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The Commonwealth Coastal Policy

Commonwealth of Australia, May 1995

3 Coastal Management Initiatives

Policy statements are in themselves insufficient to ensure that adequate steps are taken to improve management of the coastal zone. The Commonwealth Government has examined a number of the key issues affecting coastal management and, following discussions with State and Local Governments, has resolved to take the actions described in this chapter in an effort to improve the management and use of the coast.

Previous inquiries into coastal management, in particular the Resource Assessment Commission's Coastal Zone Inquiry, have suggested a number of areas on which the Commonwealth should focus its attention in order to improve coastal management:

Initiatives associated with these four areas are discussed in this chapter. The initiatives will be supported by activities aimed at increasing the awareness of particular groups, to increase knowledge and understanding of coastal matters and support informed decision making about coastal issues. Chapter 4 discusses initiatives designed to enhance integration between Commonwealth agencies and authorities and between the Commonwealth and other spheres of government.

3.1 Community Participation in Coastal Management

3.1.1 Community involvement

Government action alone will not bring about improvements in the way the coastal zone is managed. All people who use the coastal zone, individuals, community groups, government and industry, need to play an active role in maintaining the quality of the coastal environment.

Many community groups are already involved as volunteers in managing the coastal zone. For example, in Victoria local committees are involved in managing coastal reserves and across Australia thousands of volunteers participate in Clean Up Australia Day. Coastal zone users, from local ratepayer associations to conservation groups and sporting clubs, are often involved in projects to manage local beaches and wetlands. This involvement not only extends the ability of society to physically manage the problems caused by its use of the coast; it also helps to spread awareness of coastal management issues and to engender a sense of community responsibility for these issues and their management.

To further support direct community involvement in coastal management the Commonwealth Government will establish a Coastcare Program under the umbrella of the National Landcare Program. Coastcare will focus primarily on publicly owned or managed terrestrial and marine environments. It will have the flexibility to build on existing community activities and to accommodate existing management responsibilities and arrangements. To ensure that management actions are integrated all projects should be consistent with local or regional management plans and should involve a partnership with the relevant local coastal manager or owner, which in most cases will be Local Government.

In addition to increasing community involvement in the management of local coastal areas, it is also necessary to ensure that the community participates in resource use decision making. Consultation should be conducted in such a manner as to allow adequate time for thorough and complete public response and to involve all groups—community and industry—equally.

Organised consultation with communities can significantly improve the quality and effectiveness of both management and resource use. Consultation helps community members learn more about the issues and generates a higher degree of community confidence in and identification with management. In turn, management agencies are better informed about the attitudes and interests of the community and about the impact on communities of government initiatives.

The Commonwealth Government will take the following initiatives to facilitate direct community involvement in management of resource use in the coastal zone and to make appropriate community consultation an integral part of the coastal program.


A community coastal action program, Coastcare, will be established jointly with State and Local Governments, with the following objectives:

A National Coastal Advisory Committee will be established to advise the Commonwealth on coastal management issues. The Committee will comprise representatives of peak national community, conservation, industry and research bodies, indigenous people, the National Landcare Advisory Committee and State and Local Governments. Its terms of reference will be as follows:

(The establishment and nature of the Commonwealth Coastal Co-ordinating Committee and Intergovernmental Technical Group are discussed in Chapter 4.)

3.1.2 The participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a special relationship with and interest in coastal lands and waters and their resources. About half of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population live near the coast; they have a particular association with the land and sea based on ownership, common law rights and interests, cultural affiliation, historic connection and, in some cases, dependence on the coast and its resources for their livelihood. The Commonwealth acknowledges and will take into account Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interests in the coastal zone on a wide range of issues, such as land and marine resource management, cultural heritage and protection of heritage sites.

The underlying concern of Australia's indigenous peoples in relation to coastal management is that their traditional and cultural rights and interests are not adequately recognised in management arrangements.

As a matter of social justice, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be recognised as participants in the coastal management process, and they should be able to derive social, cultural and economic benefit from the use of coastal environments in which they have an interest.

The Native Title Act 1993 recognises, among other things, the interests that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have in the environment, and it provides for the recognition of traditional hunting, gathering and fishing rights. The Act also provides a means of resolving disputes that may arise in relation to these rights. The legal recognition given to indigenous peoples is changing rapidly and it will be necessary to confront and deal with matters associated with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement in coastal management over an extended period. Mechanisms will be established to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are consulted during the continuing development of Commonwealth initiatives affecting their interests in the coastal zone.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in many parts of the coastal zone view the coastal sea as an inseparable extension of coastal land, bearing the same traditional ownership, custodianship and spiritual meaning as terrestrial areas. The coastal sea is a traditional domain in which members of the local clan or family group have primary use and management rights. Governments and marine management agencies, on the other hand, generally view the marine environment as a commons, in which all Australians have equal interests.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups consulted during the Resource Assessment Commission's Coastal Zone Inquiry and during the preparation of this Policy identified the establishment of fisheries management practices that recognise indigenous interests as one of the most significant coastal management issues awaiting resolution. The Commonwealth will seek the development and implementation of an Indigenous Fisheries Strategy by the Ministerial Council on Forestry, Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The Commonwealth has promoted a number of initiatives to facilitate indigenous peoples' involvement in the management of marine resources. Under the Ocean Rescue 2000 program two projects involving indigenous communities in the development of regional marine management conservation strategies are being undertaken, one in Arnhem Land and one in Torres Strait.

