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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The development of a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of highly protected marine protected areas in Victoria, Australia

long and winding road: The development of a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of highly protected marine protected areas in Victoria, Australia

Geoff Wescott

School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, Deakin University,

Melbourne Campus, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood 3125, Victoria, Australia


In 2002, the state of Victoria, Australia increased its ‘‘no-take’’ marine protected areas (MPAs) 100 fold to cover over 5% of its coastal waters in a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of marine national parks and sanctuaries. Given the ambitious targets set for MPA establishment globally in 2003 at the World Summit for Sustainable Development this apparently remarkable achievement could be an example to other nations and states attempting to establish substantial MPA systems.

This paper describes and discusses the factors that contributed to the establishment of the Victorian system and the relevance of these factors to other jurisdictions.

r 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

At the World Park’s Congress in Durban, South Africa in October 2003 the percentage of land reserved in protected areas was reported to be approximately 11.5% of the Earth’s total land area [1]. The percentage of sea in marine protected areas (MPAs) was reported to be less than 0.5%of the world’s oceans [1]. MPAs made up less than 10% of all protected areas, despite the oceans occupying 71% of the planet. This was described as unfortunate. There had been very little increase in reservation of MPAs since the previous Congress in Caracas in 1992 where a target of 20% of the oceans being protected in MPAs by 2002 was set [2]. This was despite considerable efforts at publishing the extent of MPAs in the interim (e.g. [3,4]) providing guidelines for their establishment (e.g. [5]), publicising their role in biodiversity conservation (e.g. [6–9]) and encouraging their selection, declaration, design and management (e.g. [10–19]).

This modest achievement of 0.5% when aiming at 20% makes the target set at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 of a global representative system of MPAs by 2010 [20] a very ambitious one indeed. Unexpectedly the literature quoted above concentrates on guidelines for the establishment of MPAs and management and planning of MPAs once in existence. There is little literature documenting examples of how the declaration of actual MPAs was achieved to be used as models for nations and regions attempting to meet the ambitious MPA targets. There
are papers (e.g. [21–26]) on community engagement in MPA programs and monitoring which highlight some of the community concerns (often from fishing interests) which may have inhibited the declaration of substantial MPAs but fewer references on general community attitudes (e.g. [27]).

Against these disappointing achievements the increase in MPAs in the south-eastern Australian state of Victoria is startling. Victoria possesses 2000 km of south-facing coastline with temperate waters off the coast supporting substantial endemic populations of flora and fauna. In November 2002, over 5% of its coastal waters were declared as high level protection (i.e. so-called ‘no-take’ reserves) marine national parks and marine sanctuaries in a comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR) sample of its marine habitats [28]. This was a 500 fold increase in highly protected areas in one piece of legislation for the state.

How did this occur? Were there unique factors operating in Victoria? Are there lessons from the Victorian experience that may be valuable to other nations and states attempting to substantially increase their MPAs systems?

This paper will attempt to answer these questions.

Below the chronology of the development of Victoria’s MPA system is briefly described before deducing the key factors, features and themes, which may be of value to other jurisdictions, which underpinned the final CAR ‘no-take’ system of MPAs declared in Victoria. In this paper a Marine Protected Area is defined as: ‘‘any area of intertidal or sub tidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora and fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment’’ [6]. A highly protected MPA is defined as a MPA that is classified as either Category I or II in the IUCN system [29]. Often a short hand notation of ‘no-take’ is used to describe most such MPAs as usually there is a ban on all forms of extraction of living resources (e.g. fishing) and most often gas, oil and minerals. Finally a comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR) system of MPAs is defined as a system which protects a full range of habitats and communities in each region (comprehensive), with boundaries
established for the MPA which ensure a sufficient size and are practical enough to minimise external negative influences (adequate) and which reflects within the boundaries the diversity of flora and fauna in the protected habitats and communities (representativeness) [30].

2. Background on MPAs in Australia and Victoria

2.1. Australia’s MPA system

Australia possesses one of the largest exclusive economic zones (EEZs) in the world [31]—at least 11 million km2 with the sea area being twice the size of Australia’s substantial land area. Under the Australian Constitution the Commonwealth or national Government has responsibilities for the vast majority of this sea area but the State and Territory Governments retain control over most coastal waters (usually defined as extending out to 3 nautical miles from the coastline [32,33]). The development of MPAs in Australia has had as its basis the work of Non- Government Organisations (NGOs). In particular pioneering work by various authors e.g.
[34–39]), and the Fourth Fenner Environment Conference 1991 in Canberra ([40] and see particularly [41–44]) laid a solid base for the programme described below. Policy aspects have also been described by various authors [45–47] with a recent overview being produced by Edyvane and Lockwood [48].

