How close to the coast? Incorporating coastal expertise into decision-making on residential development in Australia

Harvey, Nick, and Smithers, Scott (2018) How close to the coast? Incorporating coastal expertise into decision-making on residential development in Australia. Ocean & Coastal Management, 157. pp. 237-247.

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The most recent assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms the importance of adaptation strategies such as 'retreat, accommodate or protect' but emphasizes the significance of institutional and governance structures in decision-making. Even without the threat of climate change there is a legacy of vulnerable coastal development in many parts of the world where there has been a lack of understanding of coastal processes. Coastal vulnerability and adaptation strategies are well covered in the literature but the extent to which coastal experts are used to advise on development in vulnerable coastal areas has to date received scant attention.

Expert coastal advice is essential to reduce vulnerability of coastal residential development to both existing coastal erosion and flooding and in particular to the threat of increased vulnerability associated with future climate change. This paper uses the Australian system of coastal management, where responsibilities rest mostly with state governments, to discuss the nature of coastal experts and the types of advice they provide. We focus specifically on the relevant legislation, statutory coastal authorities, coastal strategies, coastal planning and decision-making, where there are clear pathways for incorporating expert coastal advice. Only four states have dedicated coastal legislation and each state has its own planning legislation, which is linked to one or more pieces of legislation covering coastal development. Two case studies are used from different states to illustrate how these mechanisms for incorporating expert advice operate in practice. Our analysis includes both anecdotal case studies plus a more detailed quantitative analysis from one state using a decade of records to illustrate temporal patterns in the use of expert advice.

The paper concludes that Australia has a variable use of adopting coastal expert advice into the coastal residential development approval process because each state has different stages where the advice is incorporated into its planning system. These variations can be represented along a continuum of specificity for expert advice provided. It appears that none of the states provides a fail-safe mechanism to prevent residential development being built too close to the coast as shown by case studies described. In one state there is a statutory requirement for referral to an expert coastal body but a proportion of the advice is ignored. Most state jurisdictions are now attempting to mainstream expert advice into planning legislation, policies and guidelines so that best practice principles are adopted early in the development approval process in order to avoid building too close to the coast.

Item ID: 53662
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1873-524X
Keywords: Coastal expertise, Coastal vulnerability, Coastal planning, Coastal residential development, Australia
Date Deposited: 16 May 2018 07:44
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410404 Environmental management @ 100%
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