Avoiding regulatory responsibility for the Great Barrier Reef

In a recent article Professor Donald Rothwell and I critique a judgment of the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal and discuss the consequences of uncertain marine park boundaries on the regulation of Australia’s most celebrated and threatened World Heritage Area: the Great Barrier Reef in northern Queensland. The impetus for the court case and the subject matter of the article appeared in the first instance trivial – a complaint by an island resident against a seaplane operation. However, the complaint demonstrated the failure of the existing legal structures to consider environmental effects of a marine or above water activity experienced on land. It also highlighted the ineffectiveness of government agencies to co-ordinate assessment of a proposal requiring approval in a way that ensured the requirements of various laws were met.

In our article we also analyse the law of marine boundaries in Australia and highlight deficiencies in the analysis of the tribunal and the lawyers representing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The article is titled ‘The limits of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park: Defining bays and redefining regulatory control’ and has been published in volume 37 of the Federal Law Review.