Some of these initiatives have received Government assistance and there has been a substantial Government initiatives as well e.g. An early inventory of MPAs in Australia [49] a State of the Marine Environment Report [50] (which included details of MPAs in an Annexe report [51]) and government policy documents including a bioregionalisation system [52] and a suite of action plans and guidelines [33]. The Commonwealth’sMPA Program [10] has been developed in co-operation with the State and Territory Governments in Australia as part of the (Australian) National Representative System of MPAs (NRSMPA). The primary goal of the NRSMPA is to build a CAR system of MPAs. Further details of the NRSMPA can be found in the national strategic plan of action [33]. The plan includes the use of the Interim Marine and Coastal Regionalisation for Australia (IMCRA) as the bioregional framework for locating the MPAs in the CAR system.

In 1999, of the 60 Australian (IMCRA) bioregions 21 bioregions had no MPAs, 21 had MPAs covering less than 1% and five had between 1% and 10% coverage i.e. two-thirds of the bioregions had less than 1% of their area in MPAs. The plan also showed that the States and Territories all had policies concerned with establishing MPAs at various levels of development. In terms of the type (the degree of protection afforded by MPAs) the plan states ‘‘The NRSMPA will aim to include some highly protected areas (IUCN Categories I and II) in each bioregion’’ [33]. Cresswell and Thomas [53] have reported the extent and type of MPAs in Australia. Since the national plan was prepared the Commonwealth Government has declared in the waters under its jurisdiction, five new MPAs (most between 1999 and 2002). The NRSMPA appears to have led to an immediate increase in Commonwealth MPAs but is yet to result in substantial increases in State declarations. By 2002 there were 192 MPAs (with 17 different names) in Australian waters covering approximately 64 million ha [54]. Australia has achieved substantial progress in MPA declaration when compared to global achievements and is recognised as a world leader in MPA development. This progress though is not uniform across the nation (State and Territory performance in coastal waters, where pressures are greatest [54,61] has been patchy and mediocre at best) or across the major bioregions in the EEZ. The leadership role of the NGO sector and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) have also been telling factors although MPA increases have been strongly opposed by the by the fishing and mining sectors in Australia as elsewhere. 
2.2. Victorian coastal waters and Victoria’s MPA system

The Victorian coastline is approximately 2000 km long and is composed of a spectacular mix of cliffs, bluffs, sand dunes and embayment’s. [30,55–58]. The Victorian State Government has jurisdiction over the coastal waters off the Victorian coastline out to 3 nautical miles (8000km2 of sea [59]) under the Australian Offshore Constitutional Settlement (OCS, [59]), although there is mutual management with the Federal Government of some fisheries and some oil and gas exploration operations in shore of this limit.

Within these cool temperate waters the tides are diurnal and the predominantly south-facing coastline is subject in the west of the state to predominantly south-west swells and in the eastern portions to south-eastern swells. The combination of the tides, swell, strong winds, mainly from the south and west, and the narrow and shallow Bass Strait means the waters can be very rough. When the differing influences of the Eastern Australian Current (bringing warmer waters along the eastern side of the state) and the cooler waters on the west coast are combined the result is a distinctive mix of habitats leading to a very significant level of endemism amongst plants and animals, in many taxa at a level over 70%. The IMCRA Technical Group [55] identified five distinct bioregions in Victoria [17,20,60–62]. Therefore Victorian Coastal Waters are essentially cool temperate in character with significant local variation arising from an interaction of substrate type, exposure to winds and tides, and water temperature. By 1992, Victoria possessed 12 MPAs covering a total of approximately 50,000 ha, with all but a few hectares in multiple use MPAs where fishing, exploration, mining and discharges from land were still permitted [66]. Traill and Porter [20] reported that by 2001 there were 11 MPAs (consolidation of MPAs had decreased there overall number) covering a total of 53,501 ha or approximately 4.5% of Victorian coastal waters (VCW). Only 600 ha or 0.05% of VCW was in highly protected MPAs spread across five MPAs. There have been few studies on the use of these reserves (e.g. [17,63,64]) although various draft and final management plans provided some background information (e.g. [65–67]).

3. The development of MPA in Victoria

A 10-page table summarising the major events from 1972 to 2002 leading to Victoria’s current CAR system of MPAs is available from the author on request. There were four distinct phases within this 30-year period.

3.1. Prior to the first government commitment to an MPA system (pre-1982)

Prior to a progressive (Labor) Government being elected in 1982 with a commitment to the establishment of an MPA system one MPA (the Harold Holt Marine Reserve at the heads of Port Phillip Bay) had been declared in 1978 [68,69]. In this regard the Victorian development of MPAs was similar up until to 1982 to other jurisdictions i.e. a specific MPA was proposed and fought for against the combined opposition of statewide fishing and other interest groups. In Victoria the groups promoting MPAs were the Australian Marine Science Association (AMSA) and the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA). After this early declaration there was not even a second site under active consideration for 4 more years.

