University of Tasmania
Garcia_Imhof_whole_thesis.pdf (2.42 MB)

Improving governance of marine protected areas in Tasmania, Australia

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posted on 2023-05-27, 11:05 authored by Garcia Imhof, C
Marine ecosystems provide a variety of benefits to humans, including nature-based tourism, food production, and livelihoods for local people. Protected areas have been considered one of the most important tools to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services. Under the Convention on Biological Diversity, state parties have pledged to establish comprehensive, representative and effective systems of marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2020. Over the past decades, Tasmania has made some progress in establishing a system of MPAs. However, in 2009 the process stalled following the contentious designation of MPAs in the Bruny Bioregion. The Tasmanian MPA system today covers almost six per cent of Tasmanian State Waters, but over half surrounds subantarctic Macquarie Island. Many Tasmanian marine bioregions are not adequately represented in the reserve system, and four bioregions have no MPAs. Governance plays a key role in the success of MPA designation and implementation. The aim of this thesis was to understand how MPA governance could be improved to enhance marine conservation in Tasmania. The specific research objectives were: 1. To analyse the core elements and context of the governance regime for Tasmanian MPAs. 2. To evaluate the extent that Tasmanian MPA governance regime follows good governance principles. 3. To assess power dynamics in the Tasmanian MPA governance regime and how they have affected the quality of governance. 4. To make recommendations for improving the Tasmanian MPA governance regime. 5. To draw out lessons from the Tasmanian case study that can inform the design of MPA governance regimes elsewhere and contribute to the literature on governance of natural resources. I used a mixed methods approach to address these objectives, including a review of key documents, an Internet questionnaire, key informant semi-structured interviews, Social Network Analysis, and a media prominence analysis. The Tasmanian MPA governance regime was analysed against the following good governance criteria: 1) inclusiveness and fairness; 2) accountability and transparency; 3) legitimacy; and 4) performance. Results indicated that consultation processes for the establishment of an MPA system in Tasmania could be considered inclusive. However, methods to engage key stakeholders could be improved to increase participation of certain actors and to provide opportunities for rational dialogue between different stakeholders. Statutory consultation processes were transparent, but the cumbersome legal framework led to fragmentation of management roles and responsibilities. MPA proposals have been based on good ecological information, but the use of socio-economic information has been limited. The Tasmanian Government was generally accepted as the legitimate decision-maker, but there were low levels of trust. Of particular concern was the tendency of political interventions to privilege narrow sectoral interests and override outcomes from statutory consultation processes that were informed by wide stakeholder input. Direction, political leadership and coordination across sectors and government levels (Australian, State and local) were deemed unsatisfactory. MPA management was underfunded and not adaptive. Power plays a key role in the performance of a governance regime, having both negative and positive impacts on collaborative resource management. Results indicated that influence was concentrated in relatively few actors, mostly members of the commercial and recreational fishing sectors, some government agencies, and the relevant Minister as the main decision-maker. An analysis of social structures in the information exchange network showed that polarisation was not as prevalent as was perceived by most participants, and that there were opportunities for instituting collaborative approaches to MPA designation and management. Relationships across sectors, however, currently depend on a few bridging organisations. The recommendations arising from this research are framed around two complementary reform options. The first option, a collaborative approach to MPA governance, takes advantage of and builds on existing actor networks. The second option involves structural adjustment of the legal framework. Under the current circumstances, this legal change is unlikely, because for many years the Tasmanian Government has had little political will to advance the conservation of marine ecosystems. If, however, a collaborative initiative is successful, sufficient Government support could be mobilised to drive legislative reform. Findings and recommendations provide guidance for governance reforms that are likely to significantly improve the quality and effectiveness of MPA designation processes in Tasmania, and in similar jurisdictions elsewhere.


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