Evaluation of management effectiveness involves assessing each of the core elements of an effective and efficient management framework (understanding, planning, inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes—see Chapter 1: Approach).
No national evaluation of marine management effectiveness has been conducted. Applying the principle of subsidiarity (as proposed by the independent review of the EPBC Act81) implies that an analysis of the Australian Government’s marine management system would be a suitable point to start an initial national evaluation. Although the independent review of the EPBC Act mainly considered future arrangements, with past performance inferred rather than reported, the depth and breadth of the recommended improvements in relation to all marine matters suggest a high level of inadequacy in existing arrangements.81 Notwithstanding progressive improvements and many important recent achievements from both the states and the Australian Government management systems, the review’s summary of an expected role for the Australian Government in such matters encapsulates the broad extent of the system’s weaknesses and needs:
The Commonwealth’s role in a national system should be one of leadership, as a champion of the national interest, and a standard setter in environmental management.
In assessing the effectiveness of current management of the marine environment, it is valuable to examine the effectiveness of the management system—particularly the six elements of management listed above—in dealing with the main pressures on the environment (as identified in Section 3 of this chapter), to maintain the assets, values and resilience of the marine environment.
Smaller scale assessments of management effectiveness have been conducted in marine areas across Australia—for example, in the Great Barrier Reef and in Western Australia.
The GBRMP evaluation found that many of these elements were being achieved. Importantly, objectives relating to community understanding of issues and development of effective partnerships were found to be achieved. However, arguably the most substantive element (achievement of desired outcomes) was ranked as poor for GBRMP management effectiveness as a whole. Achievement of desired outcomes (values protected, threats reduced, long-term environmental and economic sustainability) was found to be very variable across issues. Overall, the greatest concern in relation to achieving desired outcomes related to the management of impacts of climate change. Poor outcomes were also found for management of coastal development, extractive use (fishing) and water quality.94
At a state level, in Western Australia, 18 actions were identified by the Western Australian Government for the ‘Marine’ theme in response to the 1998 Western Australian SoE report. By 2007, 14 of these actions remained incomplete, 2 were completed but not evaluated, and only 2 had been completed and evaluated. The large number of incomplete actions reflects the lack of attention to the marine environment and the sheer size of the state’s marine environment, its remoteness from major settlements and the high costs of research and monitoring in such circumstances.48