Deakin University / Conserving the Victorian Coast through ICZM

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Associate Professor Geoff Wescott
School of Life and Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Science and Technology
Deakin University, Melbourne Campus
221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria
Australia 3125
61 3 92517623

Initiative Description and Primary Objectives 

The principal objective in the initiative was to conserve the Victorian coast (2,000 km in length) through intense involvement of the whole community (96% of the coastline is publically owned) based on sound planning and management practices based on the latest research at international, national and local level.

In broader terms the Victorian coastal zone has been used as a case study of the implementation of the theoretical globally accepted concept of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) in order to illustrate the practical implications of implementing ICZM.

Key Academic Disciplines 

• Environmental policy development, implementation and review
• Integrated Coastal Zone Management
• Community involvement in environmental decision-making and practice

Key Partner Organizations and Individuals 

• The State Government of Victoria and its agencies including the Victorian Coastal Council and its three Regional Coastal Boards and 25 + Committees of Management.

• The Victorian community including information and advocacy groups such as the Marine and Coastal Community Network and the Australian Coastal Society.

• Deakin University in its capacity as a research institution and as an educator / trainer of coastal planning and management practitioners.

Initiative History and Champions 

• 1992: New government elected with a commitment to a completely new governance arrangement for the Victorian coast.

• 1994: Establishment of a community representative based Coastal Reference Group (CRG) by the State Government Minister – three champions are key here: the Minister Mr. Mark Birrell, the Chair of the CRG – Professor Geoffrey Wescott, and the Secretary / Executive Officer to the CRG, Mr John Ginivan (a State public servant).

• 1995: Passing of the Coastal Management Act 1995 establishing community based Victorian Coastal Council and three Regional Coastal Board with a state-wide strategic plan (Victorian Coastal Strategy – VCS) as its key document and objectives and a governance system based on ICZM and Ecologically Sustainable Development principles.

• 1997: First Victorian Coastal Strategy published. (There are several critical points that occurred beyond 1997, but those listed here are key in the establishment of CZM in Victoria.)

Distinctiveness and Strategic Significance of the Initiative 

The initiative was based on research carried out at Deakin University and promoted through the Marine and Coastal Community Network (MCCN). The research would have remained merely ‘inside the academy’ except it was moved into the community / political sphere through community groups and the MCCN. This allowed it to be ‘picked up’ by a political party and implemented as statutory policy in a very quick time.

The significance was that the partnership of Government, University and Community (NGOs etc.) lead to rapid uptake of a system which is still operating (although of course changed and enhanced over time) some 17 years later. In addition, there is also a sense of community ownership of the policies and practices because of the direct involvement of the community in the process.

Measurable Effectiveness of the Initiative 

Victoria has not undergone the same level of negative development of coastal areas seen in other Australian States and across the world.

As well as part of the overall process of developing a new Coastal Strategy every five years (there have now been three strategies and the fourth revision is underway) a full public survey is run before the draft of each strategy is released for public comment. These IPSOS surveys inform the Coastal Council preparing the draft of the broader public’s view of the issues confronting the coast but also ask respondents about the quality of the coast and whether it is being well managed, and whether the management has improved, or not,  in the past five years.

Transferability of the Initiative 

The interaction between Government – NGO and university based research and training is a notable item. From the University’s point of view the value of direct involvement in an evolving policy area is very beneficial to the training and understanding of the students.

The Initiative’s Ability to Endure 

The coastal governance arrangements that have evolved have already been in place for 17 years. The University has had many student projects based on testing these governance arrangements and / or adding new information and data to the analysis. Hence it it’s an interactive and ‘continuous improvement’ project.

Engagement Strategies 

 The Marine and Coastal Community Network is a key group in communication over time. The model will be described in more detail at the workshop but in essence it was an independent government sponsored national information sharing, facilitating , ‘honest-broker’ body which had over 11, 000 participants across the country from every sector involved in marine and coastal environments.
The MCCN was wrapped up / finished in 2009 but an Australian Coastal Society has evolved since as an advocacy body – it is yet to reach the network that MCCN had.