Solitary Islands Marine Park, Coffs Harbour.
Solitary Islands Marine Park, Coffs Harbour.

Coffs all at sea over public submissions

COFFS Coast residents take more interest in the Solitary Islands Marine Park than in their own backyard.

That seems to be the message from a zoning review of the marine park that attracted more than 600 public submissions from stakeholders across the Coffs Coast.

That is a much stronger response than received in other recent calls for submissions to the Harbour precinct plan (about 90 responses) and the Coffs Harbour City management plan (50 responses).

SIMP manager Nicola Johnstone said a large number of the 660 submissions came in during the last days of the process.

"The zoning plan attracted a lot of interest and that many responses certainly give substantial feedback to go on," Ms Johnstone said.

The SIMP Advisory Committee is made up of representatives from 12 stakeholder groups, including diving, tourism, marine science and recreational fishing, and such diverse interests could account for the large number of submissions received.

Free-diving at the Solitary Marine Park

"We conducted more than 40 meetings and information days throughout the consultation period, including talking face-to-face with people and there is obviously a lot of interest in the management of the marine park," Ms Johnstone said.

Minister for Climate Change and Environment, Verity Firth, said the review process enables the government to fine tune zoning plans to better reflect local needs and achieve good conservation results.

The submissions will now be analysed and a summary will be developed, highlighting the issues raised during the consultation, and a review report will be presented to ministers later this year.

"If there are issues that require change, a draft plan will be developed for public consultation, but if there aren't a lot of issues, then the current plan will continue," Ms Johnstone said.

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