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Government must act to protect Victoria’s marine environment, says Auditor-General

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Media release

A report by Victoria's Auditor-General into how the state's marine protected areas (MPAs) are managed has highlighted some clear gaps and failings in the way this spectacular underwater world is cared for.

The report, tabled in Parliament today, calls for more active on-ground management and recommends integrated statewide policy and planning for the whole marine environment as the best way to manage environmental threats.

"In opposition the Liberal Party supported the legislation that established our current network of marine protected areas, and now they are in government the ball is in their court," said Simon Branigan, Marine and Coastal Officer with the Victorian National Parks Association.

"We urge Premier Baillieu to fully adopt and implement all the Auditor-General's recommendations."

The report found that the State Government is failing to protect coastal waters from invasive pests and diseases, and recommends the development of a marine pest biosecurity plan.

"The Auditor-General has rung an alarm bell, alerting Victorians that not enough is being done to prevent invasive marine pests and diseases escaping into our coastal waters, where they could do huge damage to the fishing industry, as well as to marine environments," said Mr Branigan.

The report is critical of poor coordination between Parks Victoria and the Department of Primary Industries to police illegal fishing.

"This situation is of huge concern considering the audit identifies illegal fishing as a significant threat to marine biodiversity," said Mr Branigan.

The Auditor-General found that only 10 per cent of the funding allocated for managing marine protected areas was being used for its intended purpose.

"This is symptomatic of an agency under stress," said Mr Branigan.

"We have repeatedly highlighted the fact that Parks Victoria's core funding is not enough to do the job of protecting our natural environment. Parks Victoria needs adequate and reliable funding to ensure budget allocations go where they are intended and are not diverted to plug budget holes in other operational areas.

"Millions of Victorians enjoy and value the beauty of our underwater world and want to see it looked after. National parks are there to protect nature for all Victorians, now and into the future."

For comment

  • Simon Branigan, VNPA Marine & Coastal Project Officer - 0409 087 278.
  • For media enquires please phone Louise Matthiesson - 0417 017 844.

Note: The scope of the Auditor-General's report did not assess the biodiversity outcomes of the existing marine protected area network or whether more marine national parks are needed to safeguard our spectacular underwater world.

Download the report from the Auditor-General's website