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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Coastal Tourism - A Manual for Sustainable Development

Based on a draft paper prepared by Southern Cross University
Portfolio Marine Group, Environment Australia, 1997
ISBN 0 642 27129 1


This glossary explains some of the terms you will find in this manual. These explanations are not definitive, but are included to make the manual easier to read. Other documents that are useful sources and interpretations of such terms are included in the list of references contained in Part 4 of the manual. Glossary terms are highlighted in blue and a definition given when first used in the text.

Acceptable limits of change

The limits to the type and scale of change appropriate to an area. The limits may be due to environmental, social or economic concerns. What is acceptable or appropriate is determined by consultation with governments and communities, as well as by legislation and regulations. The limits of acceptable change establish the maximum 'damage' level for a resource that society is prepared to accept.

Acid sulfate soils

Soils rich in iron sulfide common in coastal areas. They are relatively stable while saturated with water, but the sulfide forms sulfate and sulfuric acid when drained and exposed to air. The sulfuric acid can kill fish, prawns, oysters and other aquatic life when washed into waterways by rain. It can also corrode concrete slabs, steel fence posts, foundations of buildings, and underground concrete water and sewerage pipes, and weaken concrete structures. It can be very difficult to revegetate iron sulfate soils once they become exposed.

Biodiversity/biological diversity

The variety of life forms - the different plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms, the genes they contain, and the ecosystems they form.

A simple measure of the biodiversity of an area is the number of plant and animal species present. Areas of high biodiversity have many species while areas of low diversity have few species. More complex measures take into account the size of the populations of each species.

Biodiversity can be considered at the levels of genetic diversity, species diversity and ecosystem diversity. Genetic diversity refers to the variation of genes within species. Species diversity refers to the variety of species. Ecosystem diversity encompasses the broad differences between ecosystem types. It also looks at the diversity of habitats and ecological processes occurring within each ecosystem type.

Biodiversity is not merely an aesthetic component of the environment. It provides ecosystems with greater resilience to recover and cope with stress caused by things such as drought or human-induced habitat changes. It is argued to be the main source of the world's present and future renewable resources. The protection and maintenance of biodiversity is therefore regarded as one of the fundamental aspects of ESD.

Biological productivity

The intensity of life form production in an ecosystem or part of an ecosystem.

Carrying capacity

The limit to an environment's capacity to withstand use or activity. Beyond this limit the activity's impact (social, ecological or both) is unacceptable.

This term was originally used in agriculture and ecology. In agriculture it is the maximum number of grazing animals that an area can continue to support without deterioration of the soil and vegetation cover. Carrying capacity can also refer to social or economic capacity.

Coast, coastal zone

The Commonwealth Coastal Policy defines the coastal zone for coastal management purposes as extending as far inland and as far seaward as necessary to achieve the Commonwealth Coastal Policy objectives, with a primary focus on the land-sea interface.


Coastcare provides the opportunity for communities to become involved with coastal management involving protection, rehabilitation or enhancement of the natural and cultural environment. Coastcare encourages the involvement of and sponsorship by local coastal industries and businesses. Coastcare is a joint Commonwealth, state and local government program. Coastcare is delivered through Coast Action in Victoria and Coastwest in Western Australia. For general information contact the Community Information Unit, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories (free call 1800 803 772), or look at the Internet site at

For information about what Coastcare is doing in a particular area, contact the relevant regional Coastcare contact listed in Part 4 of this manual.


A forum on the Internet for communicating about coastal management issues. Discussion groups discuss, debate, exchange information and share expertise on a variety of topics. The Internet address is

Community consultation

Also referred to as 'public consultation'. These terms are used for procedures whereby members of the community can express their views about a proposed development, and the decisions about the development should take these views into account. Unlike community participation, it is used in situations where members of the community are not playing a role in the actual decision-making.

Community participation

Procedures whereby members of a community participate directly in decision-making about developments that may affect the community.

Development control plan

A planning instrument that can cover a wide range of issues, but with more flexibility and usually in more detail than a local plan. It may include planning guidelines for particular areas or types of development.

Ecologically sustainable development (ESD)

Ecologically sustainable development is development that uses, conserves and enhances the community's resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained and quality of life for both present and future generations is increased. See also environmentally sustainable development and sustainable development.

Ecological processes

Processes which play an essential part in maintaining ecosystems. Four fundamental ecological processes are the cycling of water, the cycling of nutrients, the flow of energy and biological diversity.


The study of the relationships between living organisms and their environments.


