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Coastal environmental management systems

Environmental management in Australia is guided by the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD). The strategy defines ESD as a pattern of' development that improves the total quality of life, both now and in the future, in a way that maintains the ecological processes on which life depends.

Source: Commonwealth of Australia (1996a)

There are as many coastal management systems as circumstances and managers demand. This chapter examines an approach to management that is adaptive and that stresses sustainability and the information needs of managers. This approach attempts to reflect both a number of initiatives by the Australian Local Government Association (see Alexandra & White 1997, Thorman & Heath 1997), as well as the local environment project of the Australian National University Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies (see Brown 1995).

Commitments to sustainable management systems


• As was shown at the start of this chapter, there is no national or state legislation to ensure an integrated approach to management of coastal areas, comparable with, say, the New Zealand Resource Management Act 1991. However, Australia committed itself to Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) at the Rio Summit in 1992, and the Commonwealth and all states, territories and local governments have endorsed the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (see page 252).

Closely linked to this is the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biodiversity, which has the goals of maintenance of ecosystems and processes and the protection of species.


Sustainable development is development that delivers basic environmental, economic, and social services to all without threatening the viability of the systems upon which they depend.

A model that attempts to address this is outlined below. It is adapted from Dore and Woodhill (1999) and from ICLEI (1996).

Figure 4.11 Adaptive Management Systems

Adaptive Management Systems

Source: modified from Dore & Woodhill 1999, and ICLEI 1996

This process is iterative in as far as the information gained in monitoring and reviewing progress is used both to adapt in the short term and to revise strategies and actions. The process can be referred to as one of adaptive management: it recognises that strategies, programs and plans should be flexible, adaptive and responsive to learning from experience.

Such a process demands reliable information for adaptive response.

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