Financial sustainability for coastal councils

Article image - Financial sustainability for coastal councils People enjoying the coastal lifestyle at Busselton beach. Photo courtesy of Derek Tickner.

Australia's coastal councils are developing a policy framework aimed at achieving a sustainable future for the nation's coastal environment and its communities. The policy is an initiative of the National Sea Change Taskforce of which the Shire of Busselton is a member. This organisation has been formed to represent the interests of coastal councils across Australia.

Shire of Busselton's Planning and Development Services Director Nigel Bancroft said that coastal councils are under considerable pressure and are looking for increased support and financial assistance from the Federal Government.

"Coastal communities are dealing with a complex range of challenges," he said."Rapid growth, pressure on resources and sensitive environmental issues make communities like ours particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change."

The coastal policy framework is aimed at addressing these challenges and will be used as the basis for an advocacy campaign in the period leading up to the next Federal election."

One particular issue which will be addressed by the National Sea Change Taskforce is the methodology for collecting data for the national census. The current methodology results in coastal councils not receiving a fair share of funds.

One of the reasons for this is that the formula for calculating Financial Assistance Grants (FAGS) does not take into account the impact of tourists and other visitors on demand for local services.

The Census is conducted at five year intervals in the middle of winter. Nigel Bancroft said this means that accurate information on tourists and other non permanent residents is not factored into the resource allocation formula for councils.

The National Sea Change Taskforce will work with one of Australia's leading demographers to develop a new methodology for collecting data on tourists and other non residents in coastal areas which will be aimed at correcting this distortion.

He said that the pressures facing coastal communities need to be addressed by the three spheres of government working together to ensure the environmental, social and economic sustainability of coastal Australia.

"A total of 86 per cent of all Australians live along the coast yet the major challenges facing the nation's coastal communities have not been properly addressed," Nigel Bancroft said.