A dynamic interdependent complex of living plant, animal, fungal and micro-organism communities, the non-living environment they inhabit, and the interactions within and between the living and non-living components.

Ecosystem integrity

The degree to which the fundamental ecological processes (such as water and nutrient cycling, the flow of energy and biological diversity) are maintained.


Nature-based tourism that involves education and interpretation of the natural environment and is managed to be ecologically sustainable.


To introduce to a place additional individuals of one or more species or habitat elements which naturally exist there.


External conditions affecting life forms including plants, animals and human beings as individuals or in social groups. It refers to all aspects of the surroundings. It includes the natural environment (air, water, soil, plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms), the built environment (buildings, roads, housing and recreation facilities) and social and cultural aspects of our surroundings.

Environmental impact assessment

Assessment of the impact on the environment that is likely to occur as the result of change (see Box H).

Environmental impact statement

A detailed written description of a proposed development and all the possible ways that it can affect the surrounding environment. It may form part of environmental impact assessment.

Environmentally sustainable development

This term is sometimes used instead of ecologically sustainable development. The intention is to place less emphasis on plants and animals, and more emphasis on human-centred aspects of the environment such as urban and water pollution. See also ecologically sustainable development and sustainable development.

Grey water

All used water other than that originating from toilets and bidets.

Indigenous custodians

Indigenous people with cultural responsibility for managing their traditional land and sea, whether or not they are currently the statutory owners or managers of those areas.

Indigenous peoples

Australians who identify as belonging to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander groups and who are recognised by their communities as belonging to those groups.

Indigenous vegetation

A species of plant that is naturally found in an area, either historically or currently, and forms part of the natural biodiversity of the area. Ideally, plants used to revegetate an area should be grown from the cuttings or seed from indigenous plants taken from that area or an area nearby to ensure that the same species are reintroduced, and are genetically similar to those originally in the area.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property represents the property of your mind or intellect. This includes information people have as part of their cultural heritage, for example, knowledge about bush foods or oral history.

Intergenerational equity

The present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment and society is maintained or enhanced for future generations. See also sustainable development.

Integrated local area planning

A coordinated approach to providing services and infrastructure. It aims to develop partnerships for effective long-term planning and resource allocation.


Any policy, strategy or practice furthering sustainable land management. Landcare is practised by community groups, formal support services, advisers, land managers and individuals.

The community component of Landcare aims to encourage community groups and landholders to identify and solve the soil, water, vegetation, management and nature conservation problems in their area. Grants help groups with planning, education and training, resource inventories, and monitoring. Landcare facilitators are employed to assist community groups achieve their aims. For information on regional contacts for Landcare contact Countrylink on freecall 1800 026 222.

Life support systems

The ecological processes and materials that keep the earth habitable. Life support systems enable the cleaning and recycling of air and water, the creation and regeneration of soil and the release of nutrients for plant growth. A basic objective of ESD is to prevent damage to life support systems by maintaining air, water and land in a healthy condition.

Littoral forest

Forests situated along the coastline, such as mangroves and eucalypts located immediately adjacent to the beach.

Natural environment

An environment that is not the result of human activity or intervention.

Natural capital

Used by economists for the potential wealth in resources and the environment due to their original, natural qualities. Natural capital is in air, water, earth and living organisms. Infrastructure, buildings and so on can be described as human-made capital.

Social justice and social equity

The principles of social justice are access and equity. For social justice to occur there must be equal access to services and decision-making processes within and between communities. Equity is the sharing of resources within and between communities. Recognising and opposing discrimination on the basis of age, sex, race, religion, political persuasion and so on is one way of working towards social justice.

Social impact

Significant events change people's lives, culture and/or their community. Social impact assessment identifies how changes to an environment will affect or have affected people.


Groups, individuals or organisations who may be affected by a development proposal, whether or not their stake in the outcome is explicit.


Referring to an activity that is able to be carried out without damaging the long-term health and integrity of natural and cultural environments.

Sustainable development

This term is often used interchangeably with ecologically sustainable development, but has a more human-oriented focus. It has been defined as development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This has been simplified to 'What about the kids?' See also ecologically sustainable development and environmentally sustainable development.

Total catchment management

An integrated management approach which aims to coordinate all activities and processes occurring in a water catchment. These processes and activities include use of the land, water and related vegetation resources. Coordination occurs on a catchment basis so as to balance resource use and nature conservation objectives. It provides the framework for the community, industry and government to work together to overcome environmental and resource management problems.