Addressing the (sea) elephant in the room: coastal climate resilience, commerce and communities – collaboration is key

A/Prof. Anthony Boxshall1

1Victorian Marine and Coastal Council, Melbourne, Australia


Some of the biggest issues for communities and decision-makers along the coast are some of the hardest to discuss: when do we retreat? Who relocates? To where? What do we protect? And Why? Who decides? How do we get $ and resources focused on the coastal climate resilience crisis when the timeline is decoupled from most political, social and investment timelines? Are we stuck between a rock and wet place? In short, how do we maintain our way of life, our local economies, our recreational and tourism, our favourite fishing spot, and our biodiversity in a future constrained by genuine climate crisis needing change over a generational scale?

Even if we achieve the Paris targets as a globe, we have genuine long-term and large-scale change locked into our coastal systems.

Over the recent years, Victoria has been undergoing some fundamental change in our legislative and policy levers. The Victorian Marine and Coastal Council (VMaCC) is the peak Ministerial Advisory body on coastal and marine issues in Victoria. VMaCC is both a product of that change and an agent for being smart, adaptive and focused in the need for adaptation to accelerate. I will draw together lessons from the policy development process, stakeholder engagement, social research, strategic thinking and science-based assessments to address these (sea) elephants in the room. What is coming will change the traditional roles of Government, communities and commerce. New ways of working are essential. One clear take-home message is that genuine collaboration is crucial.


Anthony Boxshall is a marine ecologist by trade. He is the Chair of the Victorian Marine and Coastal Council, past president of the Australian Marine Sciences Association, and Melbourne Enterprise Fellow at the University of Melbourne.