22nd September

Government abandons ‘model approach’ to coastal zone management

Shay Fennelly

According to a report published in 2004 – Review of Integrated Coastal Zone Management & Principles of Best Practice (CMRC) and the subject of this paper’s first lead story in January 2005 – there has been ‘no advances in policy or legislative developments for ICZM since the publication of the draft policy for Ireland in 1997.’

And the ongoing cost and controversy surrounding the Corrib gas project is testament to the lack of an adequate framework to resolve coastal planning issues in Ireland.

No advances in policy of legislative developments for ICZM since the publication of the draft policy for Ireland in 1997

No advances in policy of legislative developments for ICZM since the publication of the draft policy for Ireland in 1997. Photo Gillian Mills

The government abandoned a model approach for facilitating dialogue in relation to Integrated Coastal Zone Management, which if implemented in 2003 with the Corrib gas project, could have reduced or even avoided the €13 million and rising Garda policing bill now facing the taxpayer.

 Ministers fail to deliver

Successive ministers for the marine in the meantime have failed to publish an ICZM Bill despite ‘on the record’ commitments in 2001 and 2003:

(Minister Frank Fahey, Dáil Debate 8th Feb 2001)
“The way is now becoming clear for bringing forward new frameworks which will focus on the interaction between different sectors, agencies and legal frameworks with a view to bringing about a more integrated and holistic approach to coastal zone management. It is the intention in so far as my department’s responsibilities are concerned to have new legislation brought in next year.”

(Minister Dermot Ahern, Dáil Debates 7th Oct 2003)
“I have previously indicated my intention to publish in 2004 legislative proposals to consolidate and modernize the law on foreshore administration and to support the development and operation of more integrated approaches to the management of the coastal areas and their resources.”

Ironically, in February 2003, government discontinued funding for the Bantry Bay Coastal Zone Management project, the first successful demonstration of its kind in Ireland.

Responsibility for ICZM
In November 2008, a Freedom of Information request by Inshore Ireland to the Department of Agriculture Fisheries & Food seeking access to all correspondence and memos on the reasons for refusing the funding elicited the following response:

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food no longer has responsibility for the Bantry Bay CZM Project. This function has been transferred to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government under a Government decision dated 4th November 2008.

Therefore this Department has no statutory powers to deal with your request. Fisheries Division of this Department did advise the Freedom of Information Unit that the functions were transferred however they were unable to advise as to which area in DHELG that this function was transferred to.

John Gormely’s Private Secretary has informed Inshore Ireland that“Coastal Zone Management still falls under the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and referred us to the Department’s website

At the time of going to press Inshore Ireland understands that the DHELG water quality section now has a brief for CZM, its precise role however is not clear.

Background to ICZM
The Department of the Marine and Natural Resources set up a Coastal Zone Administrative Division in 1997. The principle functions were to support the development of sustainable coastal zone management through new policies, plans and legislation and through effective licensing arrangements for the foreshore, dumping at sea, and aquaculture.

To encourage Member States to develop ICZM in Europe, the EU funded demonstration projects. Between 1997 and 2000, the EU granted €700,000 (a LIFE programme which supports innovative environmental projects) to Cork County Council and its partners, University College Cork and Cork Institute of Technology to develop the Bantry CZM project.
Noel Dempsey, then Minister for the Environment, launched the Bantry Bay Coastal Zone Management Pilot Project in November 1997 to develop a consensus-based integrated coastal management strategy. Cork County Council had experienced difficulties in delivering on its responsibilities for the environment, physical infrastructure and planning within its jurisdiction.

The absence of any previously successful initiatives to ease local tensions persuaded the council to explore this alternative approach. The project grew out of a thesis by UCC graduate Aileen Hegarty (Towards a community based approach to Integrated Coastal Zone Management: A case study of Bantry Bay. M.Phil.)

The project adopted an innovative approach by involving maximum public participation, working for consensus with the local community and employing conflict resolution techniques.

