Protecting private properties from the sea: Australian policies and practice
The vulnerability of private coastal properties is a global issue which has arisen largely because of a lack of understanding of coastal processes. In some countries where government authorities have a long history of funding private property protection works the sustainability and ethics of policies have been questioned together with debate over public rights and the rights of property owners. In Australia, where coast protection is a responsibility of state governments there is a variation in policies and legislation relating to planning approvals for coast protection works in front of private properties. This paper examines the different Australian policies and uses examples from practice to illustrate these differences. The paper notes a wide variation in the ratio of public versus private funding which does not always match the relative proportion of benefit gained from protection works. The paper concludes that there is a complex pattern of individual state-based coastal policies, legislation and guidelines related to protection of private coastal properties. These have an underlying principle that protection works must be fully assessed in the context of effects on the adjacent coast and neighbouring properties. In reality, this requires a detailed understanding of coastal processes, particularly sediment movement, within broad sections of the coast referred to as sediment cells. Such an integrated approach has been introduced to some state-based Australian coastal legislation and strategies.