How South Australia protects its marine diversity was the focus of UniSA research study which was recently showcased at an international conservation conference in Indonesia.
One of only six case studies chosen to be presented at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium, the study investigated the ways in which the public participated in the zoning process of marine parks across the State.
The results revealed that South Australia had a surprisingly high participation in the zoning process.
The research was led by Associate Professor Karen Bubna-Litic, who specialises in environmental law at UniSA and her team comprised of current and former UniSA law students.
Assoc Prof Bubna-Litic said the study found that the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources had taken significant steps to develop a dialogue between the Government and the public regarding the marine parks.
“The Government created 13 Marine Park Advisory Groups and numerous workshops, resulting in 67 public advisory meetings and over 10,000 submissions,” she said.
“They were also responsible for creating a program called SAMPIT, which allowed the public to identify their favourite fishing areas in order to avoid them potentially becoming marine parks.
“Our study concluded that the public in South Australia were very active in the zoning process of marine parks, thanks to significant efforts by the Government.”
Assoc Prof Bubna-Litic also noted that the study revealed that improvements could be made even though the public consultation process looked to harvest a number of positive results.
“There were several instances of antagonism in the meetings, which resulted in some stakeholders withdrawing,” she said.
With the help of funding from IUCN, Assoc Prof Bubna-Litic handpicked some of her best undergraduate students and one graduate student to accompany her to the conference in Indonesia to present the research on a global stage.
Kvitka Becker was one of the lucky students who received an invitation to join the research team and said the experience really left an impression on her.
“The conference was absolutely amazing, and I would do it again if I have the chance,” Kvitka said.
“I loved being in that sort of atmosphere, where I was in the presence of so many intellectual and influential people.”
Although Kvitka really enjoyed the experience, she said the team worked really hard in preparation.
“To prepare for the study, we had to head out to the Department of Environment, Water, and Natural Resources to manually go through 26 folders with about 8000 submissions in them. It was a really lengthy process,” Kvitka said.
The team worked tirelessly for months in preparation for the conference and their hard work was rewarded when the IUCN said there was enough money to send the students to Jakarta.
“It was a big challenge for us,” Assoc Prof Bubna-Litic said.
“We did questionnaires and surveys and interviewed the peak stakeholder groups involved in the marine park zoning process."
The IUCN is one of the largest environmental Non-Government Organisations in the world and focuses on finding pragmatic and effective solutions to some of the most pressing environmental challenges.
This research was part of the IUCN Natural Resources Governance Framework project (through the Environmental Law Centre in Bonn) which was testing a methodology to evaluate the effectiveness of environmental laws.
The IUCN will now take all six case studies and publish them in a best practice volume in the hope that governments and environmental organisations will be able to learn from the findings. The six case studies and the methodologies are available at www.lawforsustainability.org.