22nd September

Government lacks motivation to develop policy on ICZM

& Gery Flynn

The government stands accused of lacking the motivation to develop an Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) policy for Ireland. This observation was made in a report which claims that no new national initiatives in this area have been introduced for almost a decade.

‘Review of Integrated Coastal Zone Management & Principles of Best Practice’ was prepared in 2004 for the Heritage Council by the Coastal and Marine Resources Centre (CMRC), University College Cork.

Coastal management in Ireland is 'characterised by a sectoral approach to resource exploitation and management'

Coastal management in Ireland is 'characterised by a sectoral approach to resource exploitation and management'. Photo Gillian Mills

A key finding of the report is that despite stated government support for ICZM, there has been ‘no advances in policy or legislative developments for ICZM since the publication of the draft policy for Ireland in 1997’.

 Comparing Ireland's performance on ICZM with national case studies of how the policy is handled in the UK, Norway, New Zealand and Australia, the report states that coastal management here is ‘characterised by a sectoral approach to resource exploitation and management’.

Listing some of these sectoral activities as shipping; fishing; aquaculture; oil and gas exploitation; aggregate and mineral extraction; conservation; tourism and dumping, the report makes the following important conclusion:

‘Unless decision makers facilitate the development and implementation of an integrated management strategy for the coastal area, by adopting a broad perspective and a multi-sectoral approach, the policies which will prevail will continue to be driven by sectoral interests placing sustainable development of the coast beyond the reach of current and future generations.’

Multi-agency role
After examining the role of Ireland’s legislators and regulators in developing ICZM policy, the report further declares that ‘a plethora of government departments, local authorities and national agencies have roles to play in the management of the coastal area’.

The unavoidable result is that ‘Ireland’s legislative and administrative framework in the coastal area remains sectoral and complex, with a strong land/marine divide… [and]… it is characterised by a top-down approach to decision making.’

Qualifying the point, the report identifies six government departments and up to twenty State organisations as being the ‘key regulatory stakeholders dealing with coastal management at government and regional level.’

This is compounded by the amount of separate pieces of legislation relevant to the coastal area. In 1990, twenty-three different Acts applied to the coastal zone.

Local initiative
These sentiments have been echoed by organisations around the country that are actively trying to promote ICZM on a local and national basis. One of these, the Clew Bay Marine Forum – a local initiative set up in November 2000 and which meets on voluntary basis− has been trying to establish an ICZM framework for Clew Bay.

Niall O’Boyle, development manager with the Clew Bay Marine Forum is critical of the government’s handling of the ICZM issue – especially the way it has been allowed to become sector-driven.

Speaking last October at a workshop to lay the foundations of an ICZM framework for Clew Bay, and attended by representatives from Mayo County Council, the Marine Institute and BIM, O’Boyle said there was “no overall co-ordination to coastal zone management policy whatsoever. It appears to me that the national approach is a little ad hoc. It’s done on a sort of a needs basis, and it’s still coming from a sectoral need as opposed to the needs of a particular area”.

As development manager with the CBMF, O’Boyle believes he is probably the only paid official in Ireland working on ICZM.

His work involves liaising with a variety of government departments and State organisations – a task that requires time and stamina because of the number of people involved.

“For Clew Bay alone, I think I probably deal with twenty different agency personnel, and that can be very daunting. It’s taken me years to figure out who everybody is, and what they do. That said, there’s an incredible resource of knowledge and ability within the various agencies I have to deal with,” he says.

Speaking to Inshore Ireland, Karin Dubsky of Coastwatch said that
Coastal Zone Management was even more overdue now than it was when an ad hoc group of concerned stakeholders from around the coast drafted Ireland’s first plan in 1994.

“That plan may have been ahead of its time in the public participation approach and harnessing of local expertise it advocated. Nevertheless, an expensive and toothless consultants report and an inter-departmental CZM committee that never ever produced anything was a woeful response,” she commented.

Ms Dubsky added that pressures on the coastal zone have increased significantly over the last two decades, and continue to rise.

“There is more aquaculture, tourist and urban development, harbour expansion and coastal erosion. And riverine flood control systems are growing like spikes where soft options may be wiser and have less downstream impact. The time is ripe for a new initiative, and that needs someone in government to spearhead it.”

Cathal O’Mahony, a research scientist with the CMRC who co-authored the Heritage Council report, told Inshore Ireland that increasing pressure from the EU was likely to spur the government into developing a workable ICZM policy for Ireland.

“It’s important to realise that the Brady Shipman Martin report of 1997 is still just a draft discussion document. It has never been finalised. And while government statements appear from time to time supporting the concept of coastal management and promising that the necessary resources will be allocated to it, no formal policy has yet been developed. That means, in short, that Ireland still doesn’t have a national policy on Integrated Coastal Zone Management.”

Despite this government inaction, O’Mahony is optimistic that things are beginning to move again in the right direction, especially now that there is a growing public appreciation of the importance of the coastal zone:

“As an island nation, we really must build a capacity in coastal management. As things stand, we have to operate in a policy vacuum. But I believe that people want to see the necessary legislative guidelines in place, and fingers crossed, it might be about to happen.” 

Marine department Coastal Zone Management mission Statement:

To provide for the efficient and effective control of commercial operations, including the construction of public infrastructure and leisure operations on the foreshore. The strategic objectives of the Coastal Zone Management Division are:

• to assist in the development of a National Integrated Coastal Zone Management Strategy

• to secure a fair commercial return from the State’s foreshore estate

• to facilitate the necessary upgrading of major national infrastructures and the sustainable development of aquaculture

• to progressively reduce arrears in the clearing of licence applications, and

• to minimise the dumping of dredged material at sea and to encourage beneficial re-use of such material (e.g. for land reclamation, beach nourishment, etc)


Definitions of coastal zone management

Coastal Zone Management – a draft policy for Ireland, Brady Shipman Martin (1997)

The coastal zone

The coastal zone is defined as a strip of land and sea territory of varying width depending on the nature of the environment and management needs. It seldom corresponds to existing administrative or planning units.

What is coastal zone management?
The coastal zone is already managed by a range of agencies and organisations. However, management needs of the coastal zone are generally more complex and varied than in other areas, reflecting its physical, biological, social and economic diversity, and the wide range of activities taking place there.

The concept of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) has developed as a response to the fragmentation of existing effort, and in recognition that more efficient and sustainable use of the coastal resource can be achieved by concerted management.

At the heart of the concept lies the idea of greater integration of planning and management, and consequently the concept has been increasingly referred to as Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)

Integrated coastal zone management is defined as:

A continuous process of administration which seeks, through more efficient and holistic management:

• to establish and maintain the sustainable use and development of the resources of the coastal zone so as to improve the quality of life and of human communities dependent on these resources; and

• to maintain the biological diversity and productivity of coastal ecosystems, and to improve the quality of the coasal environment

Integrated Coastal Zone Management concerns the management of the coastal zone as a whole in relation to local, regional, national and international goals.

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