Local decision making in a complex environment:Coastal Erosion and Inundation Kevin O’Toole and Brian Coffey
Sea Level Rise – International Concern • Coastal Inundation and Erosion – shoreline • International problem – 40% world’s population live in Coastal zones • Major geo-physical issues of sea level rise: • the entrance of saltwater into coastal aquifers; • the bleaching of coral reefs that are important not only for marine life but also for tourism; • increased storm surges associated with more intense storms; • increased rainfall in the established climate patterns eg El Nino and La Nina which increase flooding on land
‘Problems’ of inundation and erosion – values • Issues of coastal inundation are mainly concerned with threats or otherwise to public and private infrastructure. • Importance of scale at which coastal inundation and erosion occur from specific site locations to more broad scale regional areas. • Coastal erosion problems arise from the presence of human infrastructure in areas threatened by erosion; identifying erosion as a problem is therefore a human value judgement (Cooper, 2008). • Layers of governance from the community to the international scale representing a range of human values that form a contested arena for the resolution of coastal inundation and erosion problems.
Solutions? Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) was developed in the hope of changing the discourse of coastal management from a top down notion to one that was more inclusive These included four principles: • develop an integrated and coordinated approach to policy; • represent the marine to the terrestrial transitional space as one integrated coastal zone; • need for long term strategic view of governance; • seek to involve as many stakeholders as possible to get better and more integrated outcomes.
Coastal Inundation in Victoria • Complex arrangement of legislation, programs and strategies • Climate Change Act (2010); Coastal Management Act (1995) and Planning and Environment Act (1987). • Victorian Coastal Council (VCC), the Victorian Coastal Strategy (VCS) • Victorian Planning Provisions (VPP) – Clauses 12, 13 • Future Coasts • means of using science as evidence based policy for consequences of sea level rise • Projects: Port Fairy, Bellarine peninsular, Western Port, Lakes Entrance • Three pass approach
Port Fairy • The main focus - urban settlement of Port Fairy not the whole of the Moyne Shire coastline. Eroding Sand Dunes Eroding Waste Management Site Flooding in Moyne Lough Inundation of Wharf Eroding Beach Fence Protecting Golf Club Dunes
Port Fairy Processes • Involvement of Community and Stakeholders • Port Fairy Working Group • Continued development of local policy around sea level rise is very much dependent upon the overarching policy framework of the State government • Responsibilities of state departments (CMAs, DSE, DPCD, Western Coastal Board, Parks Victoria) • Change of discourse from previous government (climate change, sea level rise) to ‘new’ environmental discourse of present government (development with protection) • Future Coasts? • Planning decisions by State Minister
Project Interviews • 36 people so far ongoing • Subjects were identified on the basis of their active involvement in an aspect of coastal zone management: • coastal inundation and erosion • marine protected areas, • regional economic development planning, • estuary entrance management, • recreational values • Interview subjects included: • state government employees, • local government councillors and employees, • members of coastal and catchment bodies, • scientists, • members of non-government organisations and community groups, • representatives from industry bodies.
Intitial Insights • Complex arrangements and issues and uncertain understandings • Multiple sources of fragmented knowledge • Diverse values, viewpoints and approaches to interpreting information • Sensitivities regarding the release of information • Decisions are as much about politics as they are science • Constrained planning horizons and timeframes
Complex arrangements and issues and uncertain understandings • “It is complex, and the general community don’t know who manages what” • “In dealing with coastal issues there is a tension in bridging between science and engineering issues” • Lack of Expertise: • “got ½ of the coastal engineers in Australia involved, all three of them” • “sea level rise is a classic example, because we know we’re … completely out of our depth, we’ll defer on every occasion to other authorities
Multiple sources of fragmented knowledge • “we have to try and figure out what you can get your hands on” • “there is a lot of information stored in consultants reports, management plans, . . . which have relevant information, which is not always easily accessible” • “A lot of information that we deal with is not in a system per se, it is more stored in human systems and in people’s heads” • “the network is much more valuable than the knowledge contained in it” • “So while local communities can provide valuable information, they are not always the ones best placed to make objective decisions about change. ”
Diverse values, viewpoints and approaches to interpreting information - 1 • “land subject to inundation data as a line on a map that should stop a lot of development from occurring - I think it [the role of science] should be enormous, because of the precautionary principle, but that’s not precautionary, that’s bureaucratic twaddle” • “We have to figure out, for example, is the level of knowledge sufficient to be able to make a sensible planning decision that takes account of all the issues that are known, or not known. If they’re not known do you go with the precautionary principle, or do you say on balance, this is safe, it is far enough inland, or whatever the situation is”
Diverse values, viewpoints and approaches to interpreting information - 2 • “the position of … can change depending on who you have in that role. If you have a raging environmentalist in a position, then you’ll get a different position, than if you had a moderate, or a less raging environmentalist, and I think that is faulty, that isn’t fair on the stakeholders”
Sensitivities regarding the release of information • “For good reasons we have kept our information pretty close to our chest. It hasn’t been released, the information we have, until we have Cabinet and ministerial signoff for what we” • “If its slightly sensitive and it isn’t public, then we might not send it to them” • “f&#%ing oath I’m guarded, because I don’t know what you bastards are going to put on the front of the paper, why wouldn’t I be guarded”
Decisions are as much about politics as they are science • “So there is ½ of the conversation that is strongly scientific, and then you kind of leave that behind when you go to talk to stakeholders… It really turns into a human issue, a social issue, a conversation of multiple interests, all seeing the world a bit differently” • “science is one thing but it’s also about human behaviour and what we do, … we talk about managing the resources, but we are not managing the resource, it’s all about managing people” • “policy and legislative barriers may be far greater than scientific barriers” • “But then often there is something done … to satisfy that political agenda at the time”.
Constrained planning horizons and timeframes • “should use the best information of the day, if it is moving later, make changes later, but at least implement something so there is clarity around it” • “I don’t think there is enough updating. We get this information, and then go great let’s put it away, and we are potentially using the same information in 20 years … and that is because there hasn’t been as part of that project, a planning for the future of that information.” • “some things do have defined start and end points, but a lot of things you deal with in terms of the coast really don’t, because it is constantly changing, and views and values are also changing”
Future pathways Some themes that have emerged so far • The consequences of sea level rise are more about management of people than management of the coastal environment itself • Greater consultation and interactions between the diverse stakeholders with an interest in sea level rise; • Science more engaged in decision making processes, so it is not just information that is provided, but also input into the architecture of the processes and frameworks that can assist decision makers; • Policies need to be flexible and draw upon knowledge management systems that can adapt to changing circumstances • More training and development may be needed for community organisations • Don’t be afraid to call a spade a spade • On-going communication