Although the Commonwealth did not take up the RAC proposal for a new Act and new agency, it has established and developed the Commonwealth Coastal Policy and Coastal Action Plan and published (though without the agreement of the states) the National Oceans Policy. A great deal of action, planning, research, and capacity building has been driven through all sectors by Commonwealth funding (and associated criteria) in the late 1990s. This has been detailed in chapter 4; some examples are:
• Coasts and Clean Seas
• Urban Stormwater Initiative
• Ocean Rescue 2000
• coastal vulnerability assessment to projected climate change, carried out by all states and the Northern Territory
• professional and industry guidelines in coastal planning, coastal engineering, tourism development, and fishing
• the development of an Interim Marine and Coastal Bioregionalisation of Australia, 1MCRA
• continued support of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, CSIRO oceanographic work, the National Tidal Facility, and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
At the same time, state of the environment reporting by the Commonwealth has made a significant contribution in developing a national view of the state of the coast. The State of the Australian Marine Environment Report (Zann 1995) and the State of the Australian Environment, reports (SEAC 1996, ASEC 2001) were important collaborative efforts that described the condition of the coastal environment, within the pressure-state-response (PSR) model. As a result, attempts have been made to describe the state of responses to impacts on the coast following the PSR model. Thus government state of the environment description processes have begun to routinely raise questions such as: How successful has management been and how can this success be measured? What are the best indicators of management response?
A variety of agreements and instruments have enabled this activity, including the Council of Australian Governments and, notably, memoranda of understanding between the Commonwealth and the states on the Coastal Action Plan (1995) and the National Heritage Trust (1997).
Within the Australian system of cooperative federalism, the Commonwealth would need to obtain broad agreement, through the Council of Australian Governments, to establish a national coastal policy or strategy. Given the complexity of the issues, the varied – and changing – attitudes of the states, and the low political profile of the organisation of coastal management, it is not surprising that an agreed national approach has yet to be established. More clear cut issues, such as dryland salinity or capping diversions within the Murray-Darling Basin, struggle for unanimous agreement within the federation, most especially at the borders of Queensland. It appears that in the 1990s the time had not come for a national approach to coastal management.
Meanwhile, states have continued to carry out the majority of coastal management regulation and progressed their efforts to establish a strategic and more integrated approach through policy development.