The Commonwealth Government is also committed to the concept of joint management, with indigenous peoples, of conservation areas and key species under Commonwealth control. For example, Kakadu National Park was returned to its traditional owners by the Commonwealth and is now leased back by the Government and jointly managed by Aboriginal people and the Australian Nature Conservation Agency. Kakadu is now known internationally as a successful model for co-operative management of protected areas.

The Government has announced its intention to return areas of the Jervis Bay Territory, including Jervis Bay National Park, to the Wreck Bay Aboriginal community and to jointly manage the area. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has a number of co-operative management arrangements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities adjacent to the Park. This is receiving added impetus in the review of the Far Northern Section Zoning Plan. The Commonwealth recently amended the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 to create a position on the Authority for a member to represent the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities adjacent to the Park.

In order to promote the valuable contribution that Australia's indigenous peoples can make to natural resource management, the Commonwealth has established the Contract Employment Program for Aboriginals in Natural and Cultural Resource Management. This initiative and other community-based conservation and employment programs, including the training and employment of community rangers, have been widely acclaimed. The Resource Assessment Commission, however, identified a number of factors that are preventing these initiatives from realising their full potential. Among them are an uncertain funding base, the lack of long-term security of employment, difficulties associated with training and accreditation, and the lack of powers commensurate with responsibilities.

The Commonwealth will promote the extension of initiatives of this kind throughout the coastal zone, and it will work with indigenous communities to identify ways of remedying the shortcomings of the community ranger programs, particularly the lack of long-term job security and support services.


The Commonwealth Government will support the development and implementation of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fisheries Strategy by the Ministerial Council on Forestry, Fisheries and Aquaculture in consultation with indigenous communities and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

The Commonwealth Government will support an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Coastal Reference Group to provide advice to the Commonwealth, through the National Coastal Advisory Committee, on the development and implementation of initiatives to involve indigenous peoples in coastal resource management.

An Indigenous Communities Coastal Management component will be established under the Coastcare program to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to undertake projects to record and protect cultural heritage sites in the coastal zone, to develop coastal management

strategies for land and sea areas under their control, and to participate in the nd Cultural Resource Management and other 'community ranger' programs. above initiatives will be used to strengthen existing programs such as the Contract Employment Program for Aboriginals in Natural and Cultural Resource Management and other 'community ranger' programs.

The Commonwealth Government will promote the appointment of indigenous people to boards and authorities concerned with environmental and resource management affecting the coastal zone. The boards and authorities will also be required to take account of indigenous interests in developing their policies and programs.

The Commonwealth Government will encourage, through the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, the development of management arrangements by other spheres of government that ensure substantive participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the management of coastal resources, including joint management of conservation areas.

3.2 Sustainable Coastal Resource Use

3.2.1 Pollution of coastal waters

Maintenance, and improvement where necessary, of the quality of coastal and marine waters is an important part of this Policy.

The management of effluent, wastewater and agricultural run-off to minimise impacts on coastal waters and wildlife is one of the major challenges to maintaining marine and coastal water quality and, in turn, coastal habitats, public health, recreation and visual amenity. The principal responsibility for the management of land-based sources of marine pollution rests with State and Local Governments. The Commonwealth has an interest in this area because land-based pollution affects Commonwealth waters. It also has international responsibilities in this area, through several international agreements. Further, it is in a unique position to facilitate at a national level the adoption of best practices and to enhance the ability of managers to effectively manage land-based marine pollution.

In conjunction with the States and Territories, the Commonwealth has supported the development of the National Water Quality Management Strategy aimed at pursuing the sustainable use of the nation's water resources. The Commonwealth also directly assists projects and measures to encourage the economic and ecologically sustainable management of water resources through the National Landcare Program and, in Western Australia and South Australia, the Building Better Cities Program. The National Landcare Program, while assisting some projects in the coastal zone, has a broader focus, with an emphasis on catchment management.

These initiatives, although not specifically targeted at coastal water quality, are expected to have consequential benefits for receiving coastal waters. In the future, any Building Better Cities projects that are undertaken in the coastal zone will include consideration of innovative approaches to effluent and stormwater management. This will build on current Building Better Cities work in areas such as the Patawalonga basin and catchment in South Australia.

In more general terms, economic instruments may have significant potential for environment protection. Governments already levy charges to reflect the cost of providing goods and services, including natural resources. This prevents users from being subsidised by general taxpayers and it rations resources among competing users for a more efficient outcome. Adoption of proper pricing mechanisms has potential as a means of resolving water quality issues. The Government is aware of the need to consider the equity implications of any such proposals. It is also essential that the community has confidence in any economic tool that is adopted and sees that it is fair and reasonable and achieves the stated purpose. For these reasons a number of demonstration projects will be undertaken to examine the use of economic instruments as a way of improving water quality.

Twenty to 30 per cent of all marine pollution, mostly litter and debris (including lost or discarded fishing gear) comes from ship-based activities. With the level of shipping in Australian waters expected to increase, it is crucial that effective measures for control and reduction of this pollution be maintained.

Most marine oil pollution arises from normal shipping operations and land-based sources but pollution of the marine environment by oil spills is a prominent public concern. Since 1970 Australia has had only two oil spills over 1000 tonnes, both caused by tanker accidents. The Australian offshore petroleum industry has been active for over 25 years without a significant effect on the marine environment.

The small number of large spills in Australian waters underlines the effectiveness of the preventive measures taken by government and industry. Such measures include implementation and enforcement of international conventions and domestic legislation, effective and reliable navigation aids and compulsory pilotage arrangements, especially in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and port control and surveillance. Prevention is, and will remain, the first line of defence against oil spills.

