Mayor hits back at marine park claims

What a view. Looking over Pearson Island
What a view. Looking over Pearson Island

CEDUNA District Council mayor Allan Suter is concerned a recently released marine park report has been conducted through rose coloured glasses and is completely ludicrous.

The statewide report has revealed marine parks destined for the West Coast will create economic benefits for the community, however Mr Suter said the report was not credible with local community views.

The report, which was released this week, was commissioned by the Conservation Council of South Australia and prepared by the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies.

It suggested the Ceduna community could look forward to substantial benefits as a result of South Australia's new marine sanctuaries, which are due to come into effect on October 1.

The council is rallying to have the size of two marine sanctuary zones, Nuyts Archipelago and Isles of St Francis reduced due to the level of economic harm if they go ahead in their existing format.

"The report is comparing our area to Western Australia which is ludicrous.

"Saint Francis Island is 30 miles off shore, it would be ridiculous to attempt to set up a tourist business there," Mr Suter said.

"The area is renowned for strong swells and wind, it would only be accessible one out of possibly three days, you can't destroy a pristine area for that."

On September 18 the state opposition will attempt to put through a Bill in Parliament to have sanctuary zones amended and reduced by one-third in South Australia.

The Ceduna District Council supports this view as the local area is set to possibly lose vital commercial fishing areas.

"Council have shown in the past we do support a marine park system in South Australia however we believe they have gone completely overboard, we are therefore supporting an adjustment to reduce the harm," Mr Suter said.

Conservation Council of South Australia chief executive Craig Wilkins said the recent report demonstrated the significant role the new marine sanctuaries network could play for all South Australians.

"This report should go a long way towards putting to bed concerns that marine parks are bad for regional economies," he said.

"Evidence from around Australia suggests that marine parks are great for the regions and great for fishing," Mr Wilkins said.

"I sincerely hope that an opposition Bill before Parliament to take away the very best of these marine sanctuaries will be voted down."

The statewide report indicates Ceduna may attract large numbers of tourists who want to experience nature and the marine environment at its wildest.

Mr Wilkins said Western Australia's Ningaloo Marine Park had one-third protected in marine sanctuaries and drew more than 180,000 visitors and more than $140 million per year to the remote region.

"There is no reason why Ceduna can not become like Exmouth, Western Australia's gateway to Ningaloo," Mr Wilkins said.

"In Baird Bay on South Australia's Far West Coast, people can jump in the water and swim with sea lions and dolphins every single day.

"Where else around Australia can you do that?

"In 2008, whale and dolphin watching brought $31 million in direct expenditure.

"We have some of the best whale watching in the country, with over 30 southern right whale mothers and calves frolicking in the waters off the Head of Bight each year.

"With nature-based tourism on the increase, there's no reason why South Australia should not get a bigger piece of the tourism dollar pie," Mr Wilkins said.The report states regional economies that inhabit marine parks have reported more than 9900 indirect and direct employment opportunities as a result.It is estimated that eco-tourism's direct benefits could be worth about $50.5 million to South Australia's economy over a 20-year period.

However, Mr Suter said there would be little to no interest from tourists if zones go ahead.

"We have enough local attractions here, we are sick of hearing about the amount of tourists who want to visit marine parks," Mr Suter said.

"We are set to lose over 15 per cent of our crayfish through the absurd sanctuary zones, which is something tourists definitely don't want to see."

The report explains that when the marine sanctuaries come into play, the state government will have the ability to market South Australia's unique coastline and marine life globally.