A controversial marine park proposal in the Kimberley has attracted more than 17,000 submissions from across the country.

Key points:

  • The proposed 660,000ha park is the first of its kind to be co-designed with traditional owners
  • The draft plan received more than 17,000 submissions during the public comment period
  • Officials hope to be ready to submit plans to government before year’s end

The plan covers much of the Buccaneer Archipelago and Dampier Peninsula, and has caused tensions over signposted no-go zones.

The largely untouched marine area is used by traditional owners for hunting and customary activities, as well as tourism and recreational and commercial fishing.

The park, the first of its kind to be co-designed with traditional owners, highlighted care for country and sustainability, and suggested boundaries for tour operators looking to traverse the spectacular stretch of coastline.

Public submissions closed earlier this month, with officials now needing to perform a difficult balancing act as they sort through a host of concerns from rival interest groups.

Four men

Bardi Jawi traditional owners talk with local people about the plans.(

ABC Kimberley: Ed Cowlishaw


Submissions flood in

The submissions process saw staff from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions travel up and down the Kimberley coast for months, meeting with native title owners, fishers and boaties.

But despite a broad public interest campaign targeted at Kimberley locals, a huge number of submissions about the park came from interstate.

Departmental manager Colin Ingram said it was not surprising the 660,000-hectare plan had sparked interest outside of the north.

Sunset over a bay and islands.

Cascade Bay is a popular destination for recreational fishers.(

ABC Kimberley: Ben Collins


The submissions came in three categories; formal letters and emails, responses to a department-run survey and pro formas, which Mr Ingram said made up 90 per cent of responses.

The pre-filled online forms are often used by advocacy organisations to streamline the submissions process.

Mr Ingram said a number of environmental groups had set up proformas which were responsible for many of the responses from people outside of the Kimberley.

He said while it was helpful to see people engaged in the process, proformas often failed to outline specific concerns in the same way as a letter or survey.

A large group of mostly men.

Broome fishing club members were briefed on the proposed park.(

ABC Kimberley: Erin Parke


Big job of sorting begins

It will take up to two months to sort through the submissions, with the department on the lookout for common threads in how the plans can be improved or amended.

It is a big task for the department’s team — Recfishwest’s submission alone is 16 pages — but Mr Ingram said if all went to plan, they would expect to put the plans before the ministers for Mines, Industry and Regulation and Aboriginal Affairs in coming months.

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Aerial picture buccaneer archipelago

Controversial marine park plan attracts 17,000 submissions
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