Prevention can never be guaranteed, though, and contingency response plans, such as the National Plan to Combat Pollution of the Sea by Oil are necessary. The objective of the Plan is to provide an integrated national system for responding promptly and effectively to marine oil pollution incidents. The Plan is a joint initiative of Australian governments and industry. It was recently reviewed by Commonwealth and State Governments and industry and the recommendations were endorsed by governments.

Protection of the Great Barrier Reef from maritime accidents while still maintaining viable shipping lanes is a major challenge. The Government will improve the safety of shipping in the Great Barrier Reef and the Torres Strait. This will be achieved by:

The introduction of exotic species and diseases through the discharge of ballast water from ships poses serious problems for Australia's coastal environment, threatening indigenous animal and plant life, human health and seafood. At this stage the principle concerns are toxic dinoflagellates, the seaweed Undaria pinnatifida, the Northern Pacific starfish and the cholera micro-organism. The first three of these are well established in parts of Australia and the fourth is a potentially serious introduction, found in ballast water in other parts of the world. Recent reports of infestations by the giant tube worm in Western Australian and Victorian ports have caused concern for mussel and other shellfish fisheries.

No totally satisfactory treatment for ballast water is known at present, but there are ways of minimising risk. In February 1990 the Commonwealth Government, through the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, introduced guidelines for the management of ballast water arriving from overseas ports. In 1991 the International Maritime Organisation adopted voluntary international guidelines based on the Australian guidelines.

Until recently the emphasis in Australia has been on ships entering our ports from overseas. It is now recognised, however, particularly in light of the establishment of the Undaria seaweed and the Northern Pacific starfish in Tasmanian waters (and not yet elsewhere in Australia)—that there is potential for problems to arise from the discharge of ballast water from coastal shipping, which may translocate unwanted organisms from infected areas to non-infected areas.

A draft set of guidelines for domestic coastal ballast water has been prepared and a Coastal Ballast Water Guidelines Working Group, chaired by Tasmania, has been established to further develop the guidelines to implementation stage. Management of coastal ballast water transfer between ports is primarily a State responsibility; the Commonwealth plays a facilitation role.

Following a national symposium on the ballast water issue in 1994 the Commonwealth began preparation of the Australian Ballast Water Management Strategy. An important element of the Strategy is the establishment of the Australian Ballast Water Management Council comprising industry and government experts. Among other activities, the Council is developing a strategic research plan which follows on from the findings of the recently completed three-year government-funded base-level research program.

The Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, through its Maritime Accidents and Pollution Task Force, has released for discussion a draft action plan to complement, through national and international activities, existing measures designed to reduce the impacts of ship-sourced pollution in Australian waters.


A number of projects demonstrating the development and implementation of local water quality management plans will be established, through agreement between the Commonwealth Government and relevant State and Local Governments.

The Commonwealth Government will provide technical support to selected State and Local authorities to develop a framework for determining full pricing of water and associated infrastructure within particular coastal areas, including costs of monitoring, full polluter-pays pricing and incentives to reduce waste output.

The National Centre for Research on Introduced Marine Pests will research and develop early warning tools, better prediction methods and more effective assessment of risks and costs, as well as devising improved preventive methods to combat introduced marine pests. Consideration will be given to involving the community in early detection monitoring.

The Commonwealth Government will continue to support the National Plan to Combat Pollution of the Sea by Oil and the Australian Ballast Water Management Strategy. The Commonwealth will also continue to support the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council in its development of a Maritime Accidents and Pollution Action Plan.

3.2.2 Land and marine conservation

Conservation of the coastal environment, including its biodiversity, is a central purpose of this Policy.

The Australian coastal zone contains a wide variety of environments, coastal mountain ranges and escarpments; coastal alluvial plains and monsoonal flood plains; rainforests, freshwater swamps and marshes; rivers and lakes; tropical and temperate estuaries; fringing and offshore coral reefs; seagrass and mangrove communities; pelagic and benthic environments of the continental shelf; banks and islands on the continental shelf; remote oceanic atolls and coral reefs.

Coastal environments such as estuaries, mangroves, seagrass meadows and coral reefs provide breeding and feeding grounds for myriad marine species, including commercial fish species. Seagrass meadows and mangroves provide essential habitats for commercial prawns and act as sediment traps, consolidating the sea floor and reducing the sediment load. Reefs and mangrove forests also function as barriers protecting coasts against storm damage.

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are used to protect marine habitats and the marine life they contain. They also allow resources to be used, consistent with an overriding conservation objective. They provide places for recreation, tourism, education, scientific research and conservation of biological diversity, and they can offer significant benefits to recreational and commercial fisheries by protecting fish habitats and breeding areas. Management of the marine component of the coastal zone is shared between the Commonwealth and State Governments.

Approximately 4.7 per cent of Australia's 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone is set aside as marine protected areas. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park makes up nearly 90 per cent of this total and as a result other marine environments are under-represented. The temperate seas of Australia, the habitat of many endemic marine species, are particularly poorly represented.

In recognition of the importance of marine areas, the Government has already embarked on a program to improve their conservation. Under the Ocean Rescue 2000 program the Commonwealth is working co-operatively with State government conservation and fisheries agencies to develop a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. Financial support is being provided to the States to develop a national framework to guide the identification of new areas and to assist in their establishment. The Commonwealth intends to continue its support for this initiative. Although in many cases independent processes are currently being followed to identify new marine protected areas, as far as possible these processes should be integrated with the development of the regional area management strategies proposed in Section 3.2.4, so that marine protected areas are identified and declared in an integrated and strategic manner.

