There have been many efforts by successive Victorian governments to improve marine and coastal planning, protection and management. This section briefly reviews the most recent.
Victoria’s new Marine and Coastal Act 2018 (the Act) provides improved governance and oversight of the marine and coastal environment and will aim to:
establish an integrated and coordinated whole-of-government approach to protect and manage Victoria’s marine and coastal environment
provide for integrated and coordinated policy, planning, management, decision-making and reporting across catchment, coastal and marine areas
establish objectives and guiding principles for ecologically sustainable planning, management and decision-making.
Recognising the need to plan for and manage the impacts of climate change is a significant addition to coastal management in Victoria – as is the acknowledgement of Traditional Owner groups’ knowledge, rights and aspirations for land and sea country.
Under the Act, the number of advisory bodies has been simplified by phasing out the regional coastal boards and Victorian Coastal Council and establishing the statewide advisory Marine and Coastal Council. The Council will be responsible for providing advice on the implementation of the Act by agencies including the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and will be able to establish subcommittees – for example a science panel.
The Act establishes statutory documents for planning and management of the marine and coastal environment at the statewide, regional and local levels. This includes the preparation of a Marine and Coastal Policy and a Marine and Coastal Strategy every five years by DELWP. These both require agreement across relevant portfolios and are intended to help deal with key challenges such as the impacts of climate change and population growth. The policy will include a marine spatial planning framework to help achieve integrated and coordinated planning and management of the marine environment.
The new legislation requires that a State of the Marine and Coastal Environment report be prepared every five years by the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, with the first due in 2021. This report will monitor trends in a variety of indicators to help measure the condition of the marine and coastal environment and any changes over time. This information will be used to better inform ecologically sustainable policy, planning and decision-making.
The Act introduces a new partnership approach for planning for significant regional issues impacting the marine and coastal environment. Regional and strategic partnerships (RASPs) will be formed in certain areas, and they will produce tools to address regional issues. Tools may include coastal hazard assessments, adaptation plan or other regional plans. Importantly, these partnerships can formally include community and non-government members to boost public involvement.
Environmental management plans will consider a broad range of threats to the health of the marine environment and aim to identify actions to fix them. Catchment management authorities (CMAs) are also now required to better plan for impacts on the marine and coastal environment through Regional Catchment Strategies, and possibly RASPs.
Local-level planning will provide opportunities for the community’s voice to be heard and the government anticipates a more streamlined process for consents to use, develop or undertake works on public land.
The new Act also aims to help address a key technical gap by enabling organisations advising on coastal flooding (namely, coastal CMAs and Melbourne Water) to be consulted on matters relating to coastal erosion.
The Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) is currently preparing a report on the environmental, economic and social values of Victoria’s marine environments that will inform the Victorian Government’s preparation of the statewide marine and coastal policy and marine spatial planning framework under the Marine and Coastal Act 2018. VEAC is also investigating coastal reserves and will:
review the number and types (reservation status) of coastal reserves in Victoria
identify reserves with high environmental, cultural heritage, social and economic values and identify values at risk from the impacts of climate change
identify current and emerging uses of the coastal reserves
compile an inventory, including spatial distribution, of values and uses of the coastal reserves.
A revised State Environment Protection Policy (Waters) commenced on 19 October 2018. The purpose of this new policy is to provide a framework to protect and improve the quality of Victoria’s waters, while its objectives are to:
achieve the level of environmental quality required to support the beneficial uses of waters
ensure that pollution to waters from both diffuse and point sources is managed in an integrated way to deliver the best outcome for the community as a whole
protect and improve environmental quality through consistent, equitable and proportionate regulatory decisions that focus on outcomes and use the best available information.
The policy also includes various environmental quality indicators, regional targets and priority areas, pollutant load reduction targets, and rules and obligations. It also identifies high conservation value areas: high value wetlands (including wetlands of international importance listed under Ramsar) and areas of significance for spawning, nursery, breeding, roosting and feeding areas of aquatic species and fauna.
The vision for the Port Phillip Bay Environmental Management Plan 2017–2027 is of a ‘healthy Port Phillip Bay that is valued and cared for by all Victorians’. This 2017 plan replaced the 2001 plan and contains a broader set of priorities and actions. The seven priorities are: connect and inspire, empower action, nutrients and pollutants, litter, pathogens (human health), habitats and marine life, and marine biosecurity.
Victoria’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2017–2020 will build a detailed understanding of the state’s exposure to climate change risks and impacts, catalyse partnerships for integrated and effective responses and tackle immediate priorities to reduce climate change risks. The plan will work to ensure up-to-date information on the coastal impacts of climate change, provide guidance to managers on coastal adaptation, ensure sea-level-rise benchmarks are based on the best science and provide resourcing through the Climate-Ready Victorian Infrastructure – Critical Coastal Protection Assets Program (2015–2019), which includes works to repair, renew and protect cliffs, seawalls and groynes across the state. Local Coastal Hazard Assessments will also be used to provide a more detailed analysis of climate change risks and impacts.
The Invasive Plants and Animals Policy Framework (IPAPF) presents the overarching Victorian Government approach to the management of existing and potential invasive species. The IPAPF incorporates a biosecurity approach to ensure that Victoria maintains a comprehensive planning framework to guide the management of invasive species. The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources is developing a whole-of-government marine pest module under the IPAPF to guide the management of marine pests in the state. The scope of this module will encompass exotic invasive marine plants, marine algae, marine invertebrate animals and marine fish.
The Victorian Waterway Management Strategy addresses:
the direct management of estuaries, for example the use of risk-based assessments (such as the Estuary Entrance Management Support System) to inform artificial estuary openings
the management of upstream waters and their catchments and associated inputs to estuaries and coastal environments – through, for example, riparian revegetation and stock exclusion delivered through the Victorian Waterway Management Program and initiatives such as the Regional Riparian Action Plan.
The Parks Victoria Act 1998 was reviewed and then replaced with the Parks Victoria Act 2018. The new Act establishes Parks Victoria as an independent statutory authority, no longer acting as a service agency to government and with management powers granted to its board rather than delegated by the secretary of DELWP. The Act aims to strengthen Parks Victoria’s role of protecting, conserving and enhancing Victoria’s parks and waterways.
In 2017, the Victorian Government established the Victorian Fisheries Authority to support the development of recreational and commercial fishing and aquaculture in Victoria, regulate fisheries and provide advice to government on a range of fisheries management opportunities.
The 2021 State of the Marine and Coastal Environment report will be able to evaluate the implementation of these polices, strategies and plans.