3.2. The ‘fits and starts’ phase (1982– 1991)

in an election, finally Instructed the LCC to commence the study in 1991.After the 1982 election, the state Government’s public land (and sea) use advisory body, the Land Conservation Council (LCC, later re-named the Environment Conservation Council, ECC) hastily inserted in its first set of Draft Recommendations a reference to consideration of the declaration of a MPA in its final recommendations for the area of South Gippsland including the waters of the iconic Wilsons Promontory National Park (first declared as a national park in 1898). The subsequent final recommendations for several MPAs in this region only 6 months later (late 1982) shocked the local community and started the implementation of the Government’s MPA policy off in a haphazard and controversial manner which probably worked against the long-term success of the policy overall. It was 5 years between the declaration of Harold Holt MPA (1978) and these South Gippsland MPAs (1983). The strength of local opposition led again to a long delay before the next proposed MPA was forthcoming i.e. 5 years until the Bunurong MPA in the late 1980s. This delay and uncertainty may have been avoided if the Government had instructed the LCC to carry out a marine and coastal investigation covering the whole coastal area instead of continuing to look at MPAs only when the LCC’s schedule of going from land region to land region happened to take in a coastal area. Finally after the author had documented the numerous promises of the Government to initiate a full marine and coastal LCC study the Government, just prior to being defeated

3.3. The land conservation council’s marine and coastal study (1992– 2000)

By the 1991 initiation of the LCC study it was 5 years since the last MPA had been declared in Victoria. As it turned out it was going to be 11 years before the next MPA was declared. The LCC managed to produce a descriptive report of the marine and coastal areas of Victoria relatively quickly, 1993 [66], but a combination of considerable opposition to any MPAs, a lack of interest shown by members of the general public (as distinct from the specific sectoral interests) and a lack of detailed knowledge of the marine environment resulted in a prolonged period between the LCC descriptive reports and its recommendations—and considerable controversy over the performance of the LCC itself. So much controversy in fact that it is believed that one set of marine recommendations were actually shredded just prior to the LCC being suddenly disbanded and replaced by the ECC in 1997. The ECC then had to re-create the momentum and did produce its final (late 2000) recommendations in a comparative short time.

3.4. The realisation of a comprehensive, adequate and representative MPA system

(2000– 2002)

The final phase was purely political. The independent body (LCC/ECC) had produced its final recommendations after six formal public submission periods that had resulted in over 4500 submissions and now it was up to the Government to accept, reject or modify those recommendations. The Government (which was a minority Government of the same party that had commenced the MPA saga 20 years earlier) needed the support of independents in the lower house of parliament to pass the MPA legislation. The Government attempted to introduce a modified version of the recommendations—deleting one national park and one marine sanctuary in an attempt to pacify the opposition of specific recreation and commercial fishing groups. After accusations of manipulating the LCC/ECC recommendations and pandering to pressure groups the Government withdrew
the legislation in mid 2001 when it realised neither the independents nor the opposition would support the legislation.
Due to a series of important actions discussed in more details below the legislation was re-introduced a year later (with the deleted national park and sanctuary re-instated and a substantial compensation package for people adversely affected by the declarations added) and the legislation was passed with the support of the independents and the major Opposition party in mid 2002, giving Victoria its current MPA system.

4. Matters which influenced the successful establishment of Victoria’s comprehensive, adequate and representative highly protected MPA system

4.1. The stakeholders involved in the debate

The various stakeholders groups, starting with the NGOs can be assembled according to whether they were in favour or opposed to a CAR system of ‘no-take’ reserves.

4.1.1. The conservation groups

A key element of success in Victoria was the presence of a NGO with a long-term commitment to MPAs and the resources to maintain that commitment. The VNPA performed this role, later joined by the Marine and Coastal Community Network (MCCN) from 1993. The VNPAs support for MPAs never wavered over 25 years and this was critically important as other groups and individuals came and went. This allowed continuity of knowledge and ‘‘cultural memory’’ so that when a new phase was entered the VNPA could use the accumulated experience and knowledge of the past. The VNPA and MCCN were supported in their efforts throughout the 1990s by the two key national bodies the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), although these organisations commitments waxed and waned according to the personnel involved at a particular stage. A key element of the pro-MPA campaign was the support of local groups along the coastline in regional areas.

These groups with local knowledge complimented the state groups’ overall vision and were important in countering any view that it was a Melbourne (capital city) urban driven proposal imposing ‘big city’ views on regional communities.

