Iluka wary of sanctuary bid

ILUKA residents are rallying to fight a proposal to create a marine sanctuary in the town.

A large number of Iluka residents, at a community meeting on Thursday night, heard two representatives of the Evans Head Marine Management Committee (EHMMC).

The committee was set up to fight a proposal by the National Parks Association (NPA) to create additional marine parks around Evans Head.

Iluka residents were told they may need to do the same to protect their local economy.

President of the Evans Head Marine Management Committee, Rod Blake, told Iluka residents the impact of a marine sanctuary would be 'significant'.

“The tourist trade will die, not because of what a marine park is, but because of the perception of what a marine park is,” he said.

“The problem with the perception that no fishing is allowed is that tourists will go elsewhere.

“Because we are so dependent on fishing we can't just sit back and do nothing. We need to let them (the NSW Government) know that our communities are fishing-dependent.”

EHMMC secretary Barry Haywood told the concerned crowd: “This is not a fishing issue, it's a community issue. The NPA is not a government body ... it's a (powerful) Green organisation with an agenda.”

The NPA handed its report, The Torn Blue Fringe, to NSW Environment Minister Carmel Tebbutt, recently at a well-organised press conference in Sydney. The Minister has handed the report to the Marine Parks Authority for examination.

Mr Haywood said the State Government's reliance on Green preferences at elections could see it bow to pressure from the NPA.

“It would be very easy for the Government to implement a marine park in a strong National Party area like this,” he said.

Iluka Chamber of Commerce vice-president Graeme Lockyer said the chamber strongly believed that if the NPA's proposal was implemented, the impact on Iluka businesses would be 'severe'.

“Tourism contributes significantly to the town's income, and the perception that a marine park is a prohibited area would deter a considerable number of visitors.

“Following the community meeting ... the chamber wholeheartedly supports the establishment of a steering committee,” he said.

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