Our connection to the coast and sea – how do we describe, understand and consider this special connection in coastal planning and management

Ms Liz Patterson1

1 Vic Dept Environment, Land, Water & Planning , East Melbourne, Australia


At Coast to Coast 2004 Hobart, I ran an open space session titled, ‘Spirituality – what is at the bottom of us caring for the coast’, this was an energetic discussion about the coast as a place of renewal, people feeling emotionally connected to the coast, and how the coast and ocean is linked to our well-being. As a coastal manager over the last 20 years I have also observed people’s strong connection to the coast and the important role this plays in rest, inspiration, and connection to nature.

In Australia (apart from Aboriginal culture) there is a gap in being able to describe or articulate this emotional connection, as well as a lack of tools in our planning and management systems for this connection to be considered in decision making. This can lead to poorly informed decisions that do not reflect all the costs and benefits to the community and our environment.

Having a better understanding of why, how and where people are connected to landscapes could help us improve our planning and management decisions and the way we look after the land and sea.

This presentation will be a stimulating interactive session with participants testing a method for identifying and describing their connection to a special place. This will help to build a method that can be used with communities to describe their connections and used in coastal and marine planning and management.


Liz is the Manager of the Policy & Strategy Unit, at the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. Liz has worked in the field of coastal management and planning in both the public and private sector for the last 20 years. Her roles have included a range of policy development, coastal planning and stakeholder engagement. Liz’s love and interest of the coast comes from growing up in the small seaside town of Ocean Grove, Victoria. When not at work Liz gets to share her love of the beach with her energetic toddler Banjo.