4.1.2. The major opponents of MPAs

Lined up in opposition to both the CAR system and to any individual proposal were, in particular, the peak State bodies representing commercial and recreational fishers. Local fishing groups were opposed to local MPA proposals and their opposition from the beginning to the end of the debate was completely fixed and immovable as they perceived that their ‘favourite fishing spots’ were threatened. A feature of the MPA debate was the rigidity of the stance of the fishing NGOs through to the mid-1990s when the peak state fishing bodies began to show signs of greater flexibility, possibly as they realised that some form of a MPA system was inevitable under either of the major political parties.

4.1.3. Neutral groups

Other sectoral interests e.g. tourist operators, dive groups, etc. were fairly neutral (even disinterested) in the debate until the late 1990s when they were actively courted by both sides. By the end stages these groups became mild supporters of the CAR system and this ‘‘winning over’’ of neutral groups was a telling factor in final political acceptance of the system.

4.1.4. Political parties: governments and oppositions

A crucial element of the debate was the support, in the end, of both the major political parties (progressive Labor and conservative Liberal) for the CAR ‘‘no-take’’ system. The third party represented in the parliament, the ultra-conservative farmer-based party (Nationals), was opposed throughout. The cross party political support was crucial in the end and was sparked by an extraordinary letter to ‘The (Melbourne) Age’ newspaper in favour of the MPAs, authored by an ex-Liberal and ex-Labor Premiers (leader) in April 2002. As well the Premier (the head of the State Government) and the conservation Minister were active ‘‘champions’’ of the CAR proposal in its final stages which gave considerable weight to the concept. Finally both political parties clearly wanted ‘‘closure’’ on this issue by 2002—it had gone on far too long and was beginning to ‘‘crowd out’’ other Environmental policies.

4.1.5. Bureaucrats and government agencies

Key bureaucrats (e.g. Heads of sections) particularly in the State Environment Department supported the CAR proposals throughout and were influential in maintaining the momentum behind the debate. The role of the Victorian Coastal Council (VCC), the peak coastal agency in Victoria established in 1995, in actively promoting the CAR system in drafts of the statutory Victorian Coastal Strategy and then finally in organising a MPA breakfast of key decision makers in Melbourne lent a strong credibility to the CAR proposal. Here was an independent agency, the government’s lead coastal agency, publicly declaring that a CAR system of ‘no-take’MPAs was a critical element of sustainable use of the Victorian coast.

4.1.6. The cumulative weight of stakeholder support

In the end the synergistic affect of so many diverse stakeholders supporting a common system over a protracted period of time was a very strong influence on success. An indicator of this is to analyse the recipients of the awards made by Parks Victoria in March 2003 to those who contributed to the successful CAR outcome. There were 27 awards given to 12 individuals and 15 groups/organisations ranging from local groups, state-wide conservation groups, government agencies, members of parliament and scientists. The sheer number and diversity of individuals and groups involved finally achieved success.

4.2. The key issues in the debate

There were a number of key issues debated that were crucial to the final success of the
Victorian campaign.
4.2.1. The role of science in the public debate

Science was used as a tool to discuss key matters such as the need (or otherwise) for MPAs, whether MPAs would meet the biodiversity objectives set and where to place the actual MPAs in terms of habitats and other features.

4.2.2. The role of ‘‘experts’’

During the debate a series of international scientists and experts were sponsored to visit Victoria in support of MPAs, most notably Dr Sylvia Earle (USA), Prof. David Bellamy (UK) and Dr. Bill Ballantine (New Zealand). These people briefed Cabinet Ministers and also addressed public meetings/small gatherings and received considerable media coverage.

This seemed to set a global context to the debate. The State politicians in particular were taken by the notion that the CAR proposal was unusual, if not unique.

4.2.3. The stated role/objectives of a MPA system

As the debate progressed discussions of the objectives of a CAR MPA system came to the forefront. The conservation groups and supporters saw the primary role as biodiversity conservation whilst some of the opponents of a ‘no-take’ MPA system saw MPAs as solely a fisheries management tool. This issue confused the discussion of ‘no-take’ verses ‘multiple use’ MPAs. The groups who believed the sole, or main role, for declaring MPAs was to enhance fisheries could not see the need for ‘no-take’ MPAs whilst those arguing for a primary objective of biodiversity conservation could not see the value of multiple use MPAs. Hence the debate was polarised along sectoral lines even after there was general acknowledgment of the need for MPAs.

