Sustainable coastal management?



Publication Details

L. Stocker, D. Kennedy, R. Ambrose. Kenchington & K. Merrick, 'Sustainable coastal management?' in R. Ambrose. Kenchington, L. Stocker & D. Wood(ed), Sustainable Coastal Management and Climate Adaptation: Global Lessons from Regional Approaches in Australia (2012) 29-55.


Sustainable coastal management requires us to consciously integrate social, cultural, ecological and economically productive dimensions of the coast. This approach gives us the opportunity to develop ways of living on the coast that are synergistic and constructive, rather than destructive. Therefore, while an understanding of the ecological model is clearly fundamental to the task of managing coasts sustainably, it is equally important to understand people and their unique cultures and economies that are connected to coasts because management depends ultimately on the behaviours of people who use and have an impact on the coast. Human activities and aspirations are now primary drivers of coastal ecosystems, and we have therefore to accept and manage humans as part of the ecosystem, not as a superior or even separate sphere of moral concern.

Any approach to management in Australia must consider traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives of the coast, not least because of the temporal and moral, if not legal primacy of these perspectives. Traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives promote a holistic approach to stewardship and challenge narrowly defined and abstract utilitarian-economic notions of the coast as resources, commodities and property. It is noteworthy that many urban and contemporary Indigenous people are engaging in the invention of new modes of sustainability to reconcile traditional and contemporary perspectives on sustainability.

Coastal management in Australia has developed over time and reflects global trends. Harvey and Caton (2003: 195) define coastal management as 'the management of human activities and sustainable use of Australia's coastal resources in order to minimise adverse impacts on coastal environments now and in the future'. There has been growing emphasis in coastal management on public participation, ecological awareness, improved integration between sectors, less engineered solutions and the centrality of the concept of sustainability. In the past decades new, adaptive and collaborative approaches to coastal management and shared governance processes have emerged (see Chapter 4).

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