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Natural processes

Objective – Management consequences arising from the dynamic and fragile nature of coastal environments should be recognised and acted upon. This includes taking into account fluctuations in sea level and climate, changes in shoreline position, and species mobility within coastal ecosystems.

Water quality

Objective – The quality of coastal waters should be maintained or restored, so that there is no significant detrimental impact on the integrity of coastal ecosystems or on water-based economic and recreational activities.


Objective – Local communities, and local and state governments have an obligation to protect biodiversity in the coastal zone. The biological diversity of marine and terrestrial ecosystems and natural processes within coastal biophysical regions should be maintained.

Equity access and community involvement

Objective – Coastal resources should be available for fair and equitable public and commercial use so that their use optimises the long-term benefit derived of the community. Adequate and appropriate public access to the coast should be maintained so that a range of recreation opportunities can be enjoyed, provided that they are consistent with these objectives. Suitable management practices should be established to protect coastal resources and public safety. Informed, appropriate public participation in open, consultative decisionmaking about the management of coastal resources should be ensured. Arrangements for attempting to resolve competing demands or aspirations should be established.

Under each of these objectives are a series of more specific guidelines. For example, under the water quality objective there may be a guideline that no outfalls for domestic or commercial waste should be constructed where any feasible alternatives exist, or the dumping of industrial waste at sea should not occur. Under the objective for natural processes may be guidelines such as giving protection to coastal wetlands, or not removing sand from the beach system if this would interfere with the maintenance of natural processes.

These good practice guidelines may be adopted to varying degrees by individual state agencies. In fact many pieces of state planning legislation have begun or have already incorporated the concept of ESD into their planning system. The mechanism for incorporating coastal objectives and principles into planning varies from state to state. In South Australia, for example, key coastal objectives and principles used to be contained within regional management plans. However, these plans lacked any statutory status, so that although they

Figure 4.7 Planning zones for the Port Elliot area of the South Australian coast, illustrating permitted uses for different coastal areas

Planning zones for the Port Elliot area of the South Australian coast, illustrating permitted uses for different coastal areas

Source: modified from SA Department of Transport, Urban Planning and the Arts 2002

contained useful background information they were less useful in terms of development control. For this reason the coastal objectives and principles were incorporated into the South Australian Development Plan, so that they must be considered along with the use of zoning for development control purposes. Zoning divides the coast into specific areas, each with its own objectives and principles and its own set of permitted and non-peruitted land uses. This is illustrated in figure 4.7. Apart from the use of planning objectives and principles, it is also useful to examine the planning approval process in more detail, using a case study.

Box 4.3 Case study: Coastal planning in Victoria

The Victorian planning system has recently undergone major changes (J. Thwaites 1999). These include changes to planning schemes to reduce complexity and enhance consistency in state zoning provisions (Minister for Planning and Local Government 1998). The planning system applies to the entire state, but there is specific reference to coastal development (see below), with an aim to integrate principles of ESD into the planning process. As outlined by Thwaites (1999) a new integrated planning system for the coast is catered for. For example: 'The Government is committed to achieving for the first time an integrated state and local assessment process for use and development proposals in the coastal environment across public and private land. This means achieving better integration between the requirements under the Planning and Environment Act and the Coastal Management Act 1995.

Thwaites went on to show how this requires a coordinated effort between the Department of Infrastructure and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment. An important part of the new integrated approach is the resolution of planning issues in the nearshore and marine environment. This is significant in temis of the global imperatives for integrated coastal and marine management . There is also the need for agreement on the appropriate controls for foreshore areas. The Regional Coastal and Marine Planning projects that have commenced across the Victorian coast are part of the mechanisms for progressing these initiatives. 'The projects are operating from Port Phillip Bay through the Association of Bayside Municipalities, and in the eastern and south-west regions' (J. Thwaites 1999, p. 24).

