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Information systems

Australia lacks the integrated national systems and databases to measure environmental quality, manage it, and evaluate the effectiveness of that management. Until these deficiencies are rectified, we will remain unable to truly answer the question of whether our pattern of development is really sustainable (SEAC 1996, p. ES-5).

The efficiency of an ongoing coastal management system depends upon its information systems. Unless there is adequate collection, storage, and retrieval of reliable data that is available to managers, stakeholders, and the community, confidence in the system is eroded and costs are incurred that could have been avoided. Unless there is adequate feedback on triggers, targets, and the effects

A reasonable target within your overall objective; quantified if possible

Actions to meet this target (RES)

The measures which show you are carrying out appropriate processes to address the issue




Support EPAto ensure regular review of prevention measures to minimise impact

Investigate feasibility of local oil spill response capability

Manage access through vulnerable reserves

Establish and maintain a sustainable car park provision

Support public access to foreshore Support MOSS concept of a coastal linear park through appropriate development controls

Establish funds to acquire and maximise the extent of reserves through Open Space Grants

Identify significant 'linkage' areas Seek to acquire 'pocket parks' to enhance coastal reserves

* Hale, A. 1996, Strategy for a Sustainable Southern Region, Adelaide Southern Region of Councils (refers to indicator chosen).

Source: Alexandra et al. 1998, p. 20

of management actions, the system does not work sustainably. However, often management decisions must be made simply on the information that is available at the time. Kenchington (1993) pointed out that management frequently needs information within a far shorter time than science can provide it; or if the information has been gathered, it may not be available in a form accessible to managers. Clearly, managers and scientists constantly need dialogue on priorities for research, as well as dissemination of information.

The ALGA Regional Environmental Indicators Project (Alexandra & White 1997) brought together, from a series of pilot indicator projects, the general characteristics of an ideal information system to serve the needs of sustainable management:

1 Accessible – by a range of agencies and community groups

2 Flexible – can be applied at various scales; can be aggregated or disaggregated to regions and subregions; can be aggregated or disaggregated by information classes

3 Open – to involvement by agency and community monitoring groups. Can be used to identify these groups

4 Integrated – can be used to integrate and correlate information from outside the region

5 Spatial – can be used to display various data sets over various base maps. The workings of such a system would provide a number of significant benefits, assuming the following working characteristics:

• store, analyse, retrieve, and display regional environmental data

• gather primary data that has been collected using standard methods, measured using consistent units of measurement, and recorded using uniform, consistent terminology and attribute definitions

• automatically check records as they are entered to ensure that logical sequences have been followed, that necessary items are present, that specific values lie within valid ranges, and that relationships between items are within acceptable limits

• provide secure but readily available database access to regional councils, community environmental monitoring groups, government agencies, industry, schools, community groups, and the general public

• easy to use, preferably through a simple geographic information system interface, whereby users can use a map to identify areas of interest and interrogate the system straightforwardly to obtain the data required

• able to present time-series data in tables, charts, and reports in a variety of formats so that trends can be easily determined, and comparisons made against regional, state/territory, and national guidelines and standards

• provide hard copy as well as electronic forms of output that can be quickly imported into other computer-based applications

• provide for a standard data interchange format so that data can be sent to, and received from, data seekers and providers with little or no processing required

• provide a variety of statistical tools for assessing data, including graphical as well as non-graphical methods of analysis

• include a facility for attaching interpretive or contextual information to data so that users can obtain scientific and technical information on its significance. This may include reference to published reports or national and state/territory guidelines (adapted from Cugley 1994).

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are especially significant in their ability to support local and regional coastal management systems because of their capacity to process and display large amounts of data on a spatial basis.

G1S has the capacity to:

• record, store, and integrate data on a spatial basis and facilitate the communication and sharing of this data

• access existing spatial systems and reference sets and to record store and integrate data to these systems

• geo-reference site-specific information to the national grid and various published map series

• map the results of regional or local inventories, audits, and state of the environment reporting

• make site-specific information readily available for day-to-day management purposes by means of a location search

• create graphic images to highlight issues, explain and interpret data, and prompt responses

• create and display customised maps, displays, and submissions.

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