Australians love the coast - it is a priceless national resource. For most of us, the coastal zone is the place where we like to live, work, learn and play.
But in the late 1980's, concerns began to emerge that Australia's coastal environment was being "loved to death". With over 86% of Australians living in the coastal zone, the pressures of increasing urbanisation and population pressure began to create many problems, leading to degradation of coastal ecosystems and recreational values.
The idea of establishing a community environmental learning centre with a focus on local issues and the pressures affecting the fragile coastal environment came in 1989, as a result of Council and coastal management experts in the community recognising an emerging issue, and deciding to do something pro-active about it.
A key insight was the recognition that sustainable coastal communites need to be based on a foundation of informed public awareness of the issues and pressures affecting the coast, and the active engagement of individuals, families, businesses and government at all levels in being part of the solution.
The Coastal Environment Centre was constructed in 1990 and officially launched in December 1991 by the Premier of NSW, Nick Greiner.
The role of the CEC is to build community skills, knowledge and engagement in valuing and caring for our environment, in partnership with Council and other stakeholders. The CEC was ahead of its time. In February 1992, the Australian Government established the Coastal Zone Inquiry, which issued its Final Report in November 1993. The Inquiry listed many recommendations aimed at transitioning towards more sustainable coastal communities. It established a National Coastal Action Program, including community education and community involvement in management. The Australia-wide Coastcare Program, now disbanded, was established at this time.
With the adoption of Pittwater's new Strategic Plan 2020 in April 2008, education for sustainability is being integrated into Council's operations and offered to the community so we can all learn to reduce our ecological footprint. Climate change and the increasing exploitation of coastal zone resources represents a sustainability crisis for coastal communities and coastal ecosystems around the world. Locally, residents of Sydney's northern beaches live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, but in an area where the projected impacts of climate change will have enormous implications because of our location on the coast.
The Coastal Environment Centre aims to help ensure that through community awareness, education and engagement, the natural heritage of our precious coastal environment is protected and conserved for future generations.