Finally the role in Australia of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) and the GBRMP Authority (GBRMPA) needs a brief airing. The GBRMP has been promoted (globally) as the quintessential MPA. Yet in reality the greater Marine Park prohibits nothing but oil and gas exploration and is more a zoning scheme than a ‘‘conservation park’’. For example until July 2004 less than 5% of the entire massive GBRMP was ‘notake’. Early in the Victorian debate the GBRMP played an unintentionally negative role for proponents of MPAs in Victoria. Fishers and others ill-informed about the reality of the GBRMP feared the whole state’s coastal waters would become a Marine Park (not realising this would have very little impact on them) and used the sheer size of the GBRMP as an argument (or ‘‘scare-tactic’’) against the Victorian proposals. As well the GBRMPA’s promotion of MPA was focussed overseas and the Authority did not lend any assistance to Victorians arguing for a MPA system. But a very positive role of the GBRMP was that it encouraged interstate rivalry—a major motivator of State Governments in Australia. Victorian proponents of a CAR MPA system could point out the size of the GBRMP in Queensland and the 5% ‘no-take’ area and say Victoria needed to match this. This had a positive influence on the final outcome. (As an aside interestingly enough shortly after Victoria declared a greater proportion of its coastal waters as ‘no-take’ than in the GBRMP; the GBRMP, after 20 years of no change, moved to increase its ‘‘no-take’’ area to over 30%).

4.2.4. The role of valuable fisheries

The major generators of actual dollars in the Victorian fishery are abalone and rock lobster, rather than fin-fish production. These less mobile species hence became crucial to the debate in terms of loss of harvesting area and compensation that may be paid, as well as the risk of over exploiting these species. Once the decision-making bodies were able to define the MPA boundaries to minimise impact on these financially important fisheries a considerable amount of opposition was dissipated.

4.2.5. Flexibility and rigidity in negotiating positions

The early years of the debate were highlighted by the rigidity of the positions adopted by opposing parties: large ‘no-take’ parks verse no MPAs at all. In the latter period (particularly the last 5 years) most groups which had held rigid inflexible positions slowly lost their negotiating powers to those willing to compromise. Some of the compromises made included conservationists/politicians responding to the concern that ordinary recreational fishers would lose out by losing their favourite fishing locations. The Government responded by excluding all piers and jetties from ‘no-take’ MPAs in the last year of the debate. The argument that the MPAs would be ‘paper parks’ only and subject to large scale poaching garnered the Government response that increased the enforcement aspects of the final package. The argument that that MPAs would result in loss of commercial fishers’ income received the response that the compensation package would be increased.

4.2.6. The importance of strong existing institutional arrangements and cultural features in resolving conflict

Victorians’ beach culture and love of the coast [65] which is reflected in the retention in public ownership of over 90% of the Victorian coastline (by legislation in 1878) meant that the community was always going to be partial to conservation measures on the coast. The strong institutional arrangements for protecting the coast and coastal waters in Victoria e.g. A lead agency, the Victorian Coastal Council, a Coastal Management Act 1995, a statutory Victorian Coastal Strategy and over 60% of coastal land under the National Parks Act [65,70] meant that any MPA system would sit in a strong institutional base.

The independent body (the LCC, later ECC) that ran the public consultation process and made the final recommendations of a CAR system to the State Government had a 30-year history of resolving public resource allocation issues in Victoria. Its integrity and independence was well established. Arguing against MPAs on the basis that the consultation process (which was institutionalised after 30 years of LCC/ECC practise) was inadequate and in the end proved counter-productive.

4.2.7. Persistence

The long-term nature of the debate meant that persistence, by individuals and groups, was critical to success. In the end it took 20 years from the time there was a political commitment by a major party to a MPA system until it was realised. It took 10 of those years just to get the Government who made the commitment to a comprehensive marine and coastal study to commence the study! It is impossible to underestimate the role that this dogged persistence in the face of set backs played in ultimate success.

4.3. Critical elements associated with the decision-making process

4.3.1. General

The LCC/ECC public consultation process had been used on more than 20 occasions in the past so the process itself was relative robust. The LCC/ECC’s recommendations had been largely accepted by Governments over a 30-year period as well. The Marine and Coastal Study consultation process had survived two changes of Government—hence three Governments—and hence the Government and Opposition had ‘‘ownership’’ of the process and were confident of the general community’s (as distinct from the active participants in the debate) confidence in the process and were duty bound to respect the ECC’s recommendations. The community also had an expectation that 10 years with the
LCC/ECC process would produce a result. All of these realities meant that the recommended system of MPAs had a strong chance of being implemented.

4.3.2. The lobbying campaign of conservation NGOs

This item was also discussed under stakeholders (above) but some of the techniques adopted by proponents were: regular meetings to update politicians and the media on progress, the use of local as well as state-wide groups in lobbying local politicians as well as Ministers and opposition spokespeople, respectively, telephone calls from local constituents
to their local members of parliament across the State and the use of email campaigns to politicians at a time when this method had been little used in the past. The ‘media-savvy’ of key individuals was crucial for success of the campaign by proponents. In particular the work of Tim Allen of the MCCN and Chris Smyth of the VNPA, both individuals with a long history in networking, campaigning and advocacy work with the media, and in cultivating key media outlets and reporters, was crucial to the final success.

