Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Australians share lessons from Great Barrier Reef planning

March 17, 2008

SOINTULA, B.C. — Two speakers from Australia are coming to the North Island and Central Coast to share their experiences drawn from one of the world’s best examples of community engagement in action – the re-zoning of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Living Oceans Society is hosting the tour from March 25 to April 4 [see tour schedule on next page] that will feature presentations by Russell Butler and Graham Scott who will share the successes and challenges that they faced as community residents, First Nations and fishermen working to rezone the Great Barrier Reef.

“These two men are coming from half way around the world to share the stories of a process that rezoned 300,000 sq. km. of ocean,” says Lara Renehan, Local Marine Planner for Living Oceans Society. “Because we live in an area of B.C. where a marine planning process is getting underway, we think that coastal residents will benefit from Butler’s and Scott’s experiences.”

The Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) is a marine planning process currently being led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in partnership with Coastal First Nations and the Province of B.C. Living Oceans Society has been working to raise awareness about the need for a marine plan in the PNCIMA region that includes the involvement of local communities and stakeholders.

Russell Butler is an Aboriginal Traditional Owner who successfully negotiated the management of his peoples’ coastal territory with the Australian government. Butler says being a Traditional Owner is about following in the footsteps of his ancestors. “It’s a good feeling to know we can go back there and know that it’s our home—a place where we belong,” says Butler.

Graham Scott is chair of the Capricorn Coast Local Marine Advisory Committee that worked with government to have the reef in their area rezoned so that it met differing stakeholders’ needs. Scott was one of the community leaders that got involved early to act as an “honest broker”, connecting stakeholders to planners and dispelling mistrust and misinformation. Thanks to his efforts, the rezoning result in his area is seen as one of the best by government and local communities.

Admission to the event is free and refreshments will be provided.



About the Speakers:

Russell Butler is a Bandjin Traditional Owner who was actively involved in the rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia. Bandjin sea country includes Hinchinbrook Island and the surrounding northern islands out to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the Traditional Owners of the Great Barrier Reef region. For over 60,000 years, their long-standing connections have been part of the unique living maritime culture. Today they continue to practice their customs and spiritual lore in their use of sea country and natural resources.

Russell enjoys taking people from kindergarten kids to university students to Bandjin country to teach them about his cultural heritage. He is pleased that Bandjin people are having a say in managing their sea country as it was a long process to negotiate the management of his traditional territory with government. In addition to mentoring and teaching his culture, he is active in documenting the Bandjin language so it can be better preserved and taught to children.

Graham Scott lives and works in Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia, adjacent to the southern end of the GBR. In addition to having his own civil engineering consulting firm, Graham and his wife Sharyn own a charter boat company that works the GBR. He has become increasingly involved in a range of coastal and marine groups since 2002. The result of the planning of the GBR in the Capricorn Coast area, where Graham is currently Chair of the Local Marine Advisory Committee, is perceived by both stakeholders and planners as one of the best. This is due in part to good engagement with local stakeholders working cooperatively with government planners to achieve conservation goals. As a result, all stakeholders share the benefits of Marine Protected Areas, the community has accepted the rezoning and an ongoing partnership approach to management of the GBR.

Graham is now involved in CapReef, a community-based monitoring program that brings together government, science and community to monitor the impacts of the management changes to the GBR. CapReef was born out of the partnerships created during the planning process and capitalizes on the wealth of local knowledge and energy within the community. CapReef is now expanding throughout the GBR.

About the Great Barrier Reef:

  • covering 344,000 km2 and stretching 2,300 km along the north-eastern Australian coastline, it is the largest coral reef ecosystem on the planet and is one of the most biologically diverse marine ecosystems in the world
  • Marine Protected Areas cover approximately 30 percent of Reef
  • a vital economic hub central to tourism, recreational boating and fishing, commercial fishing, diving, aquaculture, research and shipping
  • rezoned in 2004 with significant stakeholder involvement and balanced ecologically sustainable use, commercial realities and an overarching conservation

About B.C.’s Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA):

  • home to 34,504 people and an astounding abundance of marine life including globally unique glass sponge reefs, globally significant seabird populations and a huge diversity of fish, marine mammals, invertebrates and plants
  • covers an area of approximately 88,000 km2
  • an area of vital importance to the coastal economy and central to commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, aquaculture, and shipping
  • the rare and unique temperate rainforest (Great Bear Rainforest) is inextricably linked to the sea - while five million acres of the forest are protected, the surrounding ocean remains vulnerable and poorly managed

an area of high ecological, social and economic importance that has been identified by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) as a priority region for marine planning as part of Canada’s Oceans Strategy.