Australia (1995) Commonwealth Coastal Policy
2.4 Guiding Principles for the
Management of Coastal Resources
The Resource Assessment Commission recommended that clear principles be
established to guide any decision making that affects the coastal zone.
After very extensive consultations with conservation, industry and
community groups and the various spheres of government it put forward a
set of such principles in its final report.
The establishment of guiding principles for use by Commonwealth
agencies will help to integrate government coastal management activities
and to achieve the Commonwealth's coastal zone management objectives. It
will also help to ensure that Commonwealth decisions affecting the use of
the coastal zone are more open, consistent and systematic.
The principles listed in this section are comprehensive and it is
intended that they will be used by Commonwealth policy and decision
makers. They reflect the complexity of the issues that compete for
attention in the coastal zone. They are not mutually exclusive; rather,
they reflect the need to balance competing values in order to achieve
ecologically sustainable development. No single principle is considered
Decision makers will be expected to exercise judgement in the
application of competing principles. The basis for such judgement must be
made explicit and, wherever appropriate, public.
The principles that follow are based on the recommendations of the
Resource Assessment Commission and they are consistent with the principles
of the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development. Terms
such as 'use' and 'development' include within their meaning the use and
management of resources for conservation purposes.
- The ecological and physical links between terrestrial and marine
systems must be taken into consideration in the use and management of
coastal zone resources.
- The economic, environmental, social and cultural values of coastal
zone resources should be identified and the impacts of uses on those
values should be determined as far as practicable before decisions are
- As far as practicable, assessments should be made on local,
regional, national and global scales. They should take into account
long-term impacts on the resource itself and on other resources and
other users. As far as practicable, negative effects of resource use
should be minimised.
- Cumulative impacts should be taken into consideration before
decisions are made about the use of coastal resources. As far as
practicable, cumulative impacts that have net negative effects should
be avoided. It is also necessary to guard against the unintended
negative effects of numerous small decisions.
- Resource uses in the coastal zone should have significant adverse
long-term effects on landscape or visual character only if the change
induced is consistent with the management objectives for the area.
- Coastal zone resource uses should be monitored to ensure that impact
assessments are accurate. If impacts differ significantly from those
predicted, remedial actions, including reviewing the resource
allocation, should be undertaken.
- The precautionary approach
- If there is a high risk of serious or irreversible adverse impacts
resulting from the use of a coastal resource, that use should be
permitted only if those impacts can be mitigated or there are
overwhelming grounds for proceeding in the national interest.
- If a use is assessed as having a low risk of causing serious or
irreversible adverse impacts, or if there is insufficient information
with which to assess fully and with certainty the magnitude and nature
of impacts, decision making should proceed in a conservative and
cautious manner. The absence of scientific certainty should not be a
reason for postponing measures to prevent or mitigate negative
- Resource allocation
- Coastal resources should be allocated to the use with the greatest
long-term community benefit, where benefit is determined by taking
economic, environmental, social and cultural considerations into
- The degree to which an activity is dependent on being located in the
coastal zone should be taken into account when resources are being
allocated. Priority should be given to uses that are particularly
dependent on coastal locations or coastal resources.
- Alternative uses of coastal resources and opportunities for multiple
or sequential use should be identified before allocation decisions are
made. Multiple or sequential use of the coast should occur only when
one use will not significantly diminish a resource's value for
subsequent uses. When this is not possible resources in an area should
be allocated to competing uses, so that the greatest range of
beneficial uses is satisfied while minimising conflict between uses.
At times it may be necessary to use areas for a single purpose or a
restricted number of purposes.
- Coastal areas in or near their natural state should be developed for
uses that diminish their value only if development would provide
considerable benefit and no other viable alternative exists.
- Development in the coastal zone should occur in accordance with
predetermined strategic coastal management plans. Incremental linear
development around coastal towns should be discouraged.
- Public access to the coast, including beach, foreshore and marine
areas, should be maintained for recreation, tourism and other public
activities. The extent, location and type of access may, however, need
to be controlled to mitigate adverse effects of this access, to
resolve incompatible uses, or in the interest of public safety.
- The user-pays principle
- Prices charged for access to coastal resources should reflect all
short-term and long-term economic, environmental and social costs
associated with use of those resources.
- If it is not possible to measure these costs their existence and
relative importance should be taken into account before decisions are
- Economic instruments should be applied equitably across all sectors
of society, although the circumstances of disadvantaged groups should
be taken into account.
- The costs of development in coastal areas, including infrastructure
costs, the costs of environmental management and monitoring, and the
costs of managing natural hazards, should be borne by development
- If a direct benefit accrues to the community as a result of a
development it is reasonable that costs be apportioned between the
developer and the community in accordance with the distribution of
- When developments in the coastal zone will result in increased
tourism and recreational use, it is necessary to assess the hazards
that might affect users and to develop facilities for managing the
increased use. Comprehensive arrangements should be established to
meet the continuing costs of management and maintenance.
- Resource conservation
- Natural physical processes should be safeguarded. Development should
take account of natural processes and be located so as to disrupt or
be affected by these processes as little as possible. When the
disruption of natural processes is unavoidable every attempt should be
made to limit that disruption and its impact on adjoining coastal
- Biological diversity and the biological processes on which it relies
should be maintained. As far as practicable, use of the coastal zone
should have minimal adverse impacts on regional biological diversity
and biological processes.
- Sites of ecological, cultural, archaeological, historic and
scientific significance should be identified and maintained.
- The disposal of waste, particularly into rivers, estuaries and the
ocean, should be limited to the quantity and quality that the
receiving environment can assimilate without suffering long-term
- Waste disposal into coastal waters should be a last resort after all
avenues for re-use and recycling have been exhausted.
- If the assimilative capacity is unknown, existing pollution
discharges should be progressively reduced to levels where there is a
low probability of adverse impacts on the receiving environment beyond
the discharge mixing zone. New discharges should be avoided.
- Public participation
- Effective public consultation and participation are essential to the
planning process and should be encouraged before decisions are made.
For participation to be effective, the public requires sufficient
information and opportunity to be informed about alternative uses.
Processes for deciding about coastal zone management should be open
and publicly documented to allow for scrutiny.
- Local communities, including local industries, should be encouraged
to share direct responsibility for management of local coastal areas
and to participate in the development and implementation of management
- The interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
should be recognised and incorporated in resource use decision making.
This requires, among other things, effective protection of cultural
and intellectual property, including storylines; participation in the
management of resources in which people have traditional or cultural
interests; recognition of indigenous rights to hunt, gather and fish,
consistent with conservation objectives; and conservation of the
resources upon which these activities are based.