4.3.3. The use of ‘‘champions’’ by the proponents

Proponents developed a range of individuals and groups to ‘‘champion’’ the proposed CAR MPA system. These ranged from international experts (see above) to key scientists and academics in Victoria and significant bureaucrats and agencies. This meant that the message the public received about MPAs came from different people from different backgrounds and hence raised the probability of the community hearing the message from someone they admired or trusted. The term ‘‘trusted messengers’’ was used to describe these individuals.

4.3.4. A communication and education strategy run in parallel to the political campaign

A key element of the proponents’ campaign, particular from the MCCN was to support the actual campaign for a CAR MPA system with a more general consciousness-raising education programme. This educational programme did not carry advocacy messages but rather raised people’s awareness of the beauty, splendour and uniqueness of the southern temperate marine environment of Victoria. There were a suite of colour marine posters produced on off shore habitats with familiar names intertwined e.g. Kelp Forests, Sponge Gardens, Seagrass Meadows (author’s emphasis) and a series of posters on local habitats and charismatic fauna (e.g. Sea Dragons, Seals, Dolphins, Blue Whales) published in the Sunday newspapers. National icons in Victoria were exploited e.g. the Great Ocean Road (a scenic highway along the coastline), the Twelve Apostles (a magnificent series of limestone stacks off the south west coast) as well.

Focus groups were used to guide the development of these media messages, packages and the terminology used in the discussions. For example the use of the term ‘no-take’ instead of ‘‘highly protected MPAs’’, the use of ‘national park’ for large MPAs and the ditching of painful and unhelpful discussion on the differences between marine reserves, marine parks, MPAs, marine sanctuaries, fisheries reserves, etc. The added benefit of this approach was it also raised the community’s capacity to understand and plan and manage these marine and coastal areas in the future.

4.3.5. ‘‘Crash through or crash’’ approach

From the real beginning of the debate on MPAs in 1982 to its end in 2002 the conservationists (individuals and groups) steadfastly maintained that the CAR system had to be of ‘no-take’ reserves for reasons of marine biodiversity conservation. It would have been an easy path to take to compromise to a multiple use system and this was the route the Government initially took in the late 1980s in South Gippsland and the recommendations of the LCC in the early 1990s. But even when the legislation to establish the system was withdrawn in 2001 proponents did not lessen their commitment to the full CAR ‘no-take’ system. The outcome justified this stance.

4.3.6. Significant ‘‘break-through’’ events

There were a number of key events that changed the momentum of the debate at critical times. For example the final ‘shaming’ of the progressive Labor Government in 1991 into actually starting the study which it had committed itself to in 1982. The author had compiled a three-page list of over 15 separate statements or commitments, by the Government or its agencies, to carry out the study between 1982 and 1991 and widely circulated it to politicians, the media and influential people.
Another key event was the decision by the VNPA, after market research, to use the term ‘‘National Park’’ in the campaign. This had been suggested earlier in a National Parks Advisory Council Annual report but had not gained any ‘‘traction’’. The use of Marine National Park as a title for large ‘no-take’ MPAs seemed to strike a chord with the general community who appreciated and supported national parks on land (Victoria increased its terrestrial National Parks 14 fold between 1970 and 1995, [71]). This change in terminology seemed to ‘kick’ the campaign on at a stage when some momentum had been lost.

The other three events occurred after the initial legislation had been introduced and then withdrawn from Parliament in mid 2001. The VNPA called a de-briefing/ counselling/ ‘‘post-mortem’’ session of the people who had been active in the campaign (the author included) shortly after the parliamentary debacle. An independent facilitator took participants through a series of exercises emphasising the positives (e.g. increase awareness of marine conservation) that had come out of the campaign. These re-vitalised demoralised campaigners and most left the session in a re-invigorated and determined state of mind, ready to resume the campaign immediately. A second critical factor was the joint letter from two former Premiers, (elder statesmen) of the two major parties, supporting the MPAs. This caused both major parties to re-consider their positions and removed partisan political opportunism from the debate. Both parties went on to support the legislation.

Finally the VCC organised an ‘‘influential peoples’’ breakfast. The invitation list was of major decision makers from industry, unions, public affairs etc from across Victoria and was held in the prestigious and historic Melbourne Town Hall. The vast majority of people invited had no prior knowledge of MPAs and little knowledge of Victoria’s marine environment. A knowledgeable person was placed at each table and over breakfast people were entertained with films of the proposed marine parks and the wonders of the Victorian marine environment. International speakers reinforced the value of MPAs and each guest received a CD with the marine images on departure. The impact of such an event is hard to measure but the response of the guests was invariably favourable and presumably they informed their influential circles of what they had witnessed. Certainly there was an increase in interest from people not previously involved in the debate in the weeks following the breakfast.

5. Lessons from the Victorian experience for other states and nations attempting to enhance their MPAs systems

Specific lessons acquired from the Victorian experience have elements that were particular to Victoria and Australia’s jurisdictional and cultural system. But there are also lessons of more general applicability for other nations and states to take from Victoria’s experience. Below these lessons are grouped under a series of headings.

