After 50 years will South Australia finally update its Coast Protection Act?

Mark Parnell1

1Parliament of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia


South Australia’s Coast Protection Act 1972 is the nation’s oldest, yet it has not been seriously revised in nearly 50 years. The Act pre-dates our understanding of climate change, biodiversity loss and modern environmental awareness. It also pre-dates community expectations about government accountability and public participation in decisions affecting the commons.

Despite many false starts over the years, a Parliamentary Committee is now reviewing the Act, with everything on the table and up for grabs.

Do we even need a Coast Protection Board? If it is to be retained, should it make decisions or be merely advisory? How do we balance the engineers and ecologists? Should its mandate be limited to planning and development control or should it have responsibility for other activities (such as recreational driving on beaches and dunes)?

This session will explore some of the key submissions to the Review and road test various stakeholder ideas against principles of best practice. Using case studies of ongoing coastal controversies in South Australia (including sand replenishment on Adelaide Metropolitan beaches and coastal tourism development) the session will explore the likelihood of change or whether the can will be kicked down the beach for another 50 years.


Mark Parnell was the first member of the Greens to be elected to the South Australian State Parliament in 2006. Prior to his 15 years in Parliament, Mark spent 16 years in the non-government conservation sector including roles with The Wilderness Society, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Environmental Defenders Office. As a member of the Parliamentary standing committee on Environment, Resources and Development, Mark was instrumental in establishing a review into South Australia’s Coast Protection Act 1972. The review is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.