National Cooperative Approach to Integrated Coastal Zone Management - Framework and Implementation Plan

Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council, 2006


The coastal zone is one of Australia’s greatest assets. Its unique coastal values and resources are vital to the Australian way of life. The capacity to ensure ecologically sustainable use and development of the coastal zone is imperative for all Australians, both now and into the future.

The coastal zone of Australia is 36 000 km long, not including external territories. The wide ranging climatic, geological and oceanographic regimes and interacting mix of terrestrial, estuarine and marine ecosystems support a wealth of biodiversity. Coastal biodiversity supports the resource base for a broad range of commercial and non-commercial activities. Coastal activities dependent on healthy coastal environments include commercial, recreational and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ fishing; tourism and recreation; urban development; aquaculture and mariculture; shipping and transportation; coastal agriculture; mining (including petroleum mining); manufacturing and trade. Equally the coastal zone has important social, cultural and indigenous values, including coastal landscapes, amenity and access.

The Australian coastal zone is a focus of major economic, industrial and social activity. Australians are giving increased value to lifestyle choices in the coastal zone with more than 86 per cent of the population now living near the coast and even more visiting coastal areas regularly. These trends are placing greater pressure on coastal resources and present significant resource use challenges, some of which have emerged at the national scale.

The State of the Environment Report (2001) notes that while there are continued efforts to improve coastal management responses, coastal zone condition is not significantly improving and against a number of criteria continues to decline. Pressures on coastal resources are increasing at a rate that exceeds the time necessary for damaged environments to stabilise and be repaired.

The State of the Environment Report (2001) concludes that without a concerted effort by all, Australia’s coastal and marine environments are likely to be under increasing pressure over the next decade. Whilst nationally cooperative efforts that focus on improving water quality and salinity across catchments benefit the coastal environment, continued active management of human impacts on the coastal zone is also necessary if the health and productivity of coastal ecosystems are to be sustainable.

Forward thinking is required to initiate a nationally cooperative focus on achieving ecologically sustainable development through integrated coastal zone management (ICZM). Now is the time to encourage more active rehabilitation, protection and improvement of these important assets through proactive planning and management.