Conservation of the terrestrial component of the coastal zone is primarily the responsibility of State Governments. The Commonwealth, however, administers the National Reserves System Co-operative Program, which aims to achieve, in co-operation with the States, a national comprehensive system of parks and reserves. In 1993 the Resource Assessment Commission categorised approximately 12 per cent of the terrestrial coastal zone as 'conservation reserves'. Although this percentage is considered consistent with minimum international standards, many important natural areas of the terrestrial coastal zone remain outside the conservation system and may be exposed to uses that do not reflect their value as natural areas.

All States determine the uses to which land can be put through land use planning processes. In recent times these processes have had greater regard for the environmental impacts associated with the development of land. But there are cases where historical decisions to subdivide or rezone land have meant the establishment of development rights that do not have regard for the environmental significance of an area.

When all reasonable avenues available to mitigate unacceptable environmental impacts have been exhausted the only option remaining may be to acquire the land and either place it in public ownership or limit the development potential by other means such as covenants on the title. A number of State Governments and environmental groups have established funds to acquire environmentally sensitive land that is in private ownership. This is a useful addition to the tools available to protect the biodiversity, resources and natural processes of the coastal zone. The Commonwealth Government supports these schemes by making donations to groups on the Register of Environmental Organisations tax deductible under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936.

In addition to traditional resource-based management arrangements, integrated management of natural, ecological and cultural values is necessary. Section 3.2.4 presents initiatives to promote integrated area-based approaches to the management of the coastal zone. The Commonwealth Government has a number of significant land-holdings in the coastal zone, among them land used by the Defence Force as training areas, land used for telecommunications and transport purposes (including lighthouses), and land used primarily for conservation purposes. The Commonwealth will endeavour to ensure that wherever possible, in addition to their primary purpose, these lands are managed to conserve their natural, ecological and cultural values.


The Government will continue its support for the identification and establishment of areas suitable for inclusion in a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas, under the Ocean Rescue 2000 program.

A number of surplus Commonwealth-owned lighthouses and light stations, worth approximately $11.35 million, are being offered to the States on condition that their heritage and environmental values are protected. Under this arrangement these important sites will continue to be accessible for all Australians. Their inclusion in the coastal reserve systems managed by State Governments would also ensure that they are properly managed.

3.2.3 Marine management

The coastal zone is defined as the interface between marine and terrestrial environments. This inter-relatedness is an important aspect of integrated coastal zone management. To properly manage the coastal zone, managers must concern themselves with both the land and the sea. This does not necessarily mean that they should become the managers for all land and sea.

The Government recognises this dilemma. This Policy is designed to take account of those issues that are plainly 'coastal' in nature. Although this includes initiatives to deal with marine management issues such as pollution, conservation and monitoring, there remains a responsibility to ensure that appropriate strategies exist to manage the entire Australian marine environment, including all of the Exclusive Economic Zone.

Managing marine resources for sustainable use is extremely important for Australia. A significant proportion of our gross domestic product is derived from marine areas, particularly through the fishing, tourism and petroleum and mineral industries, so the health of the ocean and the diversity of biological marine resources in it are important for both ecological and economic reasons. Sustainable management of these resources is crucial.

The cumulative effect of ever-increasing human activity and economic development on coastal land has resulted in a growing burden on marine ecosystems and the fishing sector. Three key issues affect fisheries:

Under the Ministerial Council on Forestry, Fisheries and Aquaculture work is proceeding on an approach to broaden the scope of fisheries management. Based on the goals and principles of ecologically sustainable development, the Large Marine Ecosystem concept has the potential to underlie the development of new strategies for marine resource management and research. It focuses on a multi-disciplinary effort to develop a holistic approach to the management of marine resources, leading to the long-term sustainable development of the ocean's natural assets. The Ministerial Council has also begun preliminary work on the concept of a national Fishcare Program that would involve the community in the conservation and care of the nation's fisheries and fish habitats.

Because of the strong potential for growth of marine-based industries, the Government has recently created a high-level group, the Australian Marine Industries and Sciences Council, announced in the 1994 industry and employment White Paper, to advise on ways of maximising this growth and on government research required to promote development of the sector. A major element of the work program will be preparation of a Marine Industries Development Strategy.

Aquaculture is developing as a marine industry with significant potential. In 1993-94 the gross value of the industry was estimated at $303 million. The interaction between the aquaculture industry and the environment is complex. The sustainability of aquaculture operations depends directly on the maintenance of a healthy and productive environment. Pollution of coastal waterways can be detrimental to aquaculture operations; poorly managed aquaculture can be detrimental to the environment.

The National Strategy on Aquaculture in Australia, released in 1994, aims to develop a number of actions to overcome the current constraints on the aquaculture industry and create an environment in which the industry can grow. One of the Strategy's key goals is that aquaculture should be ecologically sustainable. Implementation of the Strategy will depend on the success of collaborative efforts by major stakeholders, including industry, all spheres of government, education agencies and research bodies. The development of an industry code of practice would be an important step towards controlling the environmental impact of the aquaculture industry.

The Commonwealth has developed a number of important initiatives, through the Ocean Rescue 2000 program, to lay the foundations for ecologically sustainable management of the marine environment by the year 2000. It is intended that the work under Ocean Rescue 2000 will culminate with the preparation and implementation of an Australian Marine Conservation Plan.

The State of the Marine Environment Report, released in early 1995, comprehensively describes and assesses the current state of knowledge of Australia's marine environment and resources and the impact of human activities.

The State of the Marine Environment Report will provide a basis for preparation of the Australian Marine Conservation Plan. The Plan will complement this Commonwealth Coastal Policy by helping in the management of issues that are predominantly 'marine' in nature.


