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.
Since it went out of print in 2009 there have been a number of requests for copies of the book and questions about when we will be writing a new book. In order to meet the immediate demand we arranged to make the book available as a reprint through The University of Adelaide Press, which could produce a cost effective print version in addition to offering an e-publishing option making it accessible to a wider audience.
The next task will be to prepare a revised edition over the next year or two which will incorporate recent and proposed changes to coastal management, particularly at the state and territory level of government, since the book was written. These can be accessed easily through the various government websites or through links on national coastal websites such as the recently formed Australian Coastal Society australiancoastalsociety. org, which takes an advocacy role for sustainable management of the Australian coast. Notwithstanding these changes, the fundamental structure of the book remains relevant as it provides the global context to integrated coastal management, a background to understanding Australian coastal processes, and 'real world' case studies of how coastal management operates in the various states and territories.
However, since the book was published the national government has become re-engaged in the debate over what is the most effective way forward for managing the Australian coast. There have been numerous national inquiries into coastal management, with the most recent parliamentary report, Managing our Coastal Zone in a Changing Climate, appearing in late 2009. In fact it was the same parliamentary standing committee, which produced the first national coastal inquiry in 1980, almost 30 years earlier. Most of these national inquiries call for a greater level of national involvement and coordination in coastal management but so far there has been a lack of significant action. It is interesting that the most recent parliamentary coastal inquiry into coastal management had as its sub-title 'the time to act is now'. It also re-iterated the calls for national co-ordination for Australian coastal management. It remains to be seen what action will come from this largely bi-partisan parliamentary review.
The national government has also raised awareness of the coastal risks we face from the prospect of predicted climate change, particularly the threat of increased sea-level rise. In early 2010 the government released a report Climate Change risks to the Australia's coast, which not only provides a background to the variable nature of the Australian coast and coastal processes but outlines the different risk levels illustrating the consequences of these for coastal management and planning. Most states have now incorporated sea-level rise predictions into coastal planning regulations and while there has been some recent debate over what sea-level rise figure to adopt for different state planning jurisdictions, it is interesting to note that the highest figure, as described in this book, has been in place in South Australia for some 18 years.
Brian Caton and I wrote this book from our own perspective of a long-standing interest in the coast, extensive coastal research on different parts of the Australian coast, involvement with international coastal research and organizations, many years of academic teaching in coastal processes management, and government experience in dealing with 'real world' coastal management, policies and regulations. It was the latter involvement with government, which made us realise that there is often a gap between coastal science and policy and that an understanding of both is needed for effective management. For that reason, our book provides an international context to coastal management before providing an essential introduction to an understanding of coastal processes. The book then examines human impact on the Australian coast. Collectively these first three sections comprise over half of the book.
The main section of the book gives an overview of Australian coastal management, including the various government roles and responsibilities and the role of the community. It then compares the different legislative mechanisms, policies, strategies and plans that are used in the different states and territories. It is here that there has been some change and the reader is encouraged to examine relevant websites. The final section of the book attempts to look toward the future and it is interesting to note that the debate around issues such as national coordination of coastal management and mechanisms for incorporating climate change into coastal planning are as current today as when the book was first published.
Adelaide, May 2010