Within the aims to integrate the Planning and Environment Act and the Coastal Management Act, 'appropriate development' has also been defined in the Coastal Strategy (VCC 1997, p. 33). In addition to the siting and design guidelines, for example, strategy states that appropriate development should:

• be in keeping writh the principles of this Strategy and be consistent with siting and design guidelines

• satisfy the requirement of coastal planning strategies and plans, and relevant planning schemes

• not have serious and permanent negative impact on the environment or the natural processes, either on or off site

• be sensitively designed so that it visually complements the surrounding coastal landscape

• meet a demonstrated need

• result in upgrading or improving existing infrastructure where appropriate

• serves its intended primary function

• not lead to further pressure on existing infrastructure and utilities in the area

• result in measurable enhancement of the existing coastal environment

• not create a public risk, or management costs in terms of maintaining or removing private facilities and structures in the event of failure of the project

• generate a net public benefit to the community in both the short and long term

• maintain or enhance public enjoyment of the coast.

Environmental criteria are clearly used in this approach, and planning is required to 'recognise the dynamic nature of the coast and shall act to reduce and minimise long term risk to structures, assets and coastal values. Particular attention needs to be given to the identification of dynamic systems and potential risks and impacts from eroding cliffs or shorelines, interference with coastal processes, and rising sea levels and climate change' (VCC 1997).

The definition of appropriate coastal development, and the linkages between the planning and coastal system, are significant in the light of the strong development control powers contained within the Coastal Management Act. In this respect, the Minister responsible for the Coastal Management Act has the power of consent for proposals on coastal Crown land (s.37 and s.38 of the Act). For example: 'A person must not use or develop coastal Crown land unless the written consent of the Minister has first been obtained' (s.37) and:

If the responsible authority under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 gives the Minister the Secretary or the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, as a referral authority under that Act, a copy of an application under that Act for a permit for a use or development of coastal Crown land, that application is deemed also to be an application under this Division for that use or development (s.38(2)).

Within these rights, the Minister, after considering the Coastal Strategy and relevant Coastal Action Plan (including the activity nodes and environmental guidelines), has the power of refusal under s.40 of the Coastal Management Act.

There is also a cross-reference under s.61(3) of the Planning and Environment Act, whereby:

The responsible authority

(a) must not decide to grant a permit to use or develop coastal Crown land within the meaning of the Coastal Management Act 1995 unless the Minister administering that Act has consented under that Act to the use or development; and

(b) must refuse to grant the permit if the Minister administering that Act has refused or is deemed to have refused under that Act to consent to that use or development.

This is particularly significant because 96% of coastal land in Victoria is public land (NRE 2000). Clearly, the powers of development control in the Coastal Management Act are explicitly linked to Victoria's planning and environmental impact assessment system. This contrasts to South Australia where,

Figure 4.8 Integrated approvals process for private and public land

Integrated approvals process for private and public land

Source: VCC 1997, p.53

for example, powers of development control and the links between coast protection legislation and planning legislation are less clear.

Thus, a more strategic and coordinated approach is being attempted, but this approach does provide much greater certainty to developers at a higher 'plan' level of decision-making which trickles down to the 'project' level of decision-making. The planning process for all types of developments is illustrated in figure 4.8.


Coastal planning has been defined here as the formulation of coastal policies, plans and programs that promote the sustainable use of Australia's coastal resources. However, the actual mechanisms and planning instruments to achieve this differ around Australia. Some planning is conducted with longterm objectives across broad coastal areas or regions. This type of planning is usually strategic in nature and can provide the framework for more detailed localised planning in individual councils. At the other end of the scale, some coastal planning is more related to land use and development control involving simple zoning plans for development and land use in coastal areas.

Each state has its own planning legislation which is linked to varying degrees to specific coastal issues. The Victorian system provides a good example of where there are strong linkages with broader coastal plans, environmental impact assessment mechanisms, and an integrated state-wide approach to coastal planning. At the national level, there has been a recognition of the need for good practice guidelines in coastal planning which adopt the key principles of ecologically sustainable development.

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