The Commonwealth Government will undertake the development of an Australian Marine Conservation Plan for the conservation and sustainable use of the Australian marine environment, including the recently declared Exclusive Economic Zone. The Plan will identify management strategies for the full range of activities affecting the sustainable use of the marine environment.

Under the National Strategy on Aquaculture in Australia the Commonwealth Government, in partnership with other stakeholders, will pursue the development and adoption of an aquaculture code of practice.

3.2.4 Integrated and strategic management

Inquiries into coastal management have repeatedly identified two problems that contribute significantly to the failure of the current coastal management system to effectively secure sustainable use of the coastal zone:

Many Commonwealth State and Local government agencies are involved in coastal management around Australia. The large number of agencies was identified by the 1993 Coastal Zone Inquiry as a difficulty in developing integrated coastal zone management in Australia. Agencies responsible in Tasmania are shown here.

Agencies responsible for coastal management around Australia

These problems are often most evident in areas experiencing rapid population growth and associated development. Concern about the growth of urban areas around the coastline is widespread; such growth exemplifies the types of problems that can result from fragmented management and the tyranny of small decisions.

There is widespread acknowledgement of the need for decision making that is integrated and takes a long-term or strategic approach to problems. The need for integration is made more urgent by the fact that the coastal zone spans land and marine areas that are interrelated and because all spheres of government are involved in management. Integrated management could also lead to greater efficiencies.

Many difficulties result from the way government administration is organised. Whilst the solutions may be widely understood, the commitment needed to effect change can be difficult to achieve. A wholesale restructuring of government administration would not necessarily overcome these difficulties. The Resource Assessment Commission identified area-based management plans involving all relevant government agencies and other interests and the establishment of a long-term strategy for the coast as a practical way of dealing with the situation.

Area-based strategic management involves drawing together all those with management responsibilities that affect an area to identify common goals and jointly implement an array of actions designed to achieve specific outcomes in an integrated and co-ordinated fashion. In particular, such an approach promotes the following:

The Commonwealth has embraced the area-based strategic approach to natural resource management and urban development through joint projects with State and Local Governments. Examples of the approach are the regional forest agreements being negotiated between State Governments and the Commonwealth, regional heritage assessments promoted by the Australian Heritage Commission, regional tourism development strategies sponsored by the Department of Tourism, and integrated catchment management in the Murray-Darling Basin.

The same approach is being used for urban development, and its benefits have been demonstrated through the Building Better Cities and Integrated Local Area Planning (ILAP) Programs. The ILAP Program promoted a whole-of-government approach to strategic planning at the local and regional level: key issues are identified and a shared vision is developed jointly by all spheres of government, the private sector and the community. The ILAP principles have received support from many local authorities and offer an important means whereby the Commonwealth can continue to promote integrated approaches to the development of area-based management strategies that include all spheres of government in partnership.

The Commonwealth's Regional Development Program also adopts the area strategy approach. A key principle of this Program is to build on existing programs to better co-ordinate and integrate them within large regions, so that they provide maximum benefit to the region. By mobilising the energies of an entire region and by promoting the adoption of best practice, the Regional Development Program encourages sustainable economic and social development. Environmental sustainability is a key element in this process.

Traditional approaches, with separate, unrelated decision-making processes for transport, environmental, economic development and land use policies ignore the potential benefits of integrated management. The Commonwealth will continue to work closely with State and Local Governments and the community to demonstrate the economic, social and environmental benefits of integrated management.

Widespread adoption of integrated and strategic approaches by agencies dealing with the coastal zone is critical to effective coastal management. It will allow factors such as regional heritage, conservation of biodiversity, and economic development opportunities to be identified and integrated into decision-making processes at an early stage. Thus a longer term management perspective can be adopted, obviating the problems associated with fragmented and piecemeal decision making.


The Commonwealth Government will establish a Coastal Integrated Local Area Planning Program, which will encourage the development of best practice regional and integrated coastal management strategies based on partnerships between the three spheres of government.

After consultation with State and Local Governments the Commonwealth Government will prepare guidelines on methods for conducting regional natural and cultural heritage assessments, so that heritage identification and protection can be integrated into the planning process. The Commonwealth will provide assistance to those undertaking these assessments.

3.2.5 Tourism

Australia's tourism industry, both international and domestic, is to a very large extent founded on the natural attractions of the coastal zone.

Tourism has emerged as one of the nation's most important growth industries. In 1991-92 the tourism industry contributed around 5.6 per cent to the economy and accounted for around 466 000 jobs, or 6.1 per cent of the workforce. In 1991-92 tourism and recreational fishing in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park region generated $776 million. Poorly planned expansion of the tourism industry will place continued stress on coastal zone resources.

The natural and cultural resources of the coastal zone are particularly important to the tourism industry. Failure to conserve the quality of the zone could have significant effects on the growth of the domestic and international tourism sectors. Adoption of sound strategic management practices and a framework that allows for resolution of the different viewpoints that can arise between local communities and tourism proponents will ensure that this important natural resource is protected for the enjoyment of current and future generations.

Under the National Tourism Strategy the Government is funding a number of programs that are aimed at developing the tourism industry while ensuring that this development is ecologically sustainable. Support is provided through the Regional Tourism Development Program, the National Ecotourism Program, the Forest Ecotourism Program and the Sites of National Tourism Significance Program. Funding is available for a range of activities, including the development of integrated regional tourism plans, improved tourism infrastructure, and improved and co-ordinated tourism information sources.


The Commonwealth Government will assist Local Government coastal managers to enhance their skills and expertise relevant to the assessment of the economic, social and environmental impacts of coastal tourism developments.

