Marcus B Lane, Geographical and Environmental Studies, The University of Adelaide
prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2006
In theory, civic regionalism is more efficient because those directly concerned with NRM will be directly involved with policy delivery and implementation, and the inefficiencies of government can be avoided. No longer would we see ‘bureaucratic red tape … strangling on-ground action’ (The Wentworth Group 2002, 3).
In practice, however, the costs of establishing this new approach could swallow up some gains in efficiency that may otherwise be achieved. Civic regionalism is a social experiment, and a long-term investment in developing the capacity of regional boards is necessary (Paton et al. 2005). The short-term costs, at least, may be as high as those of traditional regulatory approaches.
The reason is that civic regionalism requires different skills. Planning has changed. Under civic regionalism, solutions cannot be imposed (vertically) from above; they must instead be negotiated (horizontally) with multiple players, including government agencies, community and non-government groups as well as private companies. These players have differing capabilities, degrees of authority and, of course, power (Hamel et al. 1999). This is nothing less than a new approach to ‘statecraft’ and environmental planning for governments (Lane and McDonald 2005).
As governments and citizens become accustomed to working horizontally, it soon becomes very clear that they need skills in mediation, conflict resolution, enabling skills, organisational management, community development, and so on. Re-skilling may indeed become another cost of civic regionalism. The need to build the capacity of volunteers and others to be able do various tasks has become well-accepted in many sectors, but this should be another reminder that processes relying on volunteers are neither free nor fast.
As Theodore J. Lowi has remarked:
‘How much time does this … take? My answer to that question is inspired by something I learned from Shaw a long time ago: democracy will fail, because there aren’t enough evenings in the week!’ (Lowi 2000, 73)
Links to another web site
Links to data in the DRS
Opens a pop-up window