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Resource Assessment Commission Coastal Zone Inquiry - Final Report November 1993

Resource Assessment Commission, November 1993
ISBN 0 64429457

Chapter 4 Current Coastal Zone Management

4.0.1 Arrangements for managing the resources of the coastal zone are complex. Many government agencies are involved, as are community-based bodies and industries. Governments rely principally on regulatory mechanisms, and to some extent economic and financial instruments. The complexity of the arrangements is a function of the need to respond to several difficult matters-the intricate biophysical systems of the zone, the diversity of resources in the zone, and the wide range of values held by users of coastal zone resources-as well as the fact that coastal zone issues invariably span the responsibilities of more than one sphere of government.

4.0.2 This chapter provides an overview of the management mechanisms currently used by governments in the coastal zone. Section 4.1 describes the legislative framework and Section 4.2 describes existing regulatory mechanisms. Section 4.3 examines the funding of coastal zone management and Section 4.4 describes the use of economic and financial instruments. Government institutional arrangements are summarised in Section 4.5. In Section 4.6 the Inquiry puts forward its conclusions about the existing management of coastal zone resources. The roles of industry, the community and indigenous peoples in coastal zone management are discussed in Chapters 9 and 10. Boxes 4.1 to 4.5 provide illustrations of the problems of coastal zone management and their implication for the coastal zone.

4.0.3 In addition to the sources of information used by the Inquiry generally-submissions, evidence and research-the reports of the case studies conducted by the Inquiry in collaboration with the states provide additional insights into the management mechanisms discussed in this chapter (RAC 1993j, 1993h, 1993n, 1993p, 1993r, 1993t).

4.1 The Legislative Framework

4.1.1 Legislation provides the framework for the allocation, use and management of coastal zone resources. It is used by governments to make regulations and to establish agencies with responsibilities for programs, policies, agreements and direct management of coastal zone resources.

4.1.2 Australia's federal system embodies a 'concurrent and non-hierarchical' division of powers between the state and Commonwealth governments. The powers of the Commonwealth Government are set out in the Constitution and all powers not specified or implied by the Constitution rest with the states. States may legislate under concurrent powers but when a law of a state is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth the law of the Commonwealth prevails and the law of the state, to the extent of its inconsistency, is invalid. Local government powers are conferred by state legislatures, although local government is entrenched in the federal political culture. (s. 109 of the Constitution; Galligan & Fletcher 1993, pp.1, 2). Information Paper No. 1, Government Approaches to Coastal Zone Resource Management, describes in some detail the legislative framework in each jurisdiction (RAC 1992b).

4.1.3 Although the Commonwealth has passed and administers numerous Acts with direct implications for the management of the coastal zone, the legislative power for management of coastal zone resources lies primarily with state governments (state governments are responsible for 72 per cent of national expenditure on management of the coastal zone-see Section 4.3). The states have enacted legislation that creates laws on such matters as development control, planning, beach protection, fisheries and forest management, environment protection, the establishment and management of national parks and reserves, mariculture development, establishment of port authorities, resource allocation and management, and the management of most public land in the coastal zone. State legislation often also defines general powers under which government agencies act and frequently devolves to agencies high levels of independence to provide significant services such as water supply, sewage treatment, port services, provision of roads, management of pollution, and management of national parks.

4.1.4 Some states have supplemented planning and environment protection legislation with statutes specifically aimed at coastal protection, including provisions for administrative procedures and arrangements. In South Australia the Coast Protection Act 1972 establishes the Coastal Protection Board to protect the coast from erosion, deterioration, pollution or misuse on both private and public land and to engage in environmental restoration. The Coastal Protection Bill currently being considered by the Queensland Government consolidates into a single approvals process the approval provisions of the Beach Protection Act, the Canals Act and the Harbours Act. It also provides for the preparation of state and regional coastal management plans. In Victoria the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 establishes local foreshore committees of management.

4.1.5 State legislation, including Local Government Acts, confers on local authorities powers to administer their jurisdictions and to make by-laws. Functions typically delegated to local authorities by state governments relate to public health, waste disposal, swimming, foreshore management, tree preservation, and the management of land. Local governments are not usually responsible for the administration of legislation directed specifically at coastal zone management, but they are involved in the administration of much related legislation. For example, local land use plans are usually prepared by local councils in accordance with the requirements of state planning legislation; in some cases they are used to implement policies related to coastal areas.

