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Coastal Management in Australia introduces the background to the various coastal management systems operating in Australia and illustrates these with 'real world' examples from the different states and territories.
Each coastal State should consider establishing, or where necessary strengthening, appropriate coordinating mechanisms … for integrated management and sustainable development of coastal and marine areas and their resources, at both the local and national levels.
UNCED 1992, chapter 17.6
Global imperatives for coastal management
The above quote clearly illustrates the international importance of coastal and marine management. This is one of the major program areas dealt with in Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 (UNCED 1992), which is essentially the United Nations' blueprint for sustainable development (see page 207 for definition and discussion). At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), often referred to as the ‘Earth Summit’, held in Rio de Janiero in 1992, there was a recognition that the world was beginning to live beyond its ecological means and that rapid action was necessary to avert future disaster (UNCED 1992). In this global context, the coast is particularly important for three reasons.
First, most of the world's population lives around the coast. There have been various estimates for just how many people live around the coast, and these estimates will differ depending on what definitions of ‘the coast’ are used. Agenda 21 (17.3) stated that in 1992 more than half of the world's population lived within 60 km of the coast, and that by the year 2020 this proportion could rise to two thirds. Hinrichsen (1998) quotes a figure of 3.2 billion people living within 200 km of the coast, on about 10% of the Earth's land area, and two thirds of the world's population already living within 400 km of the coast.
The previous chapter noted the difficulty of finding a single definition for the Australian coast. This becomes more complex when we realise that the modern coast is not a static line, even though it is often used as boundary marker. While some changes are very visible to the human eye, more subtle changes that may be just as important are occurring all the time. For this reason it is necessary to consider the time context for any coastal processes so that we can provide useful information that is relevant to coastal management.
At time scales of hundreds of millions of years, continental evolutionary processes have less influence on the coast, although many coastal forms may have resulted from older geological processes. For example, the occurrence of large granite erratic boulders along the South Australian gulf coastline does not relate to modern coastal processes but to glacial processes 250 million years ago. Since that time, Australia has split away from Antarctica and is currently drifting north at a rate of approximately 6 cm per year. A coastal classification based on the longer time scale processes of plate tectonics is discussed below.
At time scales of millions of years there have been major changes, such as the rapid climatic and associated sea-level changes of the last two million years during the Quaternary period.
The first chapter of this book examined some of the global imperatives for coastal management, pointing out that (1) most people live on or close to the world's coast, (2) the global population has a high dependency on coastal resources, and (3) human impact on the coast is already at significant levels and is increasing. The second chapter used a number of Australian coastal examples to stress the need to understand coastal processes in order to formulate effective coastal management strategies. The third chapter then illustrated various forms of human impact on the Australian coast, and noted that many of our coastal problems related to either increased human pressure, a poor understanding of coastal processes and/or inadequate planning and management.
This chapter turns to coastal management principles and practices, and examines how these operate within the complexity of the different roles of Australian governments and interactions with different community and interest groups. This is further complicated by the range of different legislative mechanisms and instruments for dealing with coastal management in each jurisdiction.
The need for management
Given that there is clearly a need for effective coastal management in Australia, how do we go about it? What is coastal management, and what is the difference between that and coastal planning? Are there well-defined methodologies or guidelines for coastal management, and what is considered ‘best practice’ in coastal management?
The answers to these questions are not simple, since coastal management is not just about dealing with coastal impacts from identified coastal resource uses.
The previous chapter focused on the importance of understanding coastal processes in order to better inform coastal management. Although the emphasis was on the processes themselves, the eight coastal examples linked the understanding of coastal processes to the management issues for each of the respective examples. This chapter, however, attempts to place a focus on the human impact rather than the processes but, as will become apparent, it is necessary to place this in context of the coastal processes that are being affected by the impact.
Coastal impacts from our cities
The great majority of Australians live on or near the coast (see figure 3.1) in the east of the continent, in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. To a lesser extent there is a population concentration at the south-western tip of the continent. Australia has been an urban country for 200 years, and at the start of the 21st century about 70% of its population lives in urban centres of more than 100 000 people. Almost all these centres are at the coast. This includes all capital cities (except Canberra) and large urban centres such as Cairns, Townsville, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, and Wollongong. Smaller towns and cities are also mainly at the coast, and today more than 80% of Australians live within the coastal zone.
The RAC Coastal Zone Enquiry showed that more than half of the total population growth in Australia between 1971 to 1991 (see table 3.1) took place in capital cities, and that growth rates were most rapid in the immediate coastal divisions (RAC 1993b).
This book provides an introduction to Australian coastal management, primarily for university students. It will also be of use to government employees and coastal planning consultants in drawing linkages between coastal processes and management. The book will give a better understanding of Australian coastal issues in a global context and also provide an overview of current Australian coastal management practices. It draws heavily on case studies from different states in order to make the text as relevant and practical as possible.
The first chapter of this book attempts to place Australian coastal management in a global context by outlining the importance of the world's coasts for humans and illustrating the international concern for unsustainable coastal resource use and development-related pressure on coastal ecosystems. This chapter clearly outlines how there is a growing international consensus of the need for integrated coastal management as the most effective way forward for the sustainable use of coastal resources. The factors influencing the recent reform of Australian coastal management are then examined. It is noted that there have been significant international influences, such as global change, integrated resource management, sustainable development, and a call for greater community participation. This chapter then outlines some of the major changes to Australian coastal management that have taken place in the 1990s and notes the complexity of management responsibilities and legislative mechanisms between the Commonwealth, state and local governments. This introductory chapter of the book then asks the question ‘What is the coast?’ and illustrates the diversity of scientific and management definitions, concluding with management definitions of the Australian coastline.
This chapter attempts to take stock of what has happened in Australian coastal management up to the end of 2001, particularly the major changes that took place in the 1990s, and comment on the prospects for managing the coast in the 21st century. The book has, so far, focused on four themes:
global imperatives for integrated coastal management and the Australian response
the need to understand biophysical coastal processes before attempting to find solutions for anthropogenic coastal problems in Australia
the scale and magnitude of human impact on the Australian coast which raises a number of generic management issues together with the need for localised or regional approaches to specific pressures on coastal resources
the complexity of coastal management in Australia, involving different roles for the Commonwealth, state, territory and local governments, together with community participation.
First, this chapter of the book examines the current state of coastal management in Australia and comments on selected recent international and national discussions which could produce further change. Some of these are global initiatives such as the Rio + 10 Coastal Conference which took place in Paris in December 2001, or national developments such as recent political discussions of the coastal elements of the future National Heritage trust (Mark II) Program for 2002 onwards. By the time this book hits the shelves, there should also be further comment on coastal management from the UNCED 2002 Conference in Johannesburg, as a follow-up to the significant ‘Earth Summit’ held in Rio de Janiero 10 years earlier.
The Australian coast and its thousands of beaches have an iconic status in the Australian culture and way of life. Most Australians live on or near the coast where there is continuing population and development pressure, particularly along non-metropolitan coastlines. There is also a heavy use of coastal resources and added pressure from recreational users. We need to understand how these activities affect coastal processes so that we can limit our impacts. If we can avoid changing the natural balance of processes as far as possible we are more likely to maintain the iconic status of the Australian coast.
There are some good examples where human impact on the Australian coast has been managed quite successfully but the mechanisms for coastal management vary considerably between the various state and territory governments. There have also been numerous coastal inquiries into how we manage the coast but by the turn of the century there was still no single comprehensive overview of Australian coastal management. In order to fill that void, this book was published in 2003. It has had favourable reviews and has been popular as a text.