Environmental Policy News

Who Defines the Public Interest for Coastal and Marine Planning?

A new study looks at the contentious climate of planning and management for marine and coastal areas, where competing interests claim that their preferences are in the ‘public interest’. Who is the public? Is it only those who live in the area? How about those who have a stake in the outcome of marine and coastal research?

It’s a question that has proven difficult to resolve, but researchers say that the differences are not as drastic as public conflicts might lead us to believe.

According the abstract appearing in the November 2017 issue of Ocean & Coastal Management, a team of researchers led by Jennifer Munro of Murdoch University, Australia, administered a survey involving the public from diverse backgrounds and geographical locales in the remote Kimberley region of Australia to “identify the spatial values and management preferences for marine and coastal areas.”

The results indicated: “Online panelists evidenced lesser quality mapping data and did not provide a reliable means of accessing ‘public’ values. Residents were more likely to map general recreational and recreational fishing values while non-locals were more likely to map biological / conservation and wilderness values. Overall, residents and non-residents were more alike than dissimilar in their mapping of values and management preferences, suggesting that the need to preference local views may be overstated, although there may be differences in policy priorities.”

The team recommends that future research “should focus on the breadth and representativeness of stakeholder interests to access the views of wider society and hence public values, rather than current approaches where local interests are often the primary focus of participatory stakeholder engagement.”


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