Box 4.1 The problems of management: example 1-urban development

Canal estate developments in south-east Queensland

The high concentration of population in the coastal zone has resulted in an increasing demand for coastal residential canal estates. There has been a proliferation of canal estate developments in Queensland since the early 1950s. Many of these developments have had significant impacts on the environment. For example, they occupy low-lying land, resulting in the destruction of wetland habitats that provide the transitional zone between terrestrial and marine ecosystems and the subsequent loss of species diversity. In addition, waterways in the estates often contain high levels of pollutants.

The environmental and economic benefits of wetland habitats have been discarded in favour of economic gains from canal developments. A lack of knowledge of the impacts of such developments and the absence of an approval system that adequately assesses the impacts of canal estates have resulted in a number of unsustainable developments. Existing canal estates also present continuing management difficulties; for example, the maintenance of canals and revetment walls is a major cost for local government authorities. The Gold Coast City Council has recognised these difficulties and intense developments will require more precise planning guidelines and controls.

Management of coastal shacks in South Australia

In the last 30 years a considerable number of shacks have been established on leased Crown land along the Yorke Peninsula coastline. These shacks have been developed as cheap holiday homes. Although they were built on legal leases, many of the shacks were poorly sited-in some cases built on the beach itself or very close to it. Many of them were poorly built also with inadequate sewage and power facilities. Significant management problems were caused by, or associated with, the shacks, including coastal erosion and dune degradation, flooding, reduced public access and reduced amenity.

Despite numerous attempts to deal with the problem, the management of coastal shack settlements and the consequent impacts on the coastal environment are continuing management problems for rural local governments and state coastal management agencies. For example, in response to erosion problems, shore protection works were constructed, which are more likely to accelerate erosion.

Development of subdivisions in Tasmania

Numerous housing developments along the Tasmanian coastline-for example, in George Town Municipality-have failed to take account of the ecological and landscape sensitivities of the area. Some of these developments have proceeded with a disregard for, or lack of awareness of, the environmental consequences that might be associated with development. Problem areas include the impact of mobile dunes on residential areas, pollution, and expensive continuing maintenance requirements associated with increased recreational use of beaches. The development of coastal subdivisions has occurred with little attention being given to adequate street construction, drainage and sewerage systems, water reticulation and refuse management. The lack of adequate infrastructure has caused a number of problems: erosion from drainage discharges; pollution in various forms; damage arising from disturbance to vegetation; dumping of wastes; damage to inshore fisheries and wetlands; and so on.

The lack of a long-term strategic approach, coupled with the desire to develop land at minimal cost, is creating management difficulties for councils in the area. The patterns of development resulting from this ad hoc approach may also hamper the efficient provision of infrastructure services.

Sources: R C Brisbane (Submission 159), Gold Coast City Council (1992), Queensland Conservation
Council (Submission 298), RAC (1993n), Municipality of George Town
(Submissions 69, 359).

4.1.6 The legislative framework is constantly evolving to accommodate changing circumstances and community attitudes. Several states are currently engaged in legislative reforms affecting coastal zone management. The Land Use Planning and Approvals Package being considered by the Tasmanian Government is intended to provide a framework for implementing the Government's policy of sustainable development, economic growth and a more efficient approvals process. Substantial legislative reform in Queensland, including the proposed Coastal Protection Act, is aimed at achieving more effective and integrated management of natural resources, reflecting the Queensland Government's holistic approach to the issue. In South Australia the recently passed Development Act 1993 takes over the development control functions of a number of Acts including the Coast Protection Act, which is currently under review. The South Australian Government is also in the process of preparing a supplementary development plan to insert uniform statewide objectives and principles into each coastal council's development plan.

4.1.7 Despite recent attempts by state governments to consolidate and update legislation, there remains a plethora of Acts affecting coastal zone management. It is typical of the organisation of all states that important responsibilities for managing the resources of the coastal zone remain dispersed among several government departments, agencies and bodies.