Impacts and challenges for the management of coastal tourism

The Marine and Coastal Community Network (Flaherty 1999) and the ESD Working Group (1991) have identified the principal impacts and challenges for tourism at the coast. Common impacts of coastal tourism and recreational use were:

• poorly planned coastal development (including holiday home development) and associated development of linked transport and service lines, leading to habitat degradation or loss. This often involved destruction or change to natural or cultural features that made the area initially attractive

• off-road recreation vehicle and camping activity causing coastal vegetation destruction and erosion, especially on coastal dunes, scenic cliffs and adjacent to coastal lagoons and small estuaries

• impact on seabird (including migratory species) and wildlife populations from disturbance and habitat destruction

• impact on terrestrial and marine biota of introduced species

• impacts of developments, including marina developments, on coastal waters, estuarine and coastal wetland environments. Mangrove and sea- grass environments have been particularly impacted.

The Interim Bioregionalisation of Australia (1BRA) gives an indication of the regional concentration of the impacts. As part of the formulation of IBRA (Thackway & Cresswell 1995), factors that had the greatest adverse impact on the biodiversity of a region were identified. Regions where tourism was identified as a dominant limiting factor were the Queensland coast from Cairns to Mackay and the east coast from the Sunshine Coast to East Gippsland, including the whole of the New South Wales coastal plain.

Contemporary challenges in the management of coastal tourism are:

• managing developments within environmental and aesthetic limitations

• involving Aboriginal communities in management of coastal and marine areas

• avoiding developments involving hard structures on the foreshore, leading to sand management, erosion and beach wrack problems

• promoting and integrating codes of practice for recreational fishing, offroad driving, whale watching, dive tourism, shark viewing, small island visiting, reef walking, yachting, and boating

• developing managed marine reserves to conserve habitat and promote and cater for low impact activities such as dive tourism, particularly of Australia's unique southern marine habitats

• developing rapid response strategies for the control of introduced marine pests in high visitation areas and marine reserves

• extensive education throughout the tourism industry about the coastal zone and its conservation values.

The industry has shown interest in promoting the concept of sustainable tourism development and in cooperating with other stakeholders. For example, the Australian Tourist Industry Association (now the Tourism Council of Australia) produced a code and guidelines relating to the environment. Guidelines to improve relations between tourism and other stakeholders are also needed.

The principles which should guide sustainable tourist development at the coast, based on Commonwealth of Australia (1997), are as follows:

• Primary Asset: The natural environment is imbued with natural and cultural values and should be protected and enhanced for ecological, social and economic reasons.

• Interdependence: Economic, social and environmental factors are interdependent. This principle may be threatened by a lack of balance in determining the scope of a coastal tourism development, or by cumulative impacts on the environment.

• Areas of High Conservation Value: Some areas need to be left undeveloped, to protect these assets for present and future generations.

• Cultural Heritage: Appropriate coastal tourist development recognises the significance of cultural heritage, including indigenous heritage, and protects or enhances this heritage.

• Flexibility: Developers of sustainable coastal tourism ventures are willing to reconsider all features of their development in the light of market research, community concerns, or the environmental limits determined by the site. It is more cost-effective to be flexible in the pre-application stages of a development proposal than in the later stages.

• Integrated Planning: Sustainable coastal tourism ventures integrate and are compatible with activities and requirements of the region, local communities, local infrastructure, and plans for the region. In this way cumulative impacts of tourism growth may be reduced.

• Siting and Design: The siting and design of sustainable coastal tourism developments should be sensitive to the immediate area, water and energy efficient, and have minimal impact on the area.

• Environmental Management Systems: Part of the planning of a development includes the establishment of an environmental management system, including monitoring. Sustainable coastal tourism developments should be monitored and evaluated in both the construction and operational stages. Environment Australia, the Royal Australian Planning Institute, the Tourism

Council of Australia and the Australian Local Government Association have set out guidelines for sustainable tourism development at the national scale, in Coastal Tourism: A Manual for Sustainable Development (Commonwealth of Australia 1997).

While it is clear that a great deal of work has been done on codes of practice and on standards, there remains a need for implementation at the local level. In an industry devoted to image, it may be that ratings and labels are needed: perhaps a 'green star' system to identify environmentally friendly developments. In Europe a consumer-based 'Good Beach Guide', in which tourist beaches are rated for facilities and cleanliness of surf and sand, has proved an incentive to councils seeking to attract visitors.

There is also a need for strategic planning frameworks that allow coordination of tourism activities with other developments in the coastal zone. The process of working together with government and community in an ordered and strategic way, avoiding unwanted cumulative effects of development, is one of the greatest challenges facing the tourist industry. The strategic approach to marina development in South Australia provides an example of one such process (see Harvey 2002).

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