The Commonwealth will also undertake a project to demonstrate best practice coastal management for tourism development, to better inform industry, planners, decision makers and the community about the economic, environmental and social benefits that can accrue from successful, well-integrated coastal tourism development.

3.2.6 Defence

Australian Defence Force activities in the coastal zone are based on strategic and operational requirements. The Force's mission statement is 'To promote the security of Australia and to protect its people and its interests'. In order to fulfil this obligation the Defence Force must, among other things, maintain a presence in and have access to the Australian territorial coastal zone. The Defence Force also has non-defence functions within the coastal zone, monitoring of coastal environments, coastal surveillance, fisheries protection, search and rescue, and so on, that benefit the civilian population.

The Australian Defence Force is the largest Commonwealth land manager, with operational and maintenance responsibilities for Defence facilities and training areas in the coastal zone. The Navy manages the largest fleet operating in the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone. Examples of the Force's involvement in managing coastal areas are the naval facilities at Cockburn Sound in Western Australia and Jervis Bay in New South Wales, and tri-service training areas such as that at Shoalwater Bay in Queensland. The presence of Defence training areas has in a number of cases prevented the spread of coastal development and permitted the preservation of large natural areas. The environmental qualities of such areas as the Beecroft Peninsula in New South Wales and Shoalwater Bay have led to their being placed on the Register of the National Estate. Defence forces are also involved in operational activities that can have a dual civilian benefit such as the development of coastal information systems and surveillance of our northern waters.

The Royal Australian Navy has recently established a Navy Environmental Plan under which environmental management plans are being prepared for all naval facilities. Plans have been prepared for HMAS CERBERUS, HMAS WATERHEN and HMAS STIRLING. A plan is currently being prepared for Jervis Bay. Similar initiatives are being pursued in other areas of the Defence Force for facilities and training areas. Implementation of these plans means that the impact of peacetime Defence activities in the coastal zone will be minimised and, as far as possible within operational requirements, Defence activities will be ecologically sustainable. An opportunity exists to draw additional civilian benefit from aspects of implementation such as monitoring.

The Naval Hydrographer is the custodian of a substantial spatial dataset that is an important national asset. The Hydrographer has strong links with the State marine authorities that collect hydrographic data. Knowledge of and access to the spatial data held by the Hydrographer would be greatly facilitated by creation of the Coastal Atlas proposed in Section 3.3.1.

The Hydrographic Program administered by the Navy contributes greatly to maritime safety through the publication of the national series of nautical navigation charts. The program has a project aimed at converting existing hydrographic charts and information into digital form so that the information can be made available electronically. Almost all ship and boating accidents occur as a result of human error rather than any deficiency in published hydrographic charts. There is thus considerable interest in the 'Electronic Chart' as a technology that will reduce human error in navigation and so reduce the potential for accidents and even catastrophic oil spills.

The Navy also supports the operation of the Australian Oceanographic Data Centre which was originally established as a result of an agreement between the Navy, the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology to facilitate the acquisition and dissemination of oceanographic data. The Centre is now a major repository of oceanographic information in Australia and it is co-operating with other government agencies such as the National Resource Information Centre and the Environmental Resources Information Network in matters pertaining to marine and coastal environmental data management. The centre is in the process of developing a coastal zone information system to manage data on the physical characteristics of the Australian coastline.


Management plans will be prepared and implemented for all coastal lands and waters under the control of the Department of Defence, to ensure that they are managed in such a way as to conserve their environmental values while meeting the primary Defence needs.

The information generated by monitoring programs established to aid the management of Defence establishments will be made available, within operational constraints, for wider use in monitoring changes in coastal environments across Australia.

The Department of Defence is establishing a capability to provide electronic hydrographic chart services. The Commonwealth Government will continue to support this project: it is an important initiative that will enhance coastal safety and improve coastal management decision makers' access to digital information on coastal hydrography.

3.3 Capacity Building

3.3.1 Research and data management

Inquiries into coastal management have repeatedly found that there are serious deficiencies in the knowledge available for management of coastal resources and in the arrangements for coastal resource managers' access to the information that does exist. These deficiencies must be remedied if coastal zone resources are to be effectively and efficiently managed.

Sound management of the coastal zone requires that managers and other people with an interest in the coast have access to diverse types of information, including social, cultural, economic, ecological, biophysical and geophysical information.

The Commonwealth is already a significant provider of research into aspects of the coastal zone. Agencies such as CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Australian Geological Survey Organisation, the Royal Australian Navy, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, the Bureau of Resource Sciences, the Australian Nature Conservation Agency and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority make important contributions to our understanding of coastal environments. The Commonwealth also supports research conducted by universities and other tertiary institutions. Funding is provided through grants from the Australian Research Council; in 1992, 4.4 per cent of the total grants disbursed by the Council were directed towards marine and coastal research.

Although a considerable amount of research into coastal issues is being done, there remains a need to co-ordinate this effort to ensure that the research is directed at priority areas and is effectively meeting the needs of those who are managing our coast. An informal body, the Heads of (Commonwealth) Marine Agencies, has been established to co-ordinate the Commonwealth's involvement in international marine programs and marine research.

There is plentiful evidence to suggest that there are widespread deficiencies in the knowledge necessary for sound coastal management and that existing information is fragmented and often not accessible to those who could use it to inform their decisions about the use and development of the coast.

