Australians share lessons from Great Barrier Reef re-zoning project

  • Mar. 19, 2008 4:00 p.m.

Submitted by Terrie Dionne, Gwaii Haanas–Two Australians will be visiting the islands and other BC coastal communities this month to share their experiences related to one of the world’s best examples of community engagement in action – the re-zoning of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Living Oceans Society is hosting the BC tour March 25 to April 4. Russell Butler and Graham Scott will share the successes and challenges they’ve faced as community residents, First Nations and fishermen working to rezone the Great Barrier Reef. The two will share their experiences on March 26 at 7:30 pm at the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate. Gwaii Haanas, Haida Fisheries and the World Wildlife Fund are sponsoring these guest speakers. “These two men are coming from half way around the world to share the stories of a process that rezoned 300,000 sq. km of ocean,” says Lara Renehan, Marine Planner for Living Oceans Society. “Because we live in an area of BC where a marine planning process is underway, we think that coastal residents will benefit from Butler’s and Scott’s experiences.”Russell Butler is an Aboriginal Traditional Owner who successfully negotiated the management of his people’s traditional coastal territory with the Australian government. He says being a Traditional Owner is about following in the footsteps of his ancestors. “It’s a good feeling to know we can go back there and know that it’s our home-a place where we belong,” he said.Graham Scott is chair of the Capricorn Coast Local Marine Advisory Committee that worked with government to have the reef in their area rezoned so that it met differing stakeholders’ needs. He was one of the community leaders who got involved early to act as an honest broker, connecting stakeholders to planners and dispelling mistrust and misinformation. Thanks to his efforts, the rezoning result in his area is seen as one of the best by government and local communities.