5.1. Tactics and strategies

5.1.1. Persistence

Don’t give up. There clearly is no substitute for persistence. Over 20 years of effort in Victoria yielded an entire MPA system even when all appeared lost after 19 years of work.

5.1.2. Crash through or crash

There are clear benefits for pursuing an ‘‘all or none’’ strategy for creating a CAR system of MPAs. Of the many attempts made in Victoria to obtain a highly protected MPA system it was the most comprehensive and most ambitious that proved successful, i.e. One which was for all ‘‘no-take’’ reserves and was for an entire suite, or system, of MPAs in one declaration.

The previous modest attempts at gaining one MPA ‘‘here’’ and a little later another MPA ‘‘there’’ meant that each and every proposal was weakened (either by a decrease in the degree of protection, or a decrease in area) before declaration. Historically the area by area (incremental) approach meant that there was little statewide support for a localised proposal but those opposed to MPA declaration were able to focus all their statewide and local resources to oppose each proposed MPA in turn, i.e. each proposal was ‘‘picked off’’ and weakened. By proposing an entire suite of MPAs simultaneously statewide support was garnered for the MPAs but the opposition now had to work against a whole range of proposals simultaneously. The better organised state-based conservation organisation were
able to carry a central campaign direct to the parliament, politicians and decision makers based in the capital city , Melbourne, where over 75% of the state populations lives. Conversely the ‘anti’ campaign became fragmented when confronted with 24 MPA ‘‘battlefronts’’ simultaneously.

Also the argument of the ‘‘thin end of the wedge’’ was not as easy to carry in a CAR system proposal. Whilst when a single reserve was proposed in a local area opponents could argue that their favourite fishing spot was to be removed and the MPA was to cover say 15–20% of their local area—hence making ‘‘scare’’ tactics easier—it was impossible to argue that a reserve system that covered 5% of the sate (and no piers, jetties or heavily frequented beach fishing locations) leaving 95% of coastal waters available for fishing was a threat to the existence of recreational and commercial fishing. A 5% reservation could not be portrayed ‘‘as locking up the state’s waters’’.

5.1.3. Know who your target audience is

A clear lesson from the Victorian experience is to distinguish between the ‘‘closed mind’’ opponents, who would, and will, oppose MPAs (particularly ‘no-take’ ones) irrespective of analysis (that is the recalcitrant opponents) from the ‘open-minded’ members of the general community. The Victorian experience suggests you aim all messages at the ‘‘openminded’’ group. You counter the objections of the ‘‘closed mind’’ group in an open and generous fashion i.e. you appeal over this recalcitrant group to the open and fair-minded members of the general community. Appearing generous and conciliatory (willing to compromise and discuss issues) will not only counteract the negativity of these opponents
but will portray you in the general community’s mind as reasonable and caring, even about your trident opponents.

5.2. Communications and education

5.2.1. KISS: keep it simple stupid

Opposition groups were able to ‘‘muddy the waters’’ by arguing that maybe you could have ‘‘no take’’ areas if it was proved they were valuable for enhancing fishing stocks. i.e. by creating confusion over the reasons for declaration of ‘‘no take’’ reserves. The conservation groups and scientists groups argued the reason for reserve declaration was always biodiversity conservation. So whilst sustainable fisheries is one desirable objective for establishing MPAs it is certainly not the only reason and is usually not even the primary reason. When reviewing the ‘grey literature’ associated with this issue (mainly pamphlets, newsletters, etc. of the various stakeholders) a detectable if not quantifiable
trend was apparent: the message of the advocates (e.g. VNPA and MCCN) became shorter, sharper and simpler as the campaign continued. In early calls to supporters to make submissions several pages (often somewhat rambling) were used. By the last stages (2001/2) the messages were crisp  and precise.

5.2.2. Education in parallel, and integrated with lobbying

Actions that broaden the support base for MPA establishment beyond traditional supporters (environmentalists) and across established sector and partisan political boundaries to a diverse community base proved very effective. The value of any approach which overcomes the public’s lack of knowledge and understanding of the marine environment and the role of MPAs (e.g. In Victoria the use of the well-understood and well-appreciated title ‘‘national park’’) appeared to substantially increase support for the MPA system in the broader community. In addition the importance of laying down over sometime a ‘‘foundation’’ for an eventual MPA system should not be underestimated. This ‘‘foundation’’ is in terms of the information base on the marine environment, some actual MPAs and building the capacity of individuals and groups capable of refining the communication of advantages of an MPA system to politicians and the general community. It would appear unlikely that without the capacity building of individuals and institutions over the period from 1978 through to the late 1990s that the ‘‘sudden’’ declaration of an entire suite of MPAs in 2002 would have been possible.

