plan to correspond with, and reflect, the primary and secondary purpose of marine parks as defined by the Act: ie, protecting environmental values in order to protect social, cultural and economic values. 



The Guidelines for Assessing Management Options for the NSW Marine Estate notes that “in finalising management options, more specific management objectives will be developed. Such objectives should be specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time-based (known as ‘SMART’ objectives)” (p5).⁸

Unfortunately, the proposed Plan does not afford the opportunity for the public to comment on SMART objectives; and instead relies on public trust that SMART objectives will a) appear in the immediate future, and b) be in keeping with the Act’s primary purpose for marine parks. However, trust in management of our marine parks is at an all-time low amongst a wide spectrum of stakeholders, as noted above.

Recommendation 10: that the Plan includes SMART objectives, corresponding with the planned three, six, and nine year implementation plans (see also Recommendation 5). 



We strongly disagree that the suite of actions proposed under the draft Plan will appropriately contribute to protecting the biological diversity, ecosystem integrity and ecosystem function, of bioregions in the marine estate as is the primary purpose for NSW marine parks. 

There are unacceptable indications that priority actions in the Plan were determined with minimal, or extremely selective, community engagement, and with little to no transparency to the public:

  • Of 152 identified Actions for implementation, only 13 named or unspecified partnerships are listed with any non-governmental local, state or national conservation groups, marine educators or researchers, academic institutions, or marine science professional bodies even for actions which are clearly within the immediate interest, expertise and scope of conservation or science stakeholders (for example 1.2c, 1.2e, 2.2b, 5.7b, J&B 5.6e, 6.1h). 
  • By contrast, more than 120 named and unspecified partnerships are listed with non-governmental stakeholders from extractive industries even when they have no direct relationship to or expertise in the listed action item (for example items, 3.1d; all actions under 1.1 and 1.3). 
  • Worse, these non-governmental, extractive stakeholders are listed as sole partners on action/decisions that may have extremely deleterious consequences for the primary purpose of marine parks (for example items under 5.5).
  • The Plan includes action items which appear to be paving the way to allowing for approvals that have already been determined, prior to education or engagement with the public to canvas benefits and threats (for example 5.7c which describes a preliminary risk assessment to determine if cruise ship visitations are appropriate in Jervis Bay, despite such visitations already being planned and sold to consumers).⁹

Recommendation 11: the Plan must reconsider and amend the proposed partners for all action items to: 

  • A: reflect that actions must contribute to the primary purpose of marine parks under the Act 
  • B: appropriately balance partnerships by urgently scaling up engagement with the vast, active network of local, state and national ENGOs; marine scientists and educators; citizen science; and local community groups who have collective decades of learning and experience in marine science, education, conservation practice, data collection, and associated expertise in marine park management.

Recommendation 12: the DPI-Fisheries and DPIE-EES call for Expressions of Interest from the stakeholders listed above to nominate interest in partnering to deliver and/or advise on all Actions under the proposed Plan.


Additional comments:

We are extremely dissatisfied with the lack of broad stakeholder engagement shown in the Plan. As evidenced in the Actions for Implementation in the draft Plan (pp48-60), some stakeholders were NOT given the opportunity to contribute to the Plan during its development, to the same extent as other stakeholders. 

We are dissatisfied that the DPI – Fisheries has introduced barriers to public participation in the process of management of the Marine Estate by allowing only two methods of feedback on the proposed Plan (via direct mail and via the YourSay website).

We are extremely dissatisfied that the YourSay survey tool inappropriately a) uses Likert Scales to force quantitative responses to b) questions framed in such a way as to diminish complex responses and minimise community engagement.

We additionally request that DPI-Fisheries and DPIE-EES compile and present to the public a formal report of the feedback to the draft Plan including methodology, as is standard good governance practice in other jurisdictions.¹⁰ ¹¹ ¹² ¹³



  1. Fishing World, (2020), VIDEO: NSW Minister for Agriculture says no more marine parks, Australian Fishing Trade Association, accessed online:
  2. Marine Estate Management Act 2014 No 72, (2020), NSW Government, NSW Legislation, accessed online:
  3. Marine Estate Management Authority, (2013), Managing the NSW Marine Estate: Purpose, Underpinning Principles and Priority Setting. NSW Government,
  4. Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, (1999), Strategic Plan of Action for the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas: A Guide for Action by Australian Governments,
  5. TFMPA, (1999), Understanding and Applying the Principles of Comprehensiveness, Adequacy and Representativeness for the NRSMPA, Version 3.1. Report prepared by the Action Team for the ANZECC Task Force on Marine Protected Areas,
  6. Department of Primary Industries, (n.d), Retrieved November 26, 2021, from
  7. E. Seymour, A. Curtis, D. Pannell, C. Allan & A. Roberts, (2010), Understanding the role of assigned values in natural resource management, Australasian Journal of Environmental Management, 17:3, 142-153, DOI: 10.1080/14486563.2010.9725261 .
  8. Marine Estate Management Authority, (2017), Guidelines for Assessing management options for the NSW marine estate, NSW Government,
  9. Clean Cruising, (n.d), CRUISES FROM JERVIS BAY. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from
  10. Parks Australia, (2021), Director of National Parks Report on public comments received on the draft Proposal for the establishment of marine parks in Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands,
  11. South Australian Government Department for Environment and Water, (2020), Consultation Report Community and stakeholder feedback on the Government’s proposed amendments to the SA Marine Park network,
  12. Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority, (2020), Consultation Report – Draft Review of Seabed Mining in the Northern Territory,
  13. Commonwealth of Australia (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority), (2017), Summary of the second round of public consultation on proposed changes to the permission system,