General policy statement
This bill amends the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978, the Wildlife Act 1953, and the Fisheries Act 1996. The purpose of the bill is to—
state clear species protection objectives and information principles for species management in the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 and the Wildlife Act 1953
adjust legal tests in the amended Acts to broaden the Minister’s ability to choose appropriate mechanisms for achieving the set objectives. The adjusted legal tests also ensure that the Minister implements applicable principles and national and international standards
adjust the decision making relationship between the Minister of Conservation and the Minister of Fisheries for approving population management plans.
Objectives and information principles
Clauses 5 and 16 insert new sections 2A of the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 and 14F of the Wildlife Act 1953 respectively which set overall protection objectives for these Acts. The objectives are to ensure that marine animals are a functioning element of their ecosystem, that populations be maintained at healthy levels and that depleted or threatened populations be allowed to recover to non-threatened status within a reasonable timeframe.
Clauses 6 and 15 respectively insert new provisions in the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 (section 3A (2)–(4)) and the Wildlife Act 1953 (section 14HA (2)–(5)) and provide clear statements of the monitoring that is required to ensure that the objectives of the Act are met. Clauses 5 and 15 insert new sections to ensure that decisions are based on the best available information, uncertainty in the information available is taken into account and that the precautionary principle is adhered to (section 2B of the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 and section 14G of the Wildlife Act 1953). A new definition of ‘best available information’ is inserted in all of the amended Acts to ensure the scientific basis for decision making is as sound as possible (clauses 4, 14, and 20).
Using appropriate legal standards to implement the Act
The test ‘take into account’ implies that the listed principles and standards are relevant, but may in the end be put aside by decision makers. New tests are inserted by clauses 4, 14, and 20 to ensure that these principles and standards are both considered and then implemented.
The standard of ‘necessity’ in sections 15(1)(b) and (2) of the Fisheries Act 1996) is strict. This test has proved overly demanding, and the bill replaces the test in clause 20 with the more balanced standard of reasonableness. The function of the Minister of Fisheries to approve fisheries plans is changed by clause 23 to a power to make fisheries plans. The object of this amendment is to ensure that the relevant government agency prepares the plan, rather than, for example, a stakeholder writing the plan and the Minister restricting his or her involvement to approval.
Relationship between decision makers adjusted
Finally, the bill adjusts the relationship between the Ministers of Fisheries and Conservation under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 and the Wildlife Act 1953 in relation to the making of population management plans (see changes proposed to sections 3H of the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 and 14H of the Wildlife Act 1953 in clauses 9 and 16). The adjustment reflects the corresponding relationship between these two Ministers under the Fisheries Act 1996. This new scheme should be more efficient, and help avoid duplication in the functions of the Ministers in developing population management plans.