Governments, researchers and coastal managers are in broad agreement about the need to enhance information systems and improve access to information. The Commonwealth has already acted to increase the availability and co-ordination of information. It has established a National Marine Information System (NatMIS) to provide, in cooperation with State agencies, marine environmental information for the Ocean Rescue 2000 program and the wider marine and coastal community. A number of Commonwealth natural resource data agencies also have information directly applicable to the coast, among them the Environmental Resources Information Network, CSIRO, the Australian Geological Survey Organisation, the Australian Oceanographic Data Centre, the Australian Hydrographic Service, the National Resource Information Centre, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Under the leadership of the Environmental Resources Information Network, the Commonwealth will draw on all these organisations to support the following initiatives in an effort to further improve the availability of coastal information and to enhance our understanding of the coastal zone. As part of this process, the National Resources Information Centre will provide a coastal data inventory, to become part of the National Directory of Australian Resource datasets.


The Commonwealth Government will establish an Australia-wide electronic communications network called 'Coastnet' to improve communications between researchers and coastal managers. Coastnet will also be available to support the communication needs of community groups associated with Coastcare.

The Commonwealth Government will establish an Australian Coastal Atlas. It will be an electronic atlas (or gateway), drawing together the combined data holdings of the Commonwealth. It will be made accessible to the community and State and Local Governments and will be based on a distributed database network, so information would not need to be held in a single centralised location. Establishment of the Coastal Atlas will ensure the following:

The Commonwealth will establish a postgraduate research scholarship scheme for priority research into coastal zone management issues. Awards will be provided for postgraduate coastal management research that has a strong emphasis on meeting the needs of coastal managers.

3.3.2 Coastal monitoring system

A sound understanding of the 'state' of the coastal zone is necessary if we are to determine whether our use of it is sustainable. Only by observing the coastal zone over a long period can we know how it is changing. The ability to detect change in our environment is vital if we are to identify the effects our actions are having on our surroundings, to monitor the performance of our management systems, and to identify natural levels of variability. Long-term monitoring of the coastal zone, including the development and maintenance of baseline inventories, has often been neglected.

The Commonwealth is establishing a regular State of the Environment reporting process, and has released the first national State of the Marine Environment Report. As part of this process there is an urgent need to establish a network of monitoring sites around the Australian coast to provide governments with baseline information to meet policy and management needs.

A national tidal gauge network has recently been established to monitor sea-level and related changes in the state of the oceans.

Australia also has an interest in monitoring the coastal zone to identify changes in the global environment. In 1989 the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, in conjunction with the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Environment Program, initiated work on the establishment of a Global Ocean Observing System. Australia fully endorsed the initiative and is taking steps to develop our contribution to this international effort. The benefits of participation are expected to far outweigh the cost of Australia's contribution. In addition to meeting domestic needs, the Coastal Monitoring System proposed under this Policy will make a significant contribution to the Global Ocean Observing System.

As well as providing long-term information on the quality of coastal environments and any changes in the zone, the Coastal Monitoring System should be capable of meeting more immediate management needs. Results from monitoring should be directly relevant to managers, informing the decision-making process and improving strategies for minimising the risks and costs associated with use of the coastal environment. For this reason managers, and not just scientists, must be closely involved in the design of the Monitoring System.

The results from this monitoring will be incorporated in the Coastal Atlas and will be made available to the widest possible range of coastal managers.


In consultation with State and Local Governments, the Commonwealth Government will establish a Coastal Monitoring System. The System will be based on a continental-scale monitoring network and a complementary local monitoring program and it will be capable of meeting the Commonwealth's international and national commitments.

Australia will participate in the establishment of the Global Ocean Observing System as part of its commitment to ensuring that use of the global environment is ecologically sustainable.

3.3.3 Professional development and training

A range of education, training and information exchange skills are required for integrated coastal management. Among those who need these skills are Local, State and Commonwealth government officers, the resource development sector and community groups. This includes both professionals involved in decision making and technical staff involved in 'works' in the coastal zone.

Daily decisions that affect the coastal zone are made primarily at the state and local levels. All decision makers should have sufficient expertise to ensure that coastal resources are wisely used. This calls for enhanced skills in technical matters, strategic management, information management, communication and consultation, and risk management. Such capabilities are acquired through tertiary education and on-the-job or special training programs.

All jurisdictions have a role to play in ensuring that managers have the capacity to deal with the dynamic and cross-sectoral nature of coastal zone issues. Co-operation will lead to more effective use of limited resources, and in some cases cost savings.

The following initiative will promote increased skills among those with responsibilities affecting coastal zone management. The emphasis will not be on theoretical skills development alone: it will include enhancement of technical workplace skills.


In collaboration with State and Local Governments, the Commonwealth Government will implement a capacity-building program of professional development activities. The program will contain the following key elements:

3.4 The International Dimension

3.4.1 Global co-operation

As noted in Section 2.1, Australia has many obligations and engages in a number of activities in the coastal zone because of its international commitments (see Annexe D). These cover such matters as oceanic oil pollution, environmental data collection and service provision, coastal navigation, preservation of flora and fauna (including whales, dolphins, seals and migratory birds) and their habitats, and the conservation of World Heritage properties. Agreements may be bilateral (for example, the Japan-Australia Migratory Birds Agreement), regional (for example, the Convention for the Protection of the Natural Resources and Environment of the South Pacific Region) or global (for example, MARPOL, the International Convention for Prevention of Pollution from Ships).

Australia also recognises its responsibilities as a good international citizen. At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, Australia endorsed Agenda 21, Chapter 17 of which deals with ocean and coastal issues and commits Australia to the following, among other things:

Australia is also an original signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Australia has played a leading role in developing the International Maritime Organisation's International Guidelines on Ballast Water and is working towards a specific annex to MARPOL on this matter.

An example of Australia's commitment to the conservation of the world environment is the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance—the Ramsar Convention. Under this Convention Australia has listed 42 wetlands. There has, however, been concern for some time that these Ramsar wetlands are being increasingly pressured by development proposals and unwise land use. Consequently, the Commonwealth Government has provided funding so that management plans can be prepared for 17 of the sites.

