This "is the first serious attempt by an Irish government to define a national coastal zone management policy," said minister for marine resources Michael Woods. The ministers of environment and culture backed up Mr Woods, stressing the importance of better managing wildlife and heritage resources in coastal areas.
The discussion paper released by the government seeks opinions on a new administrative system to handle coastal management issues. Four options are proposed, including a new independent agency. But the government makes clear that it would prefer to create an "inter-departmental unit" based on a steering group already linking the ministries of environment, marine resources and culture.
A national coastal zone management policy is needed, the government says, to reduce a fragmented administrative system that is being put under strain by rapid economic growth. An example cited by observers is that the jurisdiction of local authorities and the environment ministry extends only to the high-water mark, while the marine ministry is responsible below.
This has led to cases where local authorities have been powerless to influence aquaculture developments in their areas. An environment ministry official told ENDS Daily that some sewerage infrastructure plans had been delayed due to "differences of opinion" with the marine ministry, which is responsible for issuing foreshore licences.
Better coordination of coastal policies is very important for environmental protection, the environment ministry stresses. "All our major towns and cities are coastal, so the potential for increased pressures is large," an official said. Industrial development, marine sand and gravel extraction, landfill sites and aquaculture are all seen as activities requiring more coordinated regulation.
Meanwhile, Irish environmental group Coastwatch yesterday launched its own initiative in frustration at earlier delays in the creation of a firm government policy. Based on a plan it published in 1994, Coastwatch has brought together local authorities and citizens' groups in a coastal zone management group aimed at tackling administrative overlap and promoting integrated policy making.
Irish environment ministry, tel: +353 1 679 3377.
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