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The Commonwealth Coastal Policy

Commonwealth of Australia, May 1995

4 Administration

4.1 Co-ordination of Commonwealth Activities in the Coastal Zone

The foregoing chapters identify the range of responsibilities the Commonwealth has in relation to the coastal zone. Annexe A lists relevant Commonwealth programs. These programs have effects in the coastal zone, some of which may not be immediately apparent to program managers.

Reports of the most recent inquiries into coastal management—the House of Representatives' Injured Coastline and the final report of the Resource Assessment Commission's Coastal Zone Inquiry—both identified a lack of co-ordination of government initiatives affecting the coast as one of the major obstacles to improved coastal management. Well-intentioned programs administered by different government agencies can be counterproductive or overlapping, thus limiting the likelihood of achieving the best outcomes with limited financial resources.

The complexity of modern government makes it increasingly difficult, but not impossible, to achieve the required level of integration. Approaching a solution does not necessarily mean creating a single 'coastal department'. The range of management tasks for which such an agency would be responsible would necessitate a division of its activities, and the same sorts of co-ordination problems would arise again.

Existing agencies and departments have the capacity to implement the initiatives identified in this document, but steps need to be taken to prevent unco-ordinated, inefficient and counterproductive activities. A mechanism is also necessary to ensure that this Policy does not become static or hollow.

This can be achieved in three ways: good communications between Commonwealth departments and agencies that have responsibilities in the coastal zone; recognition by these departments and agencies of their responsibilities for achieving better coastal management outcomes; and identification of one agency with a particular responsibility for promoting sound coastal management.

An interdepartmental coastal management committee (the Coastal IDC) was established in 1991 within the Commonwealth Government for a number of reasons:

It is proposed that the Coastal IDC be given a role broader than policy co-ordination. It would be renamed the Commonwealth Coastal Co-ordinating Committee and given new terms of reference. Membership of the Committee will be drawn from those departments with an interest in coastal issues, among them the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, the Department of Primary Industries and Energy, the Department of Housing and Regional Development, the Department of Tourism, the Department of Industry, Science and Technology, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the Department of Defence, the Department of Finance and the Department of Transport.

The Committee will provide a forum to assist in the co-ordination of Commonwealth activities that affect the coastal zone, and it will provide advice on coastal management issues. Secretariat support for the Committee will be provided by the Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories.

While all Commonwealth departments with responsibilities in the coastal zone must, in exercising these responsibilities, take into account the Government's stated objectives and principles for coastal management, the Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories is charged with the lead coastal management role within the Commonwealth. This means that it has an additional responsibility to advocate sustainable use of the coastal zone. It will also be the first point of contact for any members of the public or representatives of other spheres of government seeking information and advice about the Commonwealth's coastal management initiatives and activities.


A Commonwealth Coastal Co-ordinating Committee will be formally established to provide advice on coastal issues and to facilitate integration of the coastal activities of Commonwealth departments. The Committee will have the following terms of reference:

4.2 Working With Other Spheres of Government

The Commonwealth's goal is to enhance the overall management of Australia's coastal zone in a way that is ecologically sustainable, so that the coast can continue to underpin the Australian way of life. But, successful management involves all spheres of government. The Commonwealth recognises the roles and responsibilities that State and Local Governments have in the coastal zone, and it is committed to working wherever possible with the other spheres of government to achieve sound management outcomes.

The Commonwealth has established formal partnerships with other spheres of government to promote better co-ordination of urban and regional development. Such co-operation has been pursued through participation in various ministerial forums and directly through programs such as Building Better Cities and Integrated Local Area Planning. More recently, the Commonwealth has agreed to enter into an agreement with the Queensland Government and the South East Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils on the implementation of the Growth Management Framework for South East Queensland, SEQ 2001. This in effect means that the Commonwealth will support the broad vision for development in the region, as set out in the SEQ 2001 Regional Outline Plan, and will strive to ensure that its activities are consistent with this vision. The resulting improved intergovernmental co-ordination will significantly help manage the impact of urban growth on sensitive coastal and hinterland areas. The Commonwealth has indicated a willingness to negotiate similar agreements with other States.

As part of the process of developing this Policy, the Government negotiated extensively with State and Local Governments on co-operative actions to deal with coastal issues that are intergovernmental in nature.

It is necessary to establish a mechanism for providing advice on the intergovernmental component of this Policy and for dealing with emerging coastal management issues affecting more than one government. The Government will therefore invite all State Governments, the Northern Territory Government and the Australian Local Government Association to participate in an Intergovernmental Coastal Technical Group consisting of representatives with appropriate coastal management expertise. Secretariat support for this group will be provided by the Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories.


State Governments, the Northern Territory Government and the Australian Local Government Association will be invited to participate in an Intergovernmental Coastal Technical Group. The Group will monitor implementation of the intergovernmental component of Commonwealth coastal programs and provide advice on emerging coastal management issues that affect more than one government. The following terms of reference are proposed for the Group:

4.3 Review and Evaluation

Ensuring that the coast is used in a way that retains its value for future generations is a challenge that should not be underestimated. The coastal zone is an extremely dynamic environment, and the demands that we make of it are continually changing. As some issues are resolved others will arise to challenge the skills of those involved in managing the coastal zone.

Development of this Policy and the subsequent implementation of the initiatives contained in it are only the beginning. The Policy should not be seen as the end of the Government's commitment to sound management of the coastal zone. There will be a continuing need to monitor progress and to identify further actions to resolve problems that might arise in the future or to modify our management responses to problems not adequately resolved by this Policy.

Accordingly, the Government will keep this Policy and its implementation under regular review. Principal responsibility for monitoring emerging coastal management issues and progress with the Policy's implementation will rest with the Commonwealth Coastal Co-ordinating Committee. The Committee will seek views on the Policy and its effectiveness from relevant bodies, including the National Coastal Advisory Committee and the Intergovernmental Coastal Technical Group.

After three years the Policy will undergo a major evaluation to determine its effectiveness in achieving the Government's objectives for the use of the coast. This evaluation will provide the information needed to ensure that the Government's coastal management objectives are being met.


The Commonwealth Coastal Policy and its implementation will be constantly monitored by the Commonwealth Coastal Co-ordinating Committee with advice from the National Coastal Advisory Committee. After three years the Policy will undergo a major evaluation.