Australia is an international leader in coral reef management and is a founding member of the International Coral Reef Initiative. This initiative seeks to provide for the sustainable management of coral reefs and related ecosystems. Australia has been actively involved in drafting the Framework for Action for the International Coral Reef Initiative which is expected to be ratified at the 1995 International Coral Reef Intergovernmental Meeting. This will make provision for improved management of coral reefs by building the management capacity of reef communities and improving research and monitoring.

To improve information about obligations arising from international agreements, the Commonwealth has funded preparation of Managing for the Future, a Local Government Guide by the Municipal Conservation Association. The guide gives step-by-step advice on how to successfully implement a local Agenda 21. A local Agenda 21 is a long-term strategic program for achieving sustainability in the twenty-first century. It will help local communities deal with economic development and employment, environment protection, and social justice concerns. Every local Agenda 21 reflects the needs, resources and aspirations of a local community in a global context.

There is a continuing need, particularly on the part of Local Government coastal managers, to clearly understand Australia's international obligations and what these mean for 'best practice' coastal decision making.


The Commonwealth, in consultation with the Australian Local Government Association, will prepare and promote the following:

3.4.2 Regional co-operation

The South-East Asia and Pacific regions contain some of the most beautiful and fragile coastlines in the world. For many in the region the interface between land and sea has a special meaning and importance: it is an integral part of their cultural heritage, it defines national identity, and it physically sustains them. In addition, economic viability within the region is largely dependent on use of the marine and coastal environment. Management arrangements that permit sustainable resource use and result in proper economic returns from coastal resources are critical to the welfare of countries in our region.

The South Pacific Forum has identified the need to develop information systems and strategies to support sustainable management of the coastal zones of member countries; it has also reiterated its concern that the small island nations of the South Pacific region are vulnerable to the effects of climate change and has identified them as a priority area for development of adaptive response strategies for future sea-level rise.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that impacts will occur through sea-level rise and shoreline erosion, changes in storm intensity and frequency, and saltwater intrusion into groundwater supplies. In 1991 the Panel released a common methodology for assessing the vulnerability of coastal areas to future sea-level rise and climate change. As a result of Australian trials of the methodology in Western Australia, on Cocos Island and in Kiribati, Australia presented a revised vulnerability assessment methodology to the 1993 World Coastal Conference.

This methodology has been supported by nations in our region because it encompasses broader economic, cultural and environmental values and is more sensitive to existing coastal management regimes. It places considerable emphasis on the strategic assessment of all change in the coastal zone, not just greenhouse-induced change. As well as dealing with mitigation of the effects of rises in sea level, this perspective offers local benefits associated with the consideration of resource vulnerability as part of all decision making. The methodology is now being tested in collaborative projects with State Governments and the Northern Territory Government.

The Commonwealth Government wishes to extend this initiative to support similar projects throughout the South Pacific, thus providing an opportunity to develop methodologies for vulnerability assessment relevant to the needs of South Pacific nations and to develop response measures appropriate to small island states.

Marine systems and effects on them often spread beyond national boundaries and management of marine environmental quality is necessarily a regional challenge.

Australia has made significant advances in dealing with its coastal problems. Although South-East Asian and Pacific countries differ greatly from Australia, the diversity of Australian geography means that problems confronted here might well be of interest to others. The Commonwealth Government sees effective expansion of co-operation in the Asia–Pacific region and pursuit of Australia's environmental interest in international forums such as the United Nations Environment Program as a means of promoting Australian expertise. For example, at the 1994 South Pacific Forum meeting the Prime Minister presented a booklet outlining Australian expertise in coastal matters.

Australia is involved in a number of regional forums that have a coastal and marine focus; the following are examples:

The bilateral Torres Strait Environment Management Committee has recommended the development of an integrated planning framework for the Torres Strait region. This would facilitate co-ordination between Australia and Papua New Guinea in fulfilling their obligations under the Torres Strait Treaty for the protection of the marine environment and of the traditional way of life and livelihood of the indigenous inhabitants.

The 10-year moratorium on mining and exploration of the seabed of the Torres Strait Protected Zone has been extended for a further three years. This extension will allow the development of an integrated natural resource management plan for Torres Strait. Australia will be seeking Papua New Guinea's agreement for the development of the plan.

Australia is a signatory to a number of other agreements affecting the region, including the Convention for the Protection of the Natural Resources and Environment of the South Pacific Region (SPREP Convention), which is an umbrella agreement for the protection, management and development of the marine and coastal environment of the South Pacific region.

A number of initiatives have also been developed to help promote Australian expertise in the region. The International Tropical Marine Centre is a collaborative venture between the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and James Cook University of North Queensland. Its purpose is to make available management, monitoring, research and training expertise to other countries with tropical marine environments. A consulting arrangement has been established, Australian Marine Science and Technology Limited, to provide access to the technical expertise of Australian government marine agencies, including the Australian Geological Survey Organisation, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the Royal Australian Navy Hydrographic Service and the broad research capacity of CSIRO.


The Commonwealth Government will continue to support South–East Asian and Pacific regional forums and promote exchanges of views about common problems. Development of training materials for the region and access to the technical expertise of Australian government marine agencies will continue to be a priority.

The Commonwealth Government will support the conduct of a number of coastal climate change vulnerability assessments in the South Pacific.

As part of its commitment to the Torres Strait Treaty, Australia will consult with Papua New Guinea to develop an integrated coastal and marine management planning framework for the Torres Strait region.