NEWS Wednesday 13 December |

New marine and coastal legislation was today introduced into the Victorian parliament.

This legislation is the result of a 2014 election commitment by the Andrews Government.

VNPA has been calling for marine and coastal law reform for some time, but the new legislation is a missed opportunity to create proper marine planning.

It also runs the risk of reducing community input by giving greater control to the bureaucracy and closing down regional coastal boards, while also pushing more responsibility onto catchment management authorities that have in the past shown little interest in marine and coastal planning and management.

There are some worthy elements to the Bill, including a new state of the marine and coastal environment report and an increased marine focus of a new Marine and Coastal Council. But the role of the new council is much weaker than that of the Victorian Coastal Council it is replacing. And although the bill includes public consultation provisions for when policies, strategies and plans are being prepared, there are none in relation to Ministerial consent for the use and development of marine and coastal crown land. The requirement that all policies, strategies and plans be co-endorsed by other ministers such as Port or Fisheries likely to substantially weaken their ecological outcomes.

A commitment to a marine spatial planning framework is welcome, but there are no guiding principles included, while the establishment of regional partnerships between management agencies may simply entrench business as usual.

In summary, the new bill falls well short of what is needed if we are to achieve genuine integrated marine and coastal planning and management that is inclusive of the community, accountable and transparent.

There is likely to be extensive debate on this in February 2018 – stay tuned.

More information

> Government media release

> Background on the Marine and Coastal Act