Marine and Coastal Bill 2017

Mr J. BULL (Sunbury) (16:34:11) — It gives me great pleasure to rise to speak on the Marine and Coastal Bill 2017. Who would have thought that the Greens political party would once again be attacking this government on the environment? No matter what we do, it is the wrong approach, it is too slow, it is not needed or it does not go far enough. The Greens spend all their time attacking Labor policies and attacking Labor MPs, but they never realise that this is the real world, where you make real decisions that affect real people, and in government, I say to the member for Melbourne, not everything is a mythical fairyland.

I am incredibly pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this bill. It must be noted that we are fortunate to have some incredible marine coastal areas in the state. These are dynamic areas, they are fragile environments, and they need to be cared for and protected. Right across this state, and indeed right across Australia, we are privileged to have coastal and marine environments that are the envy of many. I am extremely fortunate to have seen a great deal of these environments while growing up, and I know that a number of members have spoken this afternoon about doing the same. I have spent many summers by the coast, with time in a boat, and later on time underwater, looking at some of these incredibly beautiful areas.

We know that Victorian waters are cold, and certainly where you are from, Acting Speaker Couzens, down towards Geelong, there is some great snorkelling and scuba diving. Because the waters are cold it is tougher snorkelling and scuba diving than in the waters up north, but nonetheless they are incredibly beautiful areas.

Environmental management and environmental responsibility is not just about this generation but about generations to come. We need to think as a government and as a society about what sort of legacy we want to leave. What are the impacts of our rapidly growing population on these marine and coastal environments, and what is that legacy going to mean for future generations?

The Andrews Labor government will always stand up to protect these environments for those generations to come. I know there are a number of residents in my community, although not close to the beach, who certainly enjoy visiting these coastal areas. Residents of Oaklands Junction, Sunbury, Diggers Rest, Buller, Gowanbrae and Tullamarine have spoken to me about the importance of protecting our coastal environments and the importance of making sure that they are there for years to come.

There is no doubt that the protection of what is a unique and dynamic environment is something that many Victorians stand for. Other members this afternoon have mentioned those who volunteer to support these environments — the staff and thousands of volunteers who give up their time through the week and at weekends to look after what is an incredibly important part of our environment. It should be noted — and I would like to certainly place on record — that without much of this work we know that these areas would not be protected the way they are. Maintaining, sustaining and improving Victoria’s marine and coastal environment is at the heart of this bill.

The Marine and Coastal Bill 2017 is a vital bill which builds on the foundations of the Coastal Management Act 1995 by developing and expanding protections and management systems. We know and we have heard of the pressures that are currently facing these environments — pressures around climate change, pressures around population growth — and we know that there are gaps in the current system. We have over 2000 kilometres of coastline, and we know that three out of four Victorian regions are connected to this coastline. It is important that we prioritise our marine and coastal environment and its significant social, cultural and economic mechanisms for our state.

This bill of course builds upon an election commitment. It has been informed by a whole range of work that has been done through a consultation process dating back to 2015 and into 2016 with an expert panel and an eight-week investigation which took place and received 115 submissions from right across the state. These consultations included a series of face-to-face forums and practitioner sessions at areas within Barwon, Port Phillip and Gippsland. What was found through this process was that a new bill should reflect a new approach. There were a number of key findings, and those key findings have been mentioned this afternoon.

We know that forming a Marine and Coastal Council as an advisory body — an implementation and planner behind the strategy and policy — is critical. The consultation also found that ensuring the existence of a strong regional catchment strategy which creates skilled and capable coastal management with the role of promoting, maintaining and strengthening these coastal areas is incredibly important. The idea is around integrated planning and the need to get the planning right with all those factors that we currently face in a fast-moving world where there are great strains and great stressors on the environment. It is critical to have an integrated approach where the interface between humans and the environment can work and does work very well.

In many of these examples what this bill effectively does is strengthen and enhance a number of the safeguards and protections in the Marine and Coastal Bill 2017 as a function of the bill. We know that the package deal includes, through the transition plan, protecting and prioritisation of the beaches and dune systems, which are incredibly dynamic and incredibly diverse; delivering targeted biodiversity actions in the marine environment; restoring shellfish reefs; boosting the successful Coastcare program, which is of course incredibly important; improving the monitoring of erosion and coastal flooding; identifying threats to Port Phillip Bay through a coastal hazard assessment; and strengthening how building planning systems can manage climate change as we go forward — and there are a whole range of functions and mechanisms around those.

In the time I have remaining I would just like to talk about the benefits combined within this bill, and I know that a number of members have spoken about the benefits that are provided. In these very dynamic, very unique marine and coastal environments, we know that small changes, small fluctuations — whether they be in sea temperature or whether they be in usage and management — and the impacts of the pressures that are put on through a whole range of human-induced factors play a significant part in environmental degradation. These are important things to note, and we certainly know these have been identified through the consultation process.

The bill will maintain, sustain and protect a diverse part of this state by updating and revising the previous legislation that we mentioned earlier so that our coastline can remain a social, cultural and economic hotspot. It goes on to establish the new coordinating framework that will harness and build on the strengths of the 1995 act but of course provide improved oversight, planning and management of Victoria’s marine and coastal environment, and in doing so it will strengthen Victoria’s coastal planning and management framework to help the integrated planning and management.

There is the introduction of refinements and new aspects that have been informed through extensive community consultation and reflect the knowledge, understanding and experience gained since 1995. This piece of legislation certainly should not be one of a partisan nature. All members of Parliament, no matter which area you represent, no matter where you come from, should have the environment and the protection of the environment as a constant through the drafting process and through the values which we bring to the chamber and bring to representing our communities right across the state, knowing that once these environments are damaged they take years to recover. Once these environments fall away, they take years to heal. It is in pieces of legislation like this that this government takes that integrated management approach by using science, getting experts into the room, conducting extensive consultation and listening to those who work in these fields — those who live and breathe the coastal environment. They are the experts who are needed to guide and shape the policy and legislation that this government brings to the house.

The bill represents a major evolution in legislation governing our marine and coastal environment, and the Andrews Labor government once again has delivered on our election commitment from our 2014 Our Environment, Our Future policy. The bill repositions Victoria once again as a leading force in coastal management. I am certainly proud of our record and therefore confidently commend the bill to the house.