5.2.3. Identify and use ‘‘champions’’

In the Victorian case study a series of ‘‘champions’’ arose over time. These ranged from individuals with international standing (notably Dr. Sylvia Earle, Prof. David Bellamy Dr. Bill Ballantine) through organisations (notably the VNPA, MCCN and VCC) to individuals with the final (successful) campaign (most notably Tim Allen and Chris Smyth). The use of international ‘‘experts’’ and others to register in decision-makers’ minds the significance (in international and national terms) of MPAs and of any proposal for a comprehensive and representative suite of high protection reserves was a decisive contributor to success.

5.2.4. Directly address your opponent’s concerns and claims

The calls/cries of: ‘‘They will only be paper parks anyway’’, ‘‘Poaching will negate any gains from their declaration’’ are predictable, but that does not mean they should be ignored. Demonstrable enforcement procedures are required to overcome claims of ‘‘paper parks’’. In Victoria this was achieved by including in the ‘‘package’’ of measures, attached to the legislation declaring the MPAs, funds to employ 20 new Fisheries Enforcement Officers to assist in protection of the MPAs as well as fisheries in general. As there was little chance of 20 new officers being employed in fisheries without the MPAs not only did this negate the ‘paper parks’ argument but gave one of the opponent groups what they had been requesting for years—more fisheries staff.

Opposition is to be expected to ‘‘no take’’ MPAs during consultation i.e. expect a fight. But for opponents, negotiation is sometimes a better strategy than total opposition. Take advantage of opponents overstating their case by responding in a calm, reasonable and rational manner. Victoria’s largest circulating newspaper, the Herald–Sun (part of News Corporation) asked its readers in a poll in early 2002 (between the withdrawal and reintroduction of legislation) the ‘‘push–poll’’ question:
‘‘Should the Brack’s (Premier) Government revive its plans to lock up large sections of Victorian Waters from fishing by creating 22 marine parks and sanctuaries along the coastline?’’

The response was 54% said ‘‘Yes’’. This may well have heralded the end of the campaign against the MPA establishment. By attempting to get the answer they wanted from the public by use of a factually incorrect and biased question the newspaper sent a long and strong message to the government. It said ‘‘Your decision will be overwhelmingly popular with the general community’’ (interestingly enough the age breakdown to the question was a ‘‘yes’’ vote from 71% of under 25 s, 58.1% of 26–34 years and 61.7% of 35–44 years. Clearly older people (over 55) were the only groups opposed.

5.3. The critical importance of an independent assessment body

The existence in Victoria of a credible independent body (the LCC then ECC) to assess the competing claims of proponents and opponents of MPAs was a significant contributing factor to eventual success.

6. Conclusion

The three key areas that resulted in success in MPA declaration in Victoria, and would probably lead to success in other jurisdictions, were a strategic and tactical approach, a clear education and communications strategy and an institutional framework for independent decision making Victoria’s MPA advocates possessed persistence above all else and applied the lessons of earlier failure to each new attempt at a CAR MPA system. Rather than be tempted to ‘water down’ the MPA proposals over time they actually increased their proposals which meant that there was a clear internal constituency for asking for a ‘no-take’ CAR system based around MPAs using the publicly recognised terms ‘national parks’ and ‘sanctuaries’.

They also learnt over time that whilst they needed to address their opponents concerns, especially to Government, their message was better aimed at the ‘open minded’ member of the community rather than politicians and opponents. The campaign message was simplified over time to a system of ‘no-take’ marine national parks and sanctuaries, which made it easier to communicate to citizens. The value of running in parallel and in support of the political campaign for MPAs a more general non-political awareness campaign on the values and beauty of the marine environment cannot be under estimated. This also meant that even if the MPA campaign ‘‘failed’’ some long-term value was gained. Part of the success of both the campaign message and the education one was the use of ‘champions’, experts in the field that could not be underestimated. All countries (including the USA) should consider the use of experts from outside the country who are hence perceived not to have a vested interest in the local outcome.

Finally using an existing consultation and decision-making framework was invaluable. Again the open-minded citizen who may dismiss the points made for and against a proposal by lobby groups will appreciate the impartial ‘‘umpire’s’’ decision. All of these lessons can be applied in any jurisdiction and if they are applied just maybe the ambitious target of a CAR system of MPAs globally within the next decade will not be a pipedream.


In keeping with the 20-year time span of this paper it is difficult to single out people who assisted with ideas in this paper but the author wishes to especially acknowledge the assistance of Tim Allen and Chris Smyth. Tim O’Hara and Joan Phillips were also significant contributors during the whole  enterprise. References

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Please cite this article as: Geoff Wescott, The long and winding road: The development of a comprehensive, adequate and..., Ocean & Coastal Management (2006), doi:10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2006.08.001

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