beach coast with two hills on either side - cloudy day

Members of the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability attend Victoria’s first Marine Spatial Planning Summit on 1 February 2019 organised by DELWP. By Senior Science Writer and Leader Science Communications, Dr Rebecca Koss.

I want to share the fantastic opportunity Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Dr Gillian Sparkes, Head of Science and Research Dr Scott Rawlings and I had in attending and participating in Victoria’s first Marine Spatial Planning Summit #MSP. This summit, hosted by the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), was a co-design workshop with the objective to create guiding principles in developing Victoria’s first Marine Spatial Planning Framework (MSPF).

As a requirement within the Marine and Coastal Act 2018, the MSPF will help Victoria to plan for how we support current and future uses of the marine environment, while maintaining its health. The MSFP doesn’t replace or duplicate planning and management of any marine sector, rather it provides an overarching framework to help guide planning, management and decision-making by marine sectors now and into the future.

The MSPF summit was opened by Chair of the Victoria Marine and Coastal Council Dr Anthony Boxshall who gave an overview of the workshop. DELWP’s Secretary John Bradley then discussed the need for all stakeholders to come together to share the stewardship and custodianship of Victoria’s 10,000 kilometres of marine waters.

The MSPF summit was attended by a diversity of Victoria-wide marine stakeholders including the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, seafood industry experts, offshore renewable energy sector, conservation groups and many other sectorial representations. This diversity of attendees reflected the goodwill of all and the shared value of wanting to look after our marine waters, through discussions of ideas, opinions and challenges. Of interest was the shared concern of impacts caused by Victoria’s increased population growth on coastal and marine natural systems, resources and infrastructure and the impacts of climate change. These concerns and challenges are also explored in the State of the Environment 2018 Report to be released in March 2019.  

Summit participants heard from ocean and coastal conflict Research Fellow with the Centre for Marine Socioecology at the University of Tasmania Dr Karen Alexander who provided a global perspective on MSP. Dr Alexander highlighted that MSP is a process, not a tool, which allows all marine users to proactively make decisions about the sustainable use of marine resources now and into the future. This was followed by robust round-table discussions on the drivers, challenges and benefits for creating a MSPF in Victoria, where all responses were captured electronically via the iMeet platform.

The summit’s afternoon session heard from Policy Director at Environmental Defence Society, New Zealand Dr Raewyn Peart, who gave her personal perspective in creating a MSP for Hauraki Gulf marine area. Dr Peart highlighted that it is important to have respect and speak the truth when working with others in creating a MSP. Summit participants were then invited to share their ideas for key guiding principles in developing Victoria’s first MSPF. The key MSP lessons Dr Alexander and Dr Peart left us with include:

  1. MSP is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
  2. Know your drivers for wanting to create an MSP.
  3. Have a clear scope and overarching objectives.
  4. Ensure there is clear ownership and roles for MSP development and implementation.
  5. Base decisions on sound evidence and knowledge.
  6. Ensure MSP leadership is broad to include Indigenous groups and the diverse range of stakeholder interests.
  7. Speak your truth and have respect for others throughout the development and implementation process.
  8. MSP is a wholistic decision-making process, not an ocean zoning tool.

The summit’s success was evidenced by many participants showing their interest in being involved in the development process to take place between February to June 2019, with the final MSFP to be available in December 2019.  Congratulations to DELWP's Nicola Waldron and Chris Pape on delivering an inclusive co-design process for Victoria’s first MSPF. The MSPF will be included in the upcoming State of Marine and Coastal 2020 Report.