OPINION – A New Marine and Coastal Management Act for Victoria

By Jon Hickman, Chair – Victorian Coastal Council 

logoThe Act that established the current coastal governance system in Victoria, the Coastal Management Act 1995, is now twenty years old and, whilst it has lasted well, changes are needed to ensure the legislative framework that governs the coast meets the challenges of the next twenty years.

The Victorian Coastal Strategy 2014 (VCS 2014)VCS_2014 produced by the Victorian Coastal Council (VCC), and endorsed by the former and current Victorian governments, identified Managing Coastal Land and Infrastructure as one of five key issues to be addressed prior to the development of the 2019 iteration of the VCS.

To this end the VCC has published a discussion paper on coastal governance. The paper – its Interim Position Paper on Coastal Governance (IPP) – aims to stimulate discussion around how the complex Victorian system of governance of coastal land and infrastructure might be improved.

Whilst the IPP is Victorian in focus a number of the issues that it addresses have broader relevance.  For this reason we are encouraging coastal stakeholders from around Australia to read, and provide their input to, the further development of the IPP and consequently to the development of the new Victorian Marine and Coastal Management Act.  There is an opportunity for the states, working together, to produce a better set of coastal governance arrangements for Australia than we presently have.

Publication of the IPP also provides the opportunity to involve the public in discussion around better arrangements for coastal planning, management and for providing the infrastructure required to both protect the coast and provide for the needs of our growing population. This is in accord with the one of the objectives of the Coastal Management Act 1995 “to involve the public in coastal planning and management”.

Consistent with it being a discussion paper the IPP does not promote solutions, rather it focuses on the strengths and weaknesses (or opportunities for improvement) in the current coastal governance system in Victoria and concludes with some criteria that might be used to assess whether the new Act achieves its potential.

The criteria are not complex.   Most importantly they include the need to match legislative responsibility with resourcing.   However the IPP does not address the complementary issue of how coastal infrastructure and protection might be funded; this might be the subject of a further, much needed, discussion paper that addresses the nature of existing funding arrangements and how more equitable and effective funding arrangements might be established.  The criteria also touch on the need for less complex ‘approval’ processes, the need to link ‘planning’ with ‘implementation’ and the need for community and professional input to decision making.

The Interim Position Paper is available here.
VCC Interim Position Paper on Coastal Governance

The Victorian Coastal Councils would welcome your feedback on the paper and issues it addresses. Feedback can be forwarded to vcc@delwp.vic.gov.au