Last Tuesday, 12 December 2017, the Marine and Coastal Bill 2017 (the Bill) was introduced into the Victorian Legislative Assembly, by the Honourable L D’Ambrosio, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. As per the explanatory memorandum to the Bill, the main purposes of the Bill are:
In her second reading speech, Ms D’Ambrosio highlighted the importance of this Bill. In particular, the Bill proposes to improve the current legislative system surrounding coastal management in Victoria, as currently implemented by the Coastal Management Act 1995.
“Since 1995 the Coastal Management Act 1995 (the 1995 act), Victoria's first legislation dedicated to statewide coastal management, has guided the protection, conservation and sustainable use and development of the coast and has provided a strong basis for coordinated strategic planning for, and management of, the Victorian coast.
However, over the last 20 years advances in our understanding of the marine and coastal environment have highlighted gaps and complexities in the current system that need to be addressed if we are to meet contemporary challenges, particularly those arising in the face of climate change, increasing population pressures and ageing coastal infrastructure. In addition, there has been a growing appreciation of the value and uniqueness of the marine environment lying beyond the coast, and of its importance to the state. […]
The bill establishes a new coordinating framework that harnesses and builds on the strengths of the 1995 act but provides for improved oversight, planning and management of Victoria's marine and coastal environment. In doing so, it will strengthen Victoria's coastal planning and management framework and help integrate the planning and management of the marine environment.”
In its entirety, the Bill proposes to strengthen the legislative support of the Victorian Government for Victoria’s coastal and marine areas. Importantly in the implementation of this initiative, Part 2 of the Bill denotes the “objectives and guiding principles for the planning and management of the marine and coastal environment”. The objectives, as listed in section 7 of the Bill, are:
(a) to protect and enhance the marine and coastal environment; and
(b) to promote the resilience of marine and coastal ecosystems, communities and assets to climate change; and
(c) to respect natural processes in planning for and managing current and future risks to people and assets from coastal hazards and climate change; and
(d) to acknowledge traditional owner groups' knowledge, rights and aspirations for land and sea country; and
(e) to promote a diversity of experiences in the marine and coastal environment; and
(f) to promote the ecologically sustainable use and development of the marine and coastal environment and its resources in appropriate areas; and
(g) to improve community, user group and industry stewardship and understanding of the marine and coastal environment; and
(h) to engage with specified Aboriginal parties, the community, user groups and industry in marine and coastal planning, management and protection.
Further, in Part 2 of the Bill, the guiding principles for the planning and management of the marine and coastal environment are outlined. Section 8 states that “it is a guiding principle […] that planning and management should be co-ordinated and integrated, as appropriate,” across a number of different marine and coastal political and environmental areas.
The guiding principle in section 9(1) of the Bill states that: “It is a guiding principle for the management of the marine and coastal environment that the maintenance and, where appropriate, restoration of marine and coastal ecosystem structure and function is fundamental to the current and future use and enjoyment of Victoria's marine and coastal environment, its resources, and the ecosystem services provided.”
Other guiding principles are: ecologically sustainable development (s 10); evidence-based decision-making (s 11); precautionary principle (s 12); proportionate and risk-based principle (s 13); and adaptive management.
Part 3 of the Bill proposes to establish the Marine and Coastal Council. The functions of this Council, to be performed with regard to the objectives and guiding principles in Part 2 of the Bill, include:
(a) to provide guidance and strategic advice to the Minister on the development of the Marine and Coastal Policy and the Marine and Coastal Strategy;
(b) to provide advice to the Minister on the implementation of the Marine and Coastal Policy and the Marine and Coastal Strategy;
(c) to provide advice to the Minister, as requested, on significant decisions under this Act relating to or affecting the marine and coastal environment;
(d) to provide advice to the Minister on matters requiring scientific research;
(e) to advise the Secretary on the preparation of guidelines made under this Act;
(f) to request the Minister to establish a regional and strategic partnership;
(g) to provide advice to the parties of a regional and strategic partnership on the preparation of a product under the partnership;
(h) to provide advice to the Minister on the preparation of environmental management plans;
(i) to provide advice as requested by the Minister on any matter relating to or affecting the administration of the Act;
(j) to carry out any other function conferred on the Council by or under this Act or any other Act.
Part 3 of the Bill contains provisions for the making of certain Marine and Coastal policies, strategies and reports. These are summarised in the second reading speech to the Bill:
“The 1995 act introduced Victoria's first long-term, strategic statewide document for coastal planning and management. The Victorian Coastal Strategy is a key strength of the current system which has maintained bipartisan support throughout its four iterations. The bill recognises this strength and builds upon it. It distinguishes between the long-term statewide policy and the more dynamic statewide strategy and will ensure a coordinated approach to resolving marine issues that cut across sectorial boundaries.
Both the policy and strategy will be developed and co-endorsed across government. They will guide marine and coastal planning and decision-making at the statewide, regional and local scale. The policy and strategy will also complement other reforms such as those delivered through Protecting Victoria's Environment — Biodiversity 2037 and Victoria's climate change framework and adaptation plan.
A significant new aspect of the policy will be the inclusion of a marine spatial planning framework. This is the first step to establishing a holistic plan for Victoria's marine environment. The framework will formalise an agreed process to guide future planning and dispute resolution in Victoria's marine estate.
The strategy will outline the actions and responsible authorities to deliver policy outcomes on the ground. It will be accompanied by an implementation plan to ensure that the delivery of actions is prioritised and resourced. It will also give greater clarity on roles and responsibilities which was identified as a significant gap in the current system.“
The remainder of the Bill purports to create and extend the current regime of marine and coastal environment planning, including for regional and local areas (Part 6 and 7). Finally, in Part 11 of the Bill, the Coastal Management Act 1995 is repealed and additional amendments to other Acts are made to support the implementation of the new scheme, proposed by this Bill.
TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.
Marine and Coastal Bill 2017: Bill, second reading speech and explanatory memorandum as published on Timebase, LawOne.
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