THE Victorian Government is proposing a series of reforms to the coastal and marine management system, including a new Marine and Coastal Act.
An expert panel identified seven drivers for change:
- Clearer governance and institutional arrangements;
- Strengthening marine management, policy and planning;
- Integrating planning systems;
- Adapting to climate change;
- Sustainable resourcing;
- Improving knowledge;
- Involving the community.
At a local level the biggest impact is likely to be felt by the small committees of management who currently manage much of the coastline. There are about ten of these from Lang Lang to Loch Sport, including at Sandy Point, Walkerville and Port Franklin. The proposal on the table is that they be swallowed up by larger committees or their responsibilities transferred to local government or Parks Victoria.
A Marine and Coastal Act Consultation Paper was released on August 30 and was followed by an eight-week public consultation period. Four community members attended a public open house session in Yarram in early October. Representatives of South Gippsland Shire Council’s Planning Department attended a practitioner workshop in Traralgon and have put in a submission on behalf of SGSC.
Public submissions formally closed on October 23, however further targeted consultation, particularly with local government, is occurring over the coming months.
The manager of the Policy and Strategy Unit at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Jeremy Reiger, said that the new Marine and Coastal Act is expected to be introduced in 2017.
“Approximately 100 submissions were received which are currently being reviewed,” he said. “A summary of feedback is expected to be released in early 2017. A transition plan for other reforms that do not require legislative change will also be released later in 2017. Submissions where permission has been granted by the authors will be made publicly available at that time.”
While acknowledging the “huge contribution” made by individuals, organisations and local communities to the management of Victoria’s coast, the consultation paper suggests that committees of management are unlikely to be able to deal with some of the larger challenges facing coastal management in the future.
The paper suggests a need for smaller Category 2 committees of management (with annual revenue less than $1 million) being combined or consolidated into bigger, better-resourced Category 1 committees or possibly transferring their management responsibilities to local governments or Parks Victoria.
“The risk is that small CoMs will struggle to generate the capacity to deal with the impacts of climate change and population growth,” suggest the experts in their paper.
The consultation paper makes it clear that any changes to management arrangements will need to be worked through with the community, local government and Parks Victoria to determine the best arrangements in each area. The costs and benefits of the different options would also need to be considered.
One of the consultation paper’s other proposals is for a comprehensive review of fees and charges along the coast to be undertaken to ensure greater consistency.
Asked for his views on the proposed changes, Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien said that he was yet to see the results of the government’s consultation on a new Marine and Coastal Act or what the new Act would involve.
“We will consider our position when the new legislation is presented to Parliament,” said Mr O’Brien.
“What we need to do is make sure that this Act does not disadvantage our local communities in any way, make things more difficult with red tape or impose restrictions on our way of life or past-times.
“It needs to strike the right balance between local communities managing our coast and having access to it and ensuring it is well protected.”