Research aim

The overarching aim of this research is to determine how governance operates at a regional scale to integrate social, economic and ecological values in coastal management policy. It focuses on the south-east Queensland region and analyses policy through assessment of key decision-making processes that govern coastal management.

Problem statement

The lack of progress toward sustainable coastal management in Australia has been partially attributed to a failure in governance processes to adequately capture and consider the plurality of interests and values present on the coast (Clarke et al. 2013; Stocker et al. 2012). Although policy outcomes result from multiple causes that resist simple summary and easy generalisation (Allison & Zelikow 1999), the integration of social, economic and ecological value domains in decision-making is a precursor for policy responses to foster a long-term approach for sustainability. Value integration underpins sustainability as it enables policy to be adaptive and adjustable, as well as acceptable, stable and efficient.

The challenge of integrating the pluralistic values of natural resources in decision-making is not new and forms part of a broader multi-dimensional issue of integration for effective coastal governance. In Australia, the coastal zone contains more than 85 percent of the population (DCCEE 2010) and is subject to impacts from increasing human dependence on coastal resources and pressure from development related activities. Sustainable management of coastal areas is challenged because of complex administrative processes, characterised by decision-making that is “layered” (Clarke & Harvey 2013) and “fragmented” (Dale et al. 2010), and involving a diversity of people and perspectives (Coffey & O'Toole 2012). The lack of progress toward a more integrated approach is confounded by institutional arrangements constraining the issues and values that can be considered by regional governance units (Alexandra 2012).

This study is fundamentally interdisciplinary and applies a range of scholarship from environmental management, urban planning, public administration as well as coastal and marine science. It firstly explores the challenges to value integration where expressions of ‘what is valued’ can be constrained in decision-making, such as by economic precedence and relative power and influence of different stakeholder coalitions.  The study further investigates how value integration can be constrained and influenced by the institutions and ‘rules’ of decision processes in coastal governance. This research ultimately strives to determine how consideration of pluralistic values may be fostered or hindered within the south-east Queensland coastal governance system and thereby help to inform future policy development.

Funding: APA (Australian Postgraduate Award)

Advisors: Assoc Prof Ron Johnstone, Assoc Prof Ann Peterson, Assoc Prof Greg Brown


Project members

Shay Simpson

Shay Simpson

PhD candidate