Governance of coastal habitats in Australia: strengths, weaknesses and challenges for harmonisation

Dr Claudia Benham1, Dr  Rachel Miller1

1James Cook University, Townsville , Australia.


Coastal habitats such as mangrove forests and seagrass meadows are among the most productive and most threatened ecosystems worldwide. Coordinated governance approaches are critical to conserving these habitats, which often span multiple jurisdictions and are threatened by a complex and often intensive mix of human activities. In Australia, coastal habitats are governed by a complex set of national and sub-national legislative and policy arrangements, yet in many areas the condition of these habitats continues to decline. In this study, we examine the extent to which current legislative arrangements afford protections to coastal habitats in Australia. We also assess the current level of harmonisation between state and territory jurisdictions, and their coherence with federal approaches. Lastly, we identify gaps in current regulation that render coastal habitats more vulnerable to loss and exploitation and suggest ways in which these may be remedied.


Dr Claudia Benham is an environmental social-scientist and policy scholar specialising in tropical marine and coastal environments. She currently works as a Lecturer in Environmental Management at James Cook University, Townsville, where she teaches and conducts research on the social and ecological dimensions of changing coastal environments.