Coastal Governance Theme

Collaborative policy-making and planning in the coastal zone

Coastal governance is the set of processes and institutional arrangements through which decision makers and stakeholders influence actions and outcomes on the coast.

There are serious policy and planning implications for Australian coastal communities resulting from existing coastal pressures and the new pressures of climate change. Low-lying and erosion-prone coastal areas are more vulnerable to sea-level rise. Social disadvantage can worsen coastal vulnerability in regional areas. New sea-level policies tend to relate to new developments, leaving existing ecosystems and old infrastructure without adaptive plans.

The challenge for coastal governance is to:

  • engage coastal stakeholders in a share understanding of climate change on the coast and opportunities for adaptation
  • enable broad, meaningful participation in knowledge-based governance of the coast in a rapidly changing context
  • plan for long term impacts of climate change while at the same time having short cycles of review that allow new information to be considered and acted on as it becomes available

Led by Curtin University, the Coastal Governance Theme explores how governance can best respond to climate change and adapt to coastal impacts such as sea level rise.

The research aims to:

  • Investigate features of current systems of coastal governance and planning
  • Identify constraints to effective engagement of governance systems with relevant knowledge bases
  • Investigate how systems of coastal governance can become more reflexive and open to knowledge through engaging stakeholders and decision-makers in an adaptive learning process
  • Collaboratively develop future pathways in coastal policy and planning.

Design and Methods

The Governance theme uses deliberative techniques such as Google Earth participatory mapping, scientific visualisations, and scenario planning to generate future governance pathways.

Key Outputs

We have produced:

  • A variety of tools and guidelines including: generic coastal sustainability strategy, scenario planning tool, governance analysis tool, Indigenous coastal website guidelines, Google Earth participatory mapping guidelines and a resources database.
  • ‘Sustainable Coastal Management and Climate Adaptation: Lessons from Regional Approaches in Australia’ – an edited book (Kenchington, R., Stocker, L. & Wood, D. eds) with chapters by theme leaders from the Coastal Collaboration Cluster.
  • Articles and videos on coastal adaptation.

 G. Burke.

Google Earth Participatory Mapping workshop with Rottnest Island Authority, WA. Image: G. Burke.

Coastal governance is the set of processes and institutional arrangements through which decision makers and stakeholders influence actions and outcomes on the coast.

Research to date suggests that good governance for coastal adaptation:

  • Is a long term strategic process with sustainability goals and visions
  • Is relational, reflexive and adaptive
  • Is participatory, engaging all stakeholders and the broad community
  • Works with social and cultural values and local contexts
  • Uses front runners and champions
  • Uses boundary agents and boundary organisations to span the knowledge-governance interface
  • Learns continually using the best information available
  • Is a complex adaptive system including both ecological and social aspects.

References for Coastal Governance Theme

Adger, W. N. (2006).  Vulnerability.. Global Environmental Change..
Berkes, F., & Seixas. C. S. (2005).  Building resilience in lagoon social-ecological systems.. Ecosystems..
Berkes, F. (2009).  Berkes, F. 2009. Evolution of co-management: role of knowledge generation, bridging organizations and social learning. Journal of Environmental Management. 90: 1692-1702.. Journal of Environmental Management. 90,
Rist, S., Chidambaranathan M., Escobar C., Wiesmann U., & Zimmermann A. (2007).  Moving from sustainable management to sustainable governance of natural resources: The role of social learning processes in rural India, Bolivia and Mali. Journal of Rural Studies. 23,
Stocker, L., Kennedy D., Kenchington R.A., & Merrick K. (2012).  Sustainable coastal management?. In, Kenchington, R., Stocker, L. & Wood, D. (Eds) Sustainable Coastal Management and Climate Change: Lessons from Regional Australia.
Wescott, G. (2012).  Disintegration or disinterest? Coastal and marine policy in Australia. In, Crowley, K. & Walker, K. (Eds) Environmental Policy Failure The Australian Story.
De Freitas, D. M., Smith T.F., & Stokes A. (2014).  Planning for uncertainty: local scale coastal governance. Ocean & Coastal Management.. 86,
Tsamenyi, M., & Kenchington R.A. (2012).  Australian oceans policymaking. Coastal Management . 40(2), 119-132.
Stocker, L., Kennedy D., Metcalf S., Dambacher J., Middle G., & Wood D. (2011).  Modelling coastal planning in southwest Western Australia: complexity, collaboration and climate adaptation. MODSIM 2011 International Congress on Modelling and Simulation, Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand. In, Chan, F., Marinova, D. & Anderssen, R.S. (Eds), 2996-3002.
Zafrin, S., Rosier J., & Baldwin C. (In Press).  Queensland’s coastal planning regime: the extent of participation in coastal governance. Planning Practice & Research .
Clarke, B., & Harvey N. (2013).  Wither coastal management in Australia – a call for national leadership. In, Conley, D., Masselink, G., Russell, P.E. & O’Hare, T. (Eds) Proceedings 12th International Coastal Symposium. Journal of Coastal Research(Special Issue 65), 915-920.
Leith, P., Jacobs B., Brown P., & Nelson R. (2012).  A participatory assessment of NRM capacity to inform policy and practice: Cross-scale evaluation of enabling and constraining factors. Society & Natural Resources. 25(8), 775-793.
Cundill, G., & Fabricius C. (2009).  Monitoring in adaptive co-management: Toward a learning based approach. Journal of Environmental Management. 90,
Newig, J., Haberl H., Pahl-Wostl C., & Rothman D.S. (2008).  Formalised and non-formalised methods in resource management- knowledge and social learning in participatory processes: an introduction. Systemic Practice and Action Research. 21,
Pahl-Wostl, C. (2009).  A conceptual framework for analysing adaptive capacity and multi-level learning processes in resource governance regimes. Global Environmental Change. 19,
Kenchington, R.A., Stocker L., & Wood D. (2012).  Lessons from regional approaches to coastal management in Australia: a synthesis. In, Kenchington, R., Stocker, L. & Wood, D. (Eds) Sustainable Coastal Management and Climate Change: Lessons from Regional Australia. Chapter 9,
Kennedy, D., Stocker L., & Burke G. (2010).  Australian local government action on climate change adaptation: some critical reflections to assist decision-making. Local Environment. 15(9), 805–816.
Tribbia, J., & Moser. S. C. (2008).  More than information: what coastal managers need to plan for climate change.. Environmental Science & Policy.. 315-328.
Haward, M., & O'Toole K. (2014).  Tasmania: Derwent Estuary Program Case Study.
Clarke, B., Stocker L., Coffey B., Leith P., Harvey N., Baldwin C., et al. (2013).  Enhancing the Knowledge-Governance Interface: Coasts, Climate and Collaboration. Ocean & Coastal Management.. 86(88-99), 
Stocker, L., & Wood D. (2014).  Coastal Governance Theme Fact Sheet.

Contacts for Coastal Governance Theme