In January 2010 the Coastal Planning Program, a program of the
Coastal Planning and Coordination Council, and the Western
Australian Department of Planning, released a report entitled
"Status of Coastal Planning in Western Australia". The
Report examines coastal planning programmes currently in operation
in Western Australia, and details areas of outstanding need.
The report identifies 76 outstanding planning
tasks, in particular, the need for a State Coastal
Strategy, and a State Marine Planning Strategy. This is in response
to a patchwork of local and regional planning instruments that have
sprung up in the absence of an effective State policy
Key barriers to effecting consistent coastal policies
With the vast majority of Western Australians living within 30
kilometres of the coast, the impact of climate change on coastal
areas is of increasing significance for planning and development in
the State. To date, the risks associated with coastal
development in Western Australia have not been addressed
in any comprehensive or consistent manner.
One of the main problems in formulating a consistent approach to
coastal planning in Western Australia is the sheer scale of the
coastline, and its diversity and climate types.
The absence of large population centres along much of the
coastline reduces the impetus for coastal monitoring. The time,
cost and effort required to develop and validate coastal models are
high, and studies at a global, or even a regional scale, have
limited relevance at the local level.
This lack of appropriate localised modelling has been identified
by the State Government as a fundamental gap in moving forward with
addressing climate change impacts in Western Australia. The current
practice of using models imported from other parts of the world,
including eastern Australia, is inadequate for dealing with the
State's unique coastal systems. Without this key
information, creating a consistent State-wide policy for coastal
planning continues to be a difficult task.
Current State policy
The current Western Australian policy dealing with the coast is
the State Coastal Planning Policy, released by the State Government
in 2003 and amended in December 2006.
While the key objective of the policy is to ensure that the
location of coastal developments and facilities takes into account
coastal processes such as erosion, accretion, storm surges, tides,
wave conditions, sea level change and biophysical criteria,
the policy has been criticised as inadequate and out of
date, particularly in light of recent climate science. The
Western Australian Local Government Association has commented
"With no strategic overview
of policies and programs, and significant overlap and occasional
policy conflict between State departments (for example the coastal
setbacks embedded in the State Coastal Planning Strategy may be
inadequate in light of recent climate science) it would seem that
coastal management in general is poorly coordinated, and strategic
linkages in State and Federal policy to climate change impacts
Lack of co-ordinated policy approach
The lack of an effective State-wide policy has led to local
governments implementing a patchwork of localised planning
strategies, thereby creating a great deal of uncertainty
and complexity. There are a large variety of coastal planning
instruments in place around the State, including regional
strategies, structure plans and coastal plans.
For example, the Report identifies 14 coastal planning documents
currently in operation for the Perth metropolitan region alone.
This is in addition to numerous strategies developed by each of the
11 coastal local governments located in the region.
Considering the Perth metropolitan region is only one of six
regions within Western Australia, the unparalleled complexity of
the State's current coastal planning framework becomes
The sheer volume of different local plans and strategies
currently in operation around Western Australia highlights
the need for an effective, over-arching State-wide policy.
The release of the Report indicates an awareness on the part of the
State Government to address the issues faced by local governments,
and marks the creation of a State Coastal Strategy and the State
Marine Planning Strategy as key planning tasks. Now the focus must
be on preparing these strategies.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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