Conflicts over activities in the marine environment are increasing. As recent controversies like the “super trawler,” and marine aquaculture in Macquarie Harbour and Okehampton Bay suggest, marine activities involve impacts on common pool environmental resources. They often involve fundamental conflicts between private and public interest values. This project examines how to improve formal approval processes for activities affecting the marine environment by drawing on insights from the relationship between two public participation concepts: Social License to Operate (SLO) and Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC). Approaching social license to operate through an FPIC framework creates the potential for a standardized definition of marine SLO and a reproducible process by which to pursue it.
The project fills an important gap in the existing literature. While the concepts of SLO and FPIC have both received detailed treatment as separate concepts, the relationship between the two is relatively under-explored, as is the relationship between the two concepts and formal legal approvals processes, and the application of both concepts to marine environments. The project will identify the points of commonality and difference between the two concepts. It will then develop mechanisms by which to incorporate those elements into formal approvals processes. This will involve challenging new requirements for determining who constitutes the ‘affected community’ for activities affecting the marine environment, whose values are important, and what provides legal basis for their FPIC rights.