A healthy environment is fundamental to our social and economic needs. Yet, a healthy environment relies upon communities having social wellbeing and economic resources. This enables them to contribute to good environmental outcomes.
Our report is the second in Victoria's series of state of the environment reports (following the State of the Yarra 2018 Report) to include a chapter on communities in which a range of socioeconomic indicators are assessed. We look at activities undertaken by, and the liveability of, coastal communities.
The development of coastal settlements represents a significant change in land use, potentially reducing natural habitat. It is often assumed that population in coastal areas is increasing faster than non-coastal areas. In Victoria this is not the case. However, population growth in coastal suburbs of Melbourne has been rapid. Coastal locations near Melbourne and Geelong have experienced rapid growth, especially on the Bellarine Peninsula and around Torquay.
During the mid-2000s, significant Victorian coastal landscapes were identified to ensure sustainable use and development. Work is currently underway to protect significant landscapes in several coastal areas. It will be important to develop effective monitoring to determine how well outcomes are being achieved in terms of protecting the qualities of significant landscapes.
Legislative protection is given to a range of cultural heritage for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians, on land and in marine environments. In this context, cultural heritage includes both tangible and intangible assets which contribute to community identity, sense of history and sense of place. It may include a site, object, building or tree.
In March 2021, there were a total of 38,827 registered Aboriginal places on the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register. 1,143 cultural heritage management plans also existed at this time. It is important to monitor the qualitative status of sites and the degree to which investment is supporting their preservation and protection.
Victorian Government policy supports tourism and recreation (especially boating and fishing). It is seen as a valuable source of jobs and revenue for Victorian coastal communities.
Recreational fishing is a popular activity for people, contributing to their wellbeing. Yet, more recreational fishing activity may increase pressures on fisheries and the broader ecosystem. Management strategies and education are required to prevent such impacts. While some data is available on recreational fishing, gaps remain in our understanding of its scale and impact. Increasingly, programs aim to foster responsible fisher behaviour to enhance environmental outcomes.
Victoria's commercial fisheries management systems are generally effective. Yet, there are still some threats evident such as:
- illegal and unreported fishing.
- introduction of pests.
- bycatch and entanglements.
State and Commonwealth commercial fisheries provided $101 million of gross production value to the Victorian economy and added value of $223 million. More than two thousand jobs were provided in the industry, which translated into $129 million in household income.
Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. It is an increasingly important source of seafood in Victoria, both for the domestic and export market. The main species farmed in Victorian coastal waters are abalone and blue mussels. Regulations are in place to prevent the spread of invasive marine species in the aquaculture industry. Yet, disease outbreaks remain a threat to the industry.
Resources and energy generation
Victoria uses both renewable and non-renewable resources from marine and coastal environments to generate electricity. Resources and energy generation are currently undergoing major change due to the decarbonisation of Victoria’s energy sources. Development of wind and solar energy has been increasing in recent years and more projects are planned.
Agriculture represents a major land use which provides economic benefits, and food for the wider community. Agricultural activities have the potential to be undertaken in a sustainable way. For example, farmers can provide stewardship of the land by looking after soils, vegetation and other environmental features. However, there are some environmental risks related to agriculture which require management. For example, without proper management, water runoff from farming land may contain high nutrient loads from animal waste or fertiliser which impact coastal and marine ecosystems.
Coastal infrastructure remains under threat from climate change. This is due to sea level rise and increasing frequency of severe weather events. The condition of coastal assets and infrastructure is currently undergoing review.