Policy for coastal issues in Australia: gaps in good practice

Dr Carmen Elrick-Barr1,2, Professor Tim Smith1

1University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydoore, QLD

2Australian Coastal Society, Western Australia


Institutional instruments such as legislation, policies and plans influence decisions made in the coastal zone. Despite this, they are rarely analysed in relation to their focus on coastal issues and ability to progress coastal management objectives. In this study we developed an assessment framework to evaluate the intentionally and substantially of 92 institutional instruments with a role in coastal management in Australia. We found that: (i) threats to Australia’s coast are not adequately identified or managed via institutional instruments; (ii) institutional instruments do not make a contribution to coastal management unless intentionally designed to do so; and (iii) even in the presence of intention, comprehensiveness in the proposed actions is limited. The lack of comprehensive action was particularly evident in instruments operating at the local scale. The findings suggest significant deficiencies in the priority assigned to the coast and highlight areas in which jurisdictions and levels of government can focus attention.


Professor Tim Smith is a human geographer focused on coastal management and climate change adaptation. His research aims to discover innovative coastal governance approaches that embrace vulnerability and change. He holds an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship, and is also an Adjunct Professor with Brock University, Canada, an Adjunct Professor with Southern Cross University, and a Senior Research Associate with Uppsala University, Sweden. Tim is also an Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Ocean and Coastal Management, and co-Chair of Future Earth Coasts