Integrated coastal management frameworks


Integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) is the process for managing all coastal issues in a framework integrated across biota and habitats, time and space, and levels of government. It attempts to consider and streamline cooperation among a range of stakeholders and government agencies. The overarching aim of ICZM is sustainability, while achieving the best possible outcomes for both large-scale and local-scale issues concerning society, the environment and the economy.

ICZM is a dynamic, multidisciplinary and iterative process to promote sustainable management of coastal zones. It covers the full cycle of information collection, planning (in its broadest sense), decision-making, management and monitoring of implementation. ICZM uses the informed participation and cooperation of all stakeholders to assess the societal goals in a coastal area, and to take actions towards meeting these objectives. ICZM seeks, during the long term, to balance environmental, economic, social, cultural and recreational objectives, all within the limits set by natural dynamics.

The principles of ICZM are for it to be:

  • transparent
  • based on risk assessment
  • inclusive of a social aspect
  • appropriate to the scale of the issues being addressed
  • underpinned by sound ecological understanding
  • able to provide clear structures among agencies to streamline the entire process.

Currently, ICZM is only implemented in some areas of Australian coastal management, and to varying extents. Although the national ICZM framework has been formally outlined (NRMMC 2006), no body of information contains the various management policies and strategies found around Australia. Additionally, the current framework among government departments for dealing with coastal issues is largely defunct, with each state having separate management practices and legislation concerning development of the coast.

In most regions, current decision-making processes can, in theory, lead to improvements in the state of coastal environments, but there is little integration between coastal and marine planning. The management landscape is further complicated by the presence of catchment councils, port authorities and regional management authorities, and the role of these agencies in advising or decision-making varies. Population growth in coastal regions is adding substantial financial strain to local councils.

ICZM requires ecological evidence on which to base risk assessments and other components of the framework. Effective ecological assessment requires quantification of multiple components of ecological health, using transparent and reproducible methods for comparable coasts in a given region (Borja et al. 2016). Effective ecological assessments are not available for most of Australia’s coastal waterways. In addition, those involved with environmental management of coastal and marine ecosystems may consider economic valuation of ecosystem services to be useful in decision-making; however, rarely has this approach been put into practice (Marre et al. 2016).

Coastal management policy and its coordination lack clarity, especially concerning sea level rise (Bell et al. 2014). Invasive species management and certain fisheries frameworks are also state specific, and integration among and within states and territories is variable. Assessment of planned projects may also fail to consider cumulative impacts (see Cumulative impacts and management of multiple uses), and 23 per cent of coastal organisations do not monitor and evaluate effectiveness of management actions (Jacobson et al. 2014).

Major challenges in ICZM include better understanding of:

  • cumulative socio-ecological vulnerability
  • effectiveness of institutions and behaviour change mechanisms
  • spatiotemporal scales of impacts and responses
  • science–knowledge interface and the influence of other agendas (e.g. economic and regional development) on ICZM
  • effectiveness of the social and institutional aspects of progressing management strategies
  • mechanisms to minimise regulatory capture by developers.

In 2012, the New South Wales Government removed planning benchmarks for sea level rise, and a large proportion of rural local governments in New South Wales do not consider climate change within their planning frameworks (Struys 2015). New South Wales state-level coastal management operates according to the Marine Estate Management Act 2014, although it is too early to judge its success. The Coastal Management Bill 2016 and the proposed Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy intend to facilitate integrated management of the coastal environment of New South Wales.

The Victorian Coastal Council recently delivered a 5-year strategy (2014) on integrated management of the coast, dealing with population growth, climate change, land and infrastructure, the environment, and marine planning. In 2013, the Queensland Government ceased its Queensland Coastal Plan 2012 state planning policy system (Bell & Morrison 2015), which was replaced by the Coastal Management Plan in 2014 and the recent 2016 implementation of the complementary State Planning Policy. The Tasmanian coastal works manual 2010 outlines coastal management guidelines in Tasmania, and includes reference to integrated approaches. South Australia’s Coastal Protection Board policy includes integrated management objectives; however, it has been unable to provide adequate funding to regional councils to achieve their integrated management independently.

The outlook for ICZM in the short term is poor, because important issues have not been prioritised by recent governments. There has been some progress with recent legislation such as the establishment of the New South Wales Marine Estate Management Authority (see Box COA11), and attempts by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to develop cumulative impact assessment processes (see Cumulative impacts and management of multiple uses). The success of such initiatives may guide future progress in this regard. In the long term, the outlook may improve following positive changes in the social, economic and political landscape, much of it by necessity (Turner et al. 2016). International initiatives may also catalyse change, as will the CoastAdapt toolkit soon to be released from the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (see Resilience of the coastal environment).

Clark GF, Johnston EL (2016). Coasts: Integrated coastal management frameworks. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra,, DOI 10.4226/94/58b659bdc758b