Is the coast losing out with NRM? Proposed changes for South Australia

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There are 56 NRM regions around Australia and 36 of these have coasts. In the 1990s Coastal NRM was flourishing thanks to the federal government’s dedicated funding and national networking support. The Coastcare logo was visible at hundreds of sites around Australia showcasing the great work being carried out by an impressive number of volunteers. Regrettably, federal engagement in coastal NRM has steadily withered since that time.

Coastal NRM is still visible, but it is no longer a national brand and this a shame because the national network provided opportunities for sharing ideas and rallying enthusiasm for action at the coast. In some states and regional settings State branches of the Australian Coastal Society have stepped into the breach by hosting joint coastal/NRM conferences (QLD and WA). However, coastal matters are diluted by terrestrially focussed interests (for example, at the 5th Annual NRM conference only 9% of the presentations were dedicated to coastal/marine NRM).

In South Australia moves are afoot that will serve to discontinue a focus on coastal NRM through a proposed Landscape South Australia Act. It will replace the existing Natural Resources Management Act 2004 through which SA NRM boards were able to produce a series of excellent Coastal Action Plans for stewardship of coastal and marine resources across the entire state.

While the SA Government’s discussion paper Managing our Landscapes: Conversations for Change (July 2018) defines ‘landscapes’ in broad terms it is returning to a silo-ised conceptualisation of environmental management focussing specifically on soil, water, and pests (see page 6 of the discussion paper).

Of real concern is the very limited attention given to the coast. The discussion paper refers only in sweeping terms to our coast and seas as part of the state’s natural resources. The single management action identified for the coast is for the 30km of metropolitan Adelaide. There is no mention of the more than 5,500 km of the state’s non-metropolitan coastal resources.

The discussion paper gives the impression that non-metropolitan coastal and marine resources are no longer part of the South Australian NRM remit. The Environment Minister makes it clear that the emphasis for the new legislation is on ‘soil quality, water management and pest and animal control’ and that there is a focus on private landholders rather than integrated natural resource management across a range of tenures. Such a restrictive approach heralds a very likely reduction in funding support and a contraction in stewardship effort to care and advocate for the state’s coastal and marine resources.

Nick Harvey and Beverley Clarke

Words by Prof Nick Harvey and Dr Beverley Clarke. Please respect the authors' thoughts and reference appropriately: (c) ACS, 2018, posted 12 November 2018, for correspondence about this blog post please email