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Environmental governance of coasts

Shaw, JR 2014 , 'Environmental governance of coasts', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The problem of managing Australia’s coasts has been a focus of concern for at least
the past three decades. The Australian Government’s State of the Environment
Report in 2011 recognised that “our coasts, as well as being some of the our most
iconic natural areas, are some of Australia’s most heavily settled areas,” but noted
continued environmental degradation and decreasing environmental sustainability of
coastal regions, where “’business as usual’ is likely to lead to undesirable outcomes
for coast.” This thesis utilises the emerging field of environmental governance as a
lens to examine progress in environmental management of the coast.
Environmental governance has dealt with processes of efficiency, effectiveness,
institutional arrangements, social justice and capacity building, but much of this
literature focuses on process and lacks an outcome and performance orientation. A
review of the environmental governance literature drawing on natural resource
management, ecology, management theory, politics and international law, was
undertaken. This review, highlighting specifically Driessen et al’s insights that
environmental governance includes “all kinds of measure deliberately taken to
prevent, reduce and/or mitigate harmful effects on the environment” and “the means
by which society determines and acts on goals related to the management of the
environment” identified key criteria of environmental governance. These criteria
were considered to provide a robust base to a framework of analysis to apply to
empirical examples to assess achievement of environmental management goals.
These criteria are: environmental objectives in strategic planning, spatial links to
ecological techniques, thresholds and feedback loops, advocacy, and knowledge
management. The empirical focus of research centres on three selected case studies
of natural resource management in coastal areas of Victoria, Australia. The case
studies of terrestrial (wetlands) and freshwater management (environmental flows)
are generally neglected in coastal management that tends to focus on littoral or
marine issues. A third case study of marine protected areas encompasses both coastal
and marine areas. These cases studies; freshwater environmental flows, coastal
wetlands management, and marine protected areas are government programs
interacting with community and other actors. While there are constraints in analysis
from a limited number of case studies that cover a large, but not all, area of Victoria’s coastal zone, these data can, however, provide important insights in
outcome focused environmental governance. Analysis of the cases showed that
environmental objectives in strategic planning, spatial links to ecological techniques,
advocacy and knowledge management were found to be major contributors to
achievement of environmental management goals in each of the case studies with
thresholds and monitoring, the criterion least subscribed to in the three case studies.
The extended period of time taken to get spatial components allocated to the
environment has contributed to this. These processes took well over 20 years,
lowering the immediate importance of thresholds and monitoring. Recent emphasis
has been on monitoring, definition of ecological character and resilience. At a micro
scale, the research also highlighted that objectives developed outside of government,
the importance of science, paid advocacy and including knowledge suitable for the
general public contribute to achieving progress in environmental governance.
This lengthy time period to achieve key goals in all three case studies is a major
finding. This is most notable in terms of environmental flows (27 years), and marine
reserves (24 years). It was found that is was impossible to move quickly on
environmental objectives, given the impact of institutional arrangements, and
management structures, the need for research and agreement on science techniques,
as well as gaining broad community support. In addition it was noted that extremely
lengthy implementation periods made the development of thresholds and feedback
loops extremely unlikely. Advocacy that was paid or resourced from government
was a critical factor, as was compensation. It was found that science was extremely
important in the negotiations for the environment and that the “hard yards” of
negotiating with key user groups were unavoidable. Knowledge management pointed
to the critical nature of providing information in forms that the public can understand
including the terms that were used and the descriptions that they could relate to.
Existing property rights and land tenure contributed to the lengthy time to achieve
performance along with getting the public and others to understand the issues
involved. Analysis of the case study data also enabled a checklist for environmental
governance to be developed. This evolution in environmental governance is a
substantial step to assist performance.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Shaw, JR
Keywords: Environmental Governance Coasts Marine Goals Ecological Spatial Advocacy
Copyright Holders: The Author
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Copyright 2014 the author

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