UPDATE – Council Advocacy on Proposed Marine Park

Published on Friday, 8 December 2023 at 11:58:00 AM

Dated: 8 December 2023

Council advocacy on behalf of the Esperance community continues for the best possible outcome of the proposed South Coast Marine Park. Updates on earlier efforts were published to the Shire website in April, August and September of this year.

Shire and the Council will persist in calling for a balanced result for the community, one that realises the huge potential this State Government project could bring to the region.

20 November 2023 - Shire President Ron Chambers emailed a letter to the Minister for Fisheries, Hon Don Punch, with copies going to the WA Premier, Minister for Environment and Minister for Mines & Petroleum.

The letter asked when the final consultation for the Proposed South Coast Marine Park (PSCMP) would occur, and a sincere request was made for the consultation to be held in the first quarter of 2024.

President Chambers sent the letter in response to community requests voicing deep concern regarding the mental health impact on fishing families.

4 December 2023 - A reply to this letter was received from the Chief of Staff to the Minister for Environment, Hon Reece Whitby, which emphasised the State Government timeline to get the PSCMP in place, with no commitment given as to when consultation would begin. It was explained that the statutory 90-day public comment period will be extended by an additional 30 days to “ensure ample time for feedback”.

8 December 2023 – An Invitation was received from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions to a briefing on Wednesday regarding the zoning of the proposed South Coast Marine Park.

Council and the Shire of Esperance look forward to meeting with the Department.


Widespread media reporting in November, following the release of Freedom of Information (FOI) documents requested by Hon Colin de Grussa MLC, called into question much of the Government narrative on the PSCMP.

An added stress for these fishing families is the historic reality in Western Australia that where fishing livelihoods have been lost through the creation of marine parks, compensation is processed in a matter of decades.

The FOI documents detail the following:

  • inter-departmental deadlines and communication
  • tender process for an in-depth Socio-economic Assessment, as promised by the WA Government
  • breakdown of the tender process and ultimate refusal to carry out an in-depth Socio-economic Assessment
  • absence of information on when the final consultation phase will begin

Under scrutiny from the media, the Minister for Fisheries stated “a four-month public consultation period on the proposed SCMP would commence next year” (ABC News, 17/11/2023), however, widespread reports also had the consultation period beginning this December and continuing over the holiday period.

Serious concerns for the wellbeing of community members involved with the fishing industry are prompted by uncertainty around when consultation will begin, silence from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) on their progress, and the extensive media coverage is also causing great anxiety. Local families in the industry have communicated they are already feeling under pressure in the leadup to the holiday season, with media reporting that they will lose their livelihoods, and businesses built over generations. These stalwarts of the local fishing industry are concerned they will not be able to pay their bills and feed their families if the marine park goes ahead. Ensuring that the consultation period will not begin till next year would help lessen their mental anguish over the Christmas – New Year period, and be a positive step forward.

Further matters of concern to the Shire when considering the PSCMP and the impact it will have on the Esperance regional community and wider afield are:

  • urgent questions and profound concerns have been raised concerning foreign influence on the design of the PSCMP. The Shire urges that the wishes and opinion of the local community, and those whose daily lives and quality of life will be materially affected by the PSCMP, be valued above the opinions of an international rent-a-crowd who couldn't find Western Australia on a map.
  • The FOI documents reveal the reason the Shire has not been provided with the promised wide-ranging Socio-economic Assessment was that the process for this was almost complete when it was scrapped in favour of a departmental desktop review, slated to use existing information with no new relevant current data to be sourced
  • The FOI documents detailed new, restrictive guidelines for this desktop review; guidelines which will essentially turn what was to be an independent, professional assessment into a WA Government rubber stamp masquerading as a document of consequence.
  • WA Government claims that a significant tourism boom will result from the PSCMP; to date we have not seen or heard of any forward planning from State Tourism bodies to promote, plan for, or support these supposed tourism benefits.
  • Significant resources will be required for the State Government to adequately implement, maintain and oversee the marine park, with a preliminary assessment of compliance costs estimated to be in excess of $25 million over four years. There have been no communications around this, or assurances that the PSCMP will be properly maintained once established. The Shire believes the community deserves a commitment to good governance of any marine park established, and seeks reassurance that this will be fully funded.
  • The FOI documents are clear that local governments are not considered to be stakeholders. This shows that every Local Government from Bremer Bay through to the SA border are not considered to be important in this process, and does not match up with repeated assurances to the Shire of Esperance that regular updates would be provided.
  • Without access to the data, scientific research and evidence and the Socio-economic Assessment, reactions to the public consultation on the proposed park can only come from a purely emotional base. Meaningful consultation will only result if respondents have the relevant information available and can submit well rounded observations, reflecting their opinions of the facts presented and carrying the varying emotions of a heavily invested community.
  • The information given to the Shire on the PSCMP has been clearly marked ‘Confidential’. The Shire has not been provided with any information that it can share with its ratepayers and the community.
  • Despite Fisheries Hon Minister Don Punch MLA going on record as saying compensation for this marine park is not an issue, there is little evidence that compensation, if and when required, would be swift and efficient.

As the Shire has stated previously, the benefits of the PSCMP could be wide ranging, with substantial positive outcomes across the region’s industries, community and environment. Our community as a whole wants to preserve the marine environment; we live here and this is our future. Done right, and consulted right, the proposed South Coast Marine Park could be a hugely positive development for our community. Done wrong, long standing viable businesses could be forced to close, tourism from recreational fishing may cease, and the community could be barred from recreational pursuits they have enjoyed for generations.

The Shire only asks the WA Government to genuinely follow best practice in the process of determining the final design of the PSCMP. Be engaged and communicate with no predetermined outcome in mind. Follow internationally recognised standards for community consultation, consult with those affected, and abandon the rubber-stamped solution that has been pushed onto the community.

It would be great to finish off the calendar year with a guarantee from the Minister for Fisheries and Environment of a fair and equitable consultation and design process.

What can you do?

Write to your State Government representatives, or arrange a meeting. Our community deserves to be kept up to date and regularly informed on projects of this magnitude.

Hon Shelley Payne MLC - shelley.payne@mp.wa.gov.au

Hon Colin de Grussa MLC - colin.degrussa@mp.wa.gov.au

Hon Steve Martin MLC - Steve.Martin@mp.wa.gov.au

Peter Rundle MLA - peter.rundle@mp.wa.gov.au


If you are feeling overwhelmed please, please reach out and talk to someone.

Lifeline – 13 11 14 lifelineorg.au

Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636 beyondblue.org.au

Rurallink – 1800 552 002


Letter to Minister for Fisheries 20 November 2023

Letter from Minister for Environment 4 December 2023

Media Enquiries:

Media & Communications Officer


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