Uncensored Reflections on Twenty Five Years of Victorian Marine and Coastal Policy Reform

Dr Geoff Wescott1

1Deakin University, Burwood, Australia


Twenty five years after chairing a Coalition government’s Coastal Reference Group, which led to Victoria’s first comprehensive coastal management legislation, in 2015 the author chaired an Expert Panel for a Labor Government which resulted in the Marine and Coastal Act 2018.

The Labor Minister’s instructions were to  prepare a new Act that was ‘fit for purpose’ – a curious realpolitik speak that has many possible interpretations – to ensure it included catchment and coastal integration, covered the marine environment and incorporated direct reference to indigenous Victorians and to climate change.  As well the panel was to recommend on policy reforms that did not necessarily require legislation.

As the author no longer has any role in coastal management governance in Victoria this presentation will be a frank, revealing  and transparent reflection on the reform process and its outcomes not only of this latest reform but of how it relates to other reforms in the context of the last forty years of Victorian and Australian coastal and broader environmental management.

The presentation will conclude with a reflection on what the Victorian reform process over four decades can contribute, through both positive and negative lessons, to other jurisdictions in Australia and beyond.



Geoff first engaged in coastal policy reform in the summer of 1973/74 as a member of the Public Interest Research Group’s research team which produced the 1977 250 page book: A Coastal Retreat. He has been involved in coastal policy work ever since including doing a PhD on Victorian coastal policy, chairing the Coastal Reference group in 1994 and the Expert Panel in 2015/16, being President (and a forming member) of the Australian Coastal Society, being a member of the National Oceans Advisory Group and an inaugural member of the Victorian Coastal Council.

His academic career spanned four decades and over 170 papers and books- the majority on marine and coastal matters.