Coastal communities often hold mixed values and opinions about how to manage the land, the sea and natural resources. Coastal planners have the difficult task of considering different points of view, solving conflicts and creating a management plan that is widely acknowledged (Domínguez-Tejo et al 2016). To achieve this, coastal planners follow planning frameworks. Frameworks are like building blueprints that help planners and the community work together on what they want to achieve. They provide guidelines, or step-by-step instructions, to lead the planning process.
Marine spatial planning (MSP) is one of the frameworks used worldwide. Through MSP, multiple stakeholders collaborate in a public process, analysing human activities in their planning area. They assess the known and potential impacts of the activities on the environment and, ultimately, a plan is drafted supporting a balanced set of ecological, economic and social objectives. MSP has been undertaken in places such as the Great Barrier Reef (see Box COA10) and the New South Wales coast. Similarly, the ecosystem-based approach (EBA) to marine planning tries to find a balance between development needs and protecting the environment, and is the backbone of the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity. When these frameworks are coupled together, the MSP–EBA paradigm has shown great potential to help us understand social values attached to the marine environment.
Coastal management is also promoted by nongovernment organisations, such as the Australian Coastal Councils Association. Known as the National Sea Change Taskforce until July 2015, the association is a national body representing the interests of coastal councils and their communities. It commissions research on a range of coastal issues and advocates for the interests of coastal councils to various levels of government.
The Marine nation 2025: marine science to support Australia’s blue economy (2013) position paper outlined Australia’s ‘blue economy’ prospects. This document was preceded by the National Marine Science Plan (NMSP; 2015), which identified the creation of sustainable urban coastal development as a key challenge in supporting Australia’s blue economy attempts to deliver ‘economical, cultural and social benefits that are efficient, equitable and sustainable’.
The NMSP made the following recommendations for better management of urban coastal areas, some of which are also applicable to unmodified areas of coast:
- Provide targeted projections of sea level rise, including changes in extreme flood events.
- Better characterise catchment contaminant pathways, coastal morphologies and environmental processes, and define envelopes of natural variability and thresholds of concern.
- Understand pressure interactions and resource use, including the cumulative impacts of sea level rise; loss and continual degradation of coastal and estuarine habitats; and loss of productivity, ecosystem services and population connectivity.
- Develop innovative sensing technologies, including those based on new molecular tools, to provide cost-effective monitoring in the coastal zone.
- Improve data coordination and discoverability of coastal data from multiple sources.
- Develop, test and apply methods to mitigate the impact of coastal hazards, including eco-engineering and restoration approaches.
The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility is developing its CoastAdapt tool, which will address some of these recommendations. Australia’s ‘blue economy’ plans are discussed in further detail in the Marine environment report.
The Plan for a cleaner environment (DoE 2016) outlines Australia’s efforts towards achieving clean air, clean land, clean water and heritage protection.