A LONG-PROMISED ocean reef off Swansea Heads appears to be back on the agenda as part of an ocean and estuarine marine park unveiled yesterday by Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
The marine park, which is the culmination of a Hawkesbury Shelf bio-region assessment begun in 2014, stretches from Stockton to Shellharbour.
Announcing six weeks of public consultation, Ms Berejiklian and Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton unveiled the plan from the rocks at Coogee Beach in Sydney.
The government is promoting the park as an environmental benefit, while acknowledging the importance of recreational and commercial fishing. Maps indicate that the highest level of protection will apply to about 2 per cent of the 9100 hectares of marine park waters.
Although the marine park stretches to Stockton, the Nature Conservation Council said there were no individual sites identified north of Lake Munmorah or south of Port Hacking.
“While the rest of the region will benefit from a significant increase in protection, Newcastle misses out entirely,” Nature Conservation Council campaign director Daisy Barham said.
“Hexham Swamp in the heart of Newcastle and the wetlands and seagrass meadows in Lake Macquarie deserved to be on the list for extra protection, but unfortunately they are missing from the government’s proposal.
“A lot of people know that Hexham swamp is a wetland of international significance for migratory birds. The salt marshes in the swamp are also a critically important nursery for fish and other marine life and they deserve the highest level of protection.
“We’d encourage people to nominate sites that require protection, so they can be considered during the public consultation process.”
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said the government was allocating $47.5 million for the first 10 years of the strategy. A map of the proposed park indicates 23 “individual sites”, seven “inter-tidal protected areas” and four artificial reefs, including Swansea.
Documentation on display says reefs off Sydney Heads and Port Hacking are already in place.
“Two additional artificial reefs are approved for deployment off the Newcastle area (Swansea) and Wollongong (Port Kembla),” the government says. “Commonwealth approval has been received and funding has been approved from the Recreational Fishing Trust.”
The Newcastle Herald first reported the Swansea reef plan in the lead-up to the March 2011 state election.
But when the promised installation date of 2014 arrived, Swansea was overlooked when the government announced the next reef would be off Port Macquarie.