Anyone with a ‘stake’ in the area was accepted as having an interest in the project and having a right to be represented within it. Similarly, regulatory agencies with a direct executive role locally were also considered stakeholders. All participants within the process were treated equally.

In 2000 the Bantry Bay CZM project became the Bantry Bay Charter. Effectively this was a series of agreements among local people, sectoral groups and government agencies, and set out an overall vision of the area; principles for managing and developing it and over 200 distinct actions.
The Bantry Bay Charter Project won the prestigious National Planning Achievement Award 2000 (Irish Planning Institute) for its innovative approach.

Support withdrawn
In February 2003 however the project office closed due to a lack of funding.

“I regret that there are no funds available to my Department to support the work of the Bantry Bay Charter,” Minister Dermot Ahern said in April 2003.

Addressing a Coastal Zone Management Conference in Newfoundland in 2004, Charter facilitator Dr Harriet Emerson outlined the reasons for its closure as follows:

• A lack of commitment from government agencies to implement the Charter agreement.
• The relatively poor record of government in effective collaborative working
• Senior officers within the Marine Department were reluctant to engage meaningfully and allow a flexible approach to the conduct of its core responsibilities, in order to achieve improvements.
• The skeptical support of the mussel farmers in Bantry Bay, who stood to gain more than most from greater emphasis on improvements to water quality.
The loss of the Charter, Dr Emerson noted, “will be felt by all stakeholders. The Government in Ireland seems to have little grasp that the goal of increased successful and positive public participation will not be achieved without a clear demonstration of genuine respect for public involvement.”

Counting the cost
Since 2003 the Corrib Gas project has estimated policing costs of €13.5 million. A government-backed forum has now been set up to address some of the “undoubted mistakes”. These include a failure to consult adequately with the local community at the outset regarding the Corrib gas project, Minister Eamon Ryan remarked in the Irish Times, 7 Nov 2008.

The statutory public consultation period for the Corrib project during which written comments were submitted to the Department ended on December 28, 2001, just when the Bantry Charter was agreed.

The first gas was due ashore in 2003. This has been set back to 2010; the “fast track” approach failed due to unforeseen delays relating to compulsory purchase orders, concerns about environmental impacts on fishing, planning, safety, tourism, and designated special areas of conservation sites.

In February 2003 the government abandoned Integrated Coastal Zone Management and the reason has never been officially explained.

CMRC comment on ICZM
The first ICoNet (Irish Coastal Network) Conference Towards the Sustainable Development of Ireland’s Coast held in UCC in April 2007, represented a milestone for sharing information among coastal policy makers, practitioners, scientists and coastal communities.

It also served as an important catalyst in focusing attention on activities in the CZM division of the then Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, which provided sponsorship towards the event.

A significant outcome was a conference announcement by the DCMNR of a Call for Tenders to ‘Undertake a strategic review of the legislative framework, structures, and procedures in place to manage the State-owned foreshore; by outlining the options, informed by best international practice, for putting in place a modernised legislative framework and improved systems and procedures for Coastal Zone Management, which will best fit the medium to long term requirements in this area’.

The departmental restructuring that ensued, following a cabinet decision in the summer of 2007, meant that progress in relation to the much needed ICZM review came to an abrupt halt. This was just one casualty of a process that resulted in the dilution of governance structures for dealing with the coastal and marine environment among multiple government departments, leading to further ‘disintegrated coastal zone management’ ‘ in Ireland.

In an era of economic recession, the need for an innovative approach to unlocking the potential of coastal and marine resources is greater now than ever.

At present, Ireland derives <1% GDP from the maritime sector (compared with UK 5%, Denmark 11%, Norway 20%). Yet we know that there is considerable potential to be derived from activities such as ocean energy which recently benefited from a €26m government investment.

A joined up approach, underpinned by adequate foreshore legislation and decision making processes is crucial to unlock the potential of these initiatives; and to avoid the mistakes of the past such as those that led to the Corrib controversy. It is time for an overhaul of our coastal planning system and a fresh examination of what ICZM can deliver for Ireland.

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