NEWS 3 July 2018 |
For better or worse, we have passed a key milestone in our state’s approach to managing our diverse, unique and much-loved coasts and marine waters.
The Marine and Coastal Bill was passed in the Victorian Parliament in late June 2018, and is expected to come into effect on 1 August 2018. With this change, the Victorian Coastal Council will be replaced in late 2018 by a new Marine and Coastal Council. The change will also see the end of the Regional Coastal Boards.
While the reforms to this legislation did not go anywhere near far enough (see: vnpa.org.au/authority-mad-government-blinks-marine) the new Marine and Coastal Act gives greater power to the Department of Land Water and Planning (DELWP) to develop a new marine and coastal strategy. This comes in the face of a recent scathing Auditor General report (see: vnpa.org.au/auditor-general-shines-light-coastal-management) which found that our coastline was not being adequately managed.
A range of amendments were put forward by The Greens, which were supported by VNPA. Two relatively minor amendments were accepted.
VNPA would like to show our appreciation for the Victorian Coastal Council’s work over the past 23 years. We wish the new Marine and Coastal Council every success in building Victoria’s ability to manage marine and coastal areas.
Clear policy and strategy at a statewide level is critical if we are to improve the marine and coastal management system. The new legislation places greater emphasis on the marine environment, and separates policy and strategy into separate documents. This separation will make the strategy more targeted in outlining how and when specific issues will be addressed, and probably make the policy more important.
A Marine and Coastal Policy will outline the policy position on matters relating to the marine and coastal environment, and guide decision-makers in implementing the objectives of a new marine and coastal system. The policy will include the development of a Marine Spatial Planning Framework and will be guided by the Marine and Coastal Council in consultation with relevant portfolio Ministers. The policy will be co-endorsed by Ministers of Acts relevant to the marine and coastal environment such as the Agriculture (Fisheries) Minister, which can be a fraught process.
A Marine and Coastal Strategy will outline the actions to achieve the policies outlined in the policy and the Marine and Coastal Act. The strategy will have a much greater focus on marine issues that cut across sectoral boundaries. It will be released with an accompanying implementation plan, which, at least in theory, will include resources.
Other aspects which are new include:
- An expanded marine and coastal reporting in Victorian Sate of the Environment report
- Scope of their Regional Catchment Strategies will be expanded and DELWP will support the five coastal Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) with guidance on approaches to threats to the marine and coastal environment
- Regional and Strategic Partnerships are a new mechanism specifically designed to deal with cross-jurisdictional issues arising from erosion, flooding, rising sea levels, frequent floods and coastal storms and population growth.
- A proposed transition plan has also been developed with a final expected to be released in 2018, which highlights a raft of other measures aimed at building much needed knowledge and capacity, including two new Victorian Environmental Assessment Council desktop assessments of coastal land and marine values. (see: vnpa.org.au/new-investigation-marine-areas)
As a sort of parting shot, the Science Panel for the now defunct Victorian Coastal Council released a sobering report ‘Coasts Preparing for the Future’. The panel, made up of Victoria’s leading marine and coastal scientists, flagged a wide range of threats from climate change including:
- more frequent and extensive inundation of low-lying areas,
- loss of coastal habitat, such as roosting and nesting sites for shorebirds and seabirds,
- cliff, beach and foreshore erosion,
- altered saltmarsh and mangrove habitats.
Major new funding is yet to announced to deliver on many of these projects.
VNPA will continue to advocate for resources and ensure the mechanisms in the new Marine and Coastal Act are implemented for the best outcomes for our unique marine and coastal environment. You can support this work here.