State of the Environment 2011 Committee. Australia state of the environment 2011.
Independent report to the Australian Government Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
Canberra: DSEWPaC, 2011.
At a glance
Many improvements in management systems at both state and national levels have produced substantial and persistent outcomes for marine ecosystems and biodiversity. These arise from programs devoting considerable resources to environmental protection and improvement of estuarine and coastal ecosystems across all jurisdictions. Nonetheless, most of these efforts are poorly coordinated within jurisdictions and only weakly harmonised with a national approach, and there are no systematically derived regional objectives for marine biodiversity to guide strategic planning or management. There is limited federal leadership in the implementation of an effective national system for management of coastal marine ecosystems and biodiversity, and their protection from persistent and emerging threats. There is continued loss of biodiversity, duplication of effort, inefficiencies, an overall lack of effectiveness, and distrust among the sectors, the various jurisdictions and the community. This issue has been raised as a high priority by every national state of the environment report, and by many authoritative reviews and commissions over decades. A vertically and horizontally integrated national system for marine conservation and management is widely seen as a critical gap in management.
Assessing management effectiveness addresses the question of how well the management responses that are applied to an environmental problem identify, avoid, react to or resolve the issue. Each government entity—national, state or territory, local—has a range of different policies, laws, regulations and established practices at their disposal to deal with environmental issues. These cover the full gamut of strategic planning, implementation of management activities, and compliance assessment and reporting. Increasingly, larger private-sector entities (such as major companies) have a range of similar tools available to them to plan for and manage environmental problems that may arise within their areas of control, usually to ensure compliance with government requirements. Indeed, in some jurisdictions, some specific government responsibilities are devolved to private-sector entities to implement under the broad strategic guidance of government. Common tools applied to environmental issues in the private sector include strategic planning systems (such as risk assessment), operational management systems (such as best-practice guidelines), and whole-of-operation reporting systems. These may be developed on an industry-wide basis or, more commonly, on a company-wide or operation-wide basis.
Assessing private-sector and public-sector management of any specific marine environmental issue in Australia requires a comprehensive analysis of the hierarchical relationships between the various entities with jurisdiction and responsibility, and the extent of achievement of the explicit and implicit intended environmental outcomes. The ultimate measure of effectiveness is the extent to which the environment is protected. This can best be demonstrated through performance reporting on habitats, species and ecological health against established standards (as summarised in Section 2 of this chapter). The situation and issues in some selected jurisdictions are discussed below.
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