Emergence of the governance debate


Experts who have been involved with coastal issues for decades have emphasised the growing need for a more strategic approach to planning how coasts are managed. Such an approach should take account of the spatial and temporal scales at which pressures on coasts operate, and consider cumulative impacts of small pressures over time. Opinions differ about how a strategic approach could or should be developed, but there is little doubt that current approaches are too fragmented and at too limited a spatial scale.

Following the report of the coastal zone inquiry by the Resource Assessment Commission in 1993,32 Australian, state, territory and local governments developed legislative, policy and program responses to meet the management challenges associated with increasing pressures in the coastal zone. Governments are continuing to improve these responses. At a national scale, the Australian Government released its report Climate change risks to Australia’s coasts in 2009.1

Initiatives by state governments during the past decade include:

  • the South East Queensland Healthy Waterways Strategyd
  • the Victorian Coastal Spaces projecte and the 2008 revision of the Victorian Coastal Strategy,f which has been developing as a partnership between the Victorian Government, the Victorian Coastal Council and Victoria’s regional coastal boards since 1995
  • several interlinked initiatives in New South Wales, including the development of an approach to comprehensive coastal assessment as a key component of the New South Wales Government’s Coastal Protection Package (introduced in 2001); the New South Wales inquiry into infrastructure provision in coastal growth areas,g which recommended improvements to the New South Wales Government’s regional strategiesh to increase scrutiny, reporting and enforcement of compliance; and the 2009 NSW Sea Level Rise Policy Statement,i which specifies sea level planning benchmarks for the coastline
  • the Tasmanian Climate Change and Coastal Risk Assessment Project,j including a report on indicative mapping of the Tasmanian coast’s vulnerability to climate change and sea level rise
  • the Adelaide Coastal Waters Studyk and the Living Coast Strategy for South Australial
  • the Pilbara Coastal Water Quality Project.m

The Framework for a National Cooperative Approach to Integrated Coastal Zone Management was endorsed by the Australian, state and territory governments in October 2003. It encourages complementary arrangements that build on the successes and momentum established through ongoing state and territory coastal management initiatives. This was a formalisation of cooperative processes that had been evolving for some time. Other mechanisms included the Intergovernmental Coastal Advisory Group, which reported to the Marine and Coastal Committee.

Following from the framework, the National cooperative approach to integrated coastal zone management: framework and implementation plan33 was released in 2006, with six priority areas:

  • integration across the catchment–coast–ocean continuum
  • management of land-based and marine-based sources of pollution
  • planning for climate change and its impacts
  • management of pest plants and animals
  • planning for population change
  • capacity building (the range of activities by which individuals, groups and organisations improve their capacity to achieve sustainability).

Coastal issues were also addressed under the Natural Heritage Trust I and II. Other Australian Government initiatives have included the Coastal Catchments Initiativen and the Sustainable Cities Initiative.34

It appears that most of these initiatives have been absorbed into the Caring for our Country program,o which aims, by 2013, to:

  • reduce the discharge of dissolved nutrients and chemicals from agricultural lands to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon by 25%
  • reduce the discharge of sediment and nutrients from agricultural lands to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon by 10%
  • deliver actions that sustain the environmental values of
    • – priority sites in the Ramsar estate, particularly sites in northern and remote Australia
    • – an additional 25% of (non-Ramsar) priority coastal and inland aquatic ecosystems of high conservation value, including, as a priority, sites in the Murray–Darling Basin
  • improve water quality management in the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria, the Tuggerah Lakes Estuary in New South Wales and all priority coastal hot spots
  • increase the community’s participation in protecting and rehabilitating coastal environments and critical aquatic habitats.

In 2005–06, the then Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Ian Campbell MP, briefly explored the possibility of developing a 30-year strategic plan for Australia’s coastal zone, but this initiative was abandoned. However, strategic application of the EPBC Act in coastal areas and elsewhere is being investigated; this has received impetus from the recent Hawke review, which examined the performance and future of the EPBC Act. That review recommended a range of changes to the Act that would allow it to be applied more strategically and at ecosystem and landscape scales. Many of these recommendations have been accepted by the Australian Government.35

Local government has responded to the challenges of coastal management in several ways across jurisdictional boundaries, including:

  • formation of the National Sea Change Taskforce in 200417,36—this initially comprised 70 coastal municipalities around Australia (the number varies) that have combined their efforts to examine strategies for a response to population pressures (see also Box 11.2)
  • coalitions between other coastal councils, including the Sydney Coastal Councils Group, the Geelong Regional Alliance, the Far North Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils, the Victorian Coastal Council and the South West Catchments Council (in Western Australia)
  • increased attention to planning—for example, an Australian Local Government Association survey12 found that two-thirds of municipalities had altered their town planning schemes and activities in the past three years in response to increased pressure of development, with a key focus on town boundaries and identification of green space between towns that requires protection; Gurran et al.18,37 and the National Sea Change Taskforce16,23 are among numerous expert groups that have proposed best-practice approaches to dealing with the challenges of coastal population growth and its environmental impacts.
Cork S (2011). Coasts: Emergence of the governance debate. In: Australia state of the environment 2011, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/science/soe/2011-report/11-coasts/3-governance/3-2-debate, DOI 10.4226/94/58b659bdc758b