Australia's efforts to achieve integrated marine governance
Recent Australian efforts at integrated marine management provide a case study in governance for sustainability. Sustainability requires management with a view across borders, sectors and time. In 1998 the Australian government adopted its comprehensive Oceans Policy. An objective of the policy was to ensure ecosystem-based management in Australia's and marine realm, based upon a whole-of-government approach to integrated planning for multiple uses of marine regions. An administrative agency, the National Oceans Office, was established and made accountable to a National Oceans Ministerial Board of five ministers with responsibilities across marine resources sectors. Slow progress was made in commencing the regional planning part of the Oceans Policy and only one marine regional plan was adopted, for South Eastern Australia, in 2004. The marine regional planning process was then substantially abandoned. Instead, a process of bioregional planning was adopted in 2005. This narrowing of the scope of the planning process, in favour of a biodiversity-focused planning approach, reflected lessons learned from the fraught experience in holistic marine regional planning. In contrast to the policy-based marine regional planning process, the bioregional planning process is supported by a legislative mandate. Again, in contrast to the Ministerial Board, bioregional planning occurs under the sole authority of the Minister for Environment. It is supported by the more muscular Department of Environment, into which the National Oceans Office has been merged.This case study argues that lessons learned from the implementation of Australia's Oceans Policy include an appreciation of the necessity of a clear mandate, with a legislative basis, to support governance for sustainability. In addition, administrative arrangements need to utilise the capabilities and resources of existing agencies, either by delegating to them a particular responsibility for cross-sectoral liaison concerning specified subject matter, or by locating that broad responsibility for cross-sectoral liaison within a capable and well resourced administrative agency. These two elements provide the institutional foundations to give effect to the integrated planning and management process.
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