New SA Government promises improved coastal management

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In March 2018 the new Marshall Liberal Government in South Australia promised to improve coastal management.  Unlike the NSW government which provided funding of $83.6million for coastal reforms and introduced new coastal legislation this year, the Marshall government isn’t proposing any changes to SA’s coastal legislation which is now the oldest (46 years old) in Australia. Instead the Marshall government proposes spending $5.2 million on five coastal initiatives;

  • $1 million for sand replenishment on metropolitan beaches ($500,000 per annum for two years)
  • $1 million over two years for research and development associated with sand retention to reduce reliance on sand pumping and sand carting in the longer term.
  • $1 million for seagrass meadow restoration with the aim of rebuilding large seagrass meadows off the metropolitan coastline.
  • $1 million for the establishment and initial implementation of a Gulf St Vincent wetlands plan to map new wetlands and stormwater harvesting schemes to prevent damaging run-off filled with sediment and pollutants from entering the sea.
  • $1.2 million to establish three artificial reefs, which will have environmental and economic benefits, including use as sand retention devices.

What does this mean in reality? Well the $5.2 million for SA is small in comparison to the NSW funding initiatives but is a promising start to addressing some of SA’s coastal issues.

The increased sand replenishment funding for two years will provide a ‘once off’ increase in the amount of sand on metropolitan beaches but the amount of sand and its effectiveness will rely on expert advice as to where the sand is sourced and the location of the beach nourishment.  It is uncertain what will happen beyond the first two years of increased funding? It would be good to see a sustainable sand replenishment program based on projected beach nourishment calculations for future needs.

The R&D funding to develop sand retention strategies reflects the Marshall Government’s dissatisfaction with the current Metropolitan Living Beach Strategy despite the detailed input of coastal engineering research consultancies over the last 35 years.  Another review could be useful but only if it genuinely ‘value-adds’ to the previous studies with their numerous options and costings for sand replenishment and sand retention.

The funding for a wetlands plan seems like a sensible idea as the goal is to work towards reducing the amount of pollutants and sediment reaching Gulf St Vincent.  Similarly the $1 million funding for seagrass meadow restoration will be a welcome boost to the existing restoration project.

However, the $1.2 million dollar fund to establish three artificial reefs looks like it is under-funded unless this is purely for feasibility studies.  In comparison the Semaphore offshore breakwater, which started as semi-submerged reef structure ended up costing around $2 million.

So overall there are positive signs that the Marshall government recognizes the need for a ‘short-term’ financial boost to coastal management.  The hope is that this can then be translated into a sustainable ‘long-term’ resourcing strategy with greater certainty for coastal management funding into the future.


Words by Prof Nick Harvey. Please respect the author’s thoughts and reference appropriately: (c) ACS, 2018, posted 20 June 2018, for correspondence about this blog post please email