Need for unity in managing Brunei beaches

National 2 minutes, 28 seconds


THE notion of a single authority to oversee the management of Brunei's beaches was mooted yesterday at an NGO-led conference in the capital.

However, the inaugural Beach Bunch International Roundtable noted the challenges in realising such a body since jurisdiction over Brunei's beaches was under different authorities. Varied views on the appropriate approach to beach management was another factor to be considered in any future multi-stakeholder body.

At present, there was no single authority managing Brunei's beaches, said an environment officer from the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRE), which oversees Muara and Serasa beaches.

Replying to a question from the floor, Akmal Yusra opined that a national committee be established instead, comprising the different government and non-government stakeholders.

Sharing his experience, Derek Singleton spoke of the difficulties in grouping large numbers of stakeholders with “different views and desires for the way the beaches are operated”.

“We found it more beneficial for us to have separate bodies that feed into a sort of managing group,” said the resort services manager of the Torbay Council in the United Kingdom, which is a national leader in beach awards in the UK.

He explained that there were bodies representing the various interests such as groups for water quality, beach-goers, environmental groups, local authorities and business interests.

“We find that having these separate groups, each with eight or nine people involved, becomes quite workable,” Singleton said.

“The larger the group, the more people, the more varied the interests, the more difficult it is to find consensus. I think that if you have a managing team that can bring those separate interests together and make a decision, rather than… to continue to argue and discuss, but not actually achieve.”

The issue of which authority managed each of Brunei's five main beaches was one of the impeding factors to Beach Bunch's ambitious 2010 goal of getting four of the beaches to the international standards of the Blue Flag award by this year. Had it been achieved, Brunei's beaches could have been the first Blue Flag ones in Southeast Asia.

“In Brunei, it is not just one government body that holds (authority over) all the beaches. Everyone assumes that JASTRE holds custody over all the beaches, but they are more towards management, and only certain types of Brunei beaches,” said Beach Bunch President Rizan Latif.

“Other ministries are also involved in that,” he added.

Aside from issues faced when dealing with the Brunei government and the international Foundation for Environmental Education, which manages the Blue Flag programme, the Beach Bunch president shared that they also faced limitations within their own organisation.

He said that these internal issues included lack of experience, funding and commitment since the organisation was a voluntary organisation manned by people who were either employed or studying.

“It's not easy… But we'll keep trying. This roundtable itself is a commitment that we would like to pursue (the Blue Flag award) again,” Rizan said.

The Brunei Times