Marcus B Lane, Geographical and Environmental Studies, The University of Adelaide
prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2006
The idea of regional boards is often promoted by comparing an ideal with a caricature—locally knowledgeable, flexible and motivated groups are better able to deliver than a remote, clumsy and ineffectual government bureaucracy. Such an argument, driven as it is by ideology, assumes that regional citizen boards and committees have the necessary capability to deliver more effective and efficient management and governance.
There are three key issues associated with regional organisational capability.
- Does the group have the necessary human, social and economic capital to undertake necessary tasks effectively? What will be the costs of creating that capability?
- Can they perform effectively within appropriate timeframes, given the urgency of existing environmental problems?
- Do local citizens and distant stakeholders see these regional organisations as having the legitimacy to act? Legitimacy is possible in the long term only if there are appropriate structures and mechanisms to ensure accountability.
The capability of regional boards and other civic organisations cannot be taken for granted. Some regions, such as the Wet Tropics, where for more than a decade regional NRM institutions have been assiduously developed and well-funded, are likely to be able to grasp the opportunities and potential of civic regionalism. Others are likely to struggle, particularly newly-created groups or those in the sparsely populated, arid interior.
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