Collaborative Governance and Adaptive Management: (Mis)Applications to Groundwater, Salinity and Run-Off
Australasian Journal of Natural Resources Law and Policy Vol. 14, No. 1-2, pp. 37-69, 2010
33 Pages Posted: 1 May 2018
Date Written: January 2010
During the past decade, collaborative governance has become a central plank in Australia's efforts to resolve critical natural resource problems such as declining groundwater, increasing dry land salinity and nutrient runoff. This article examines a central element of this collaborative governance approach, namely adaptive management. Although adaptive management purports to provide many benefits for governing uncertain and dynamic natural resource problems, there has been surprisingly little empirical research into the existence and operation of practical mechanisms or legal designs for achieving adaptive approaches in practice. Using data collected from 69 interviews across three different regional natural resource management bodies in Queensland and New South Wales, this article examines efforts to adaptively manage some of Australia's most pressing natural resource issues. The analysis reveals that all three regional bodies struggled to fulfill their adaptive management aspirations. Six contributing factors to this failure are identified, leading the authors to recommend several key tangible design conditions that will greatly assist in achieving adaptive management policy aspirations on the ground. Finally, the article provides some broader insights for theory and policy makers regarding the risks of continuing to half-heartedly pursue adaptive management in practice.
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