What is fair about managing
|Many of the issues that concern PHPS are about fairness. Is it fair to impose on those with older boats a requirement to install a pump out system? Is it fair to spend money on dredging, but not on swimming areas or facilities for kayakers? Is it fair to create exclusion zones? or to expose residents to noise nuisance from power vessels?
Because PHPS has a particular concern for the pressures that can harm either low key activity (swimming, kayaking, surfing or wind surfing, picnic-ing and residential amenity), or the sensitive environments (seagrasses, intertidal areas, or water quality), we often find ourselves with a different view about what is fair from those whose preferred activities:
- require the use of public resources;
- have the potential to impact on the environment
- have the greatest potential to deprive other users of that increasingly scarce resource, the opportunities for peaceful enjoyment of a natural waterway.
Tackling the Issue
Accepting that the rights of any user is equal to those of any other, it must be that the enjoyment of one low impact user is no less significant than the enjoyment of one higher impact user (and vice versa). If the pleasure for one user causes a loss of pleasure for other, the person achieving enjoyment is doing so at the cost of the other. If the pleasure of one user is achieved at the distress of a greater number there is an unfairness, which ought be corrected. The loss to the many is far greater than the benefit to the one.
A Catchment Management Committee study of foreshore residents clearly shows that uses which require good environmental conditions (swimming, kayaking etc) are more common than are those activities which do not require the same pristine conditions. Visitor numbers to Port Hacking also bear out the same message - for the greatest number, it is environment conditions that are the key to their pleasure. "Fairness" and protection of the natural unspoilt conditions, are pretty much aligned in the management of Port Hacking
Focusing on one of the contentious issues, the use of high speed vessels close to foreshores, one user (or a group in the case of PWCs) can cause distress to a larger number of others who are seeking to enjoy peace and quiet, unspoiled natural conditions, or who are concerned for their or their children's safety in the water. The user creating the noise is taking away the pleasure of the larger number. This is a substantial unfairness, more so because it is the person creating the harm who is getting all the benefit, and the larger number who are unable to do anything to prevent it who are bearing all the loss.
What is the PHPS position?
It is a sound principle that those who have the capacity cause a loss to others ought be responsible for preventing it. It is also reasonable to expect that those who have the capacity to reduce the harm take the steps to do so.
Many of the uses which can cause a loss of pleasure for other users require only open water (not unspoilt natural conditions), or they use the water and the Park as a scenic backdrop for activities that do not depend on their natural condition, or merely use the water as a "road" to get from one place to another. They do not depend on being close to the shore, or in quiet natural areas, for their enjoyment. Powered vessels in particular are highly mobile, compared with swimmers, canoeists, fisherpersons or residents, or the biodiversity resources of the waterways. It is easy for them to move to another place, without any significant loss of their amenity.
Requiring that some of these users adjust their use in order to reduce the risks to biodiversity, or to prevent the loss of opportunities for peaceful low impact use valued by others, is not in the least unfair. By any logical analysis, it is about one of the most fair expectations which one part of a community can place on others. And indeed, many of the power boating users of Port Hacking adopt the responsible attitude of enjoying their recreation well away from those whose pleasure will be reduced by the side-effects of that recreation. It is the PHPS position that this informal best practice should be reflected in the way in which uses of the Port are reflected. This is not to restrict the use by those who are responsible, but to ensure that those who are less concerned about others are obliged to live up to that best practice. In this way, the responsible users will not have their reputations tarnished by the uncaring, and all users will be able to continue to enjoy Port Hacking in the knowledge that everyone else is acting fairly and responsibly.
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