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Neo-Renaissance? An economic analysis of Australian regional natural resource governance

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thesis
posted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Au YeeAu Yee
There has been a significant shift in the institutions through which natural resource governance has been managed in Australia over the last two decades. This has accompanied changes in the relationships between government and the wider community as citizens are provided a greater rile in shaping and influencing the direction of natural resource management (NRM) and environmental policy, and are provided with greater opportunities to engage with policymakers. This shift towards 'bottom-up' approaches may result in policies that are more effective, efficient, and focused on the important NRM issues facing a region. Such changes in the mode of natural resource governance, however, have also been associated with additional costs coupled with disappointing on-ground outcomes to date. The Australian NRM programs of Landcare, Integrated Catchment Management, and the current regional NRM arrangements are revealing that NRM problems such as land degradation continue to persist. Although government policymakers are optimistic that the regional NRM arrangements have gone some way in addressing the issues which contibuted to the ineffectiveness and failure of earlier programs, concern still exists that the current institutional iteration for natural resource governance may not be enough to ameliorate on-going problems of land and environmental damage. This may be the result of poorly explained and identified costs and benefits associated with the regional NRM governance model. Adjusting natural resource governance to the regional level is accompanied by additional upfront costs and benefits. A regional NRM model will typically involve higher transaction costs and administrative costs, reflecting the increased time and administration involved.There are also several potential benefits of devolved governance models. First, better engagement may address problems of information asymmetry, where local groups and agencies hold different pieces of information and current mechanisms to reveal or coordinate information are not strong. Second, better governance may address principal-agent problems where the incentives faced by government agencies (the agents) do not deliver the outcomes sought by communities (the principal). Giving communities more input into the gorernance process may help to minimise these discrepancies in incentives. The third important way in which devolved governance arrangements might generate benefits is through the development of governance capital. The deepening of 'soft' institutions can be very important in the efficient functioning of an economy, because they essentially reduce the transaction costs of achieving certain outcomes. This might occur when a governance model increases the skills and engagement processes within a region, making it more resilient to adverse impacts and more capable of mobilising resources and responding to regional development opportunities. The aim of this study is to identify different institutional models for pursuing NRM objectives, and to examine the model which characterises the regional NRM arrangements. The focus empirically is on Australian natural resource governance. The first objective in addressing this aim is to review past programs of natural resource governance leading up to the implementation of the regional NRM arrangements of interest in this research. The second objective is to explore empirically how the regional NRM model can achieve the desired natural resource governance outcomes. To this end, a case study was undertaken of a devolved grants incentive program conducted by the FBA in the Central Queensland region. To address the aims, the research empirically evaluated the factors influencing landholder participation in the program in the Fitzroy Basin catchment of Central Queensland, Australia. Specifically, the regional NRM arrangements in place were examined with respect to three key areas: governance and institutions, transaction costs, and social and governance capital. A decision support framework was developed based on theoretical and case study analysis and was trialled using the FBA case study in this research. The decision support tool was validated based on FBA case study evidence, and represents a key contribution to knowledge in this thesis. Results from a survey of landholders involved in the FBA devolved grants program found total landholder costs of participation tend to be higher for those involved in fencing remnant vegetation, and higher for those who did not rate the application process as easy. Costs were also higher for those respondents who thought participation would lead to increased production. Landholder costs were lower for those who thought that the FBA was flexible and lower for younger respondents. Results also indicated that older respondents, respondents with higher levels of income, respondents with higher levels of off-farm income, and respondents who planned to have the property for longer in the future were less likely to take up future NRM grant programs. The study outlined implications and recommendations for policymakers to consider in implementing future policies and programs with respect to achieving NRM objectives, combining local knowledge, improved collaboration and public participation, and social capital enhancing strategies. This approach lays the foundation for all policy decisions relating to natural resource governance. By carefully understanding not only the costs and benefits of governance options, but also identifying trade-offs incorporating 'soft' institutions such as social and governance captial, communities and governments can influence the adoption of improved NRM practices. This thesis contributes to the stock of case studies and empirical body of research into understanding the appropriateness of institutional arrangements for achieving collaborative natural resource and environmental outcomes. -- Abstract.

History

Location

Central Queensland University

Additional Rights

I hereby grant to Central Queensland University or its agents the right to archive and to make available my thesis or dissertation in whole or in part through Central Queensland University’s Institutional Repository, ACQUIRE, in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. I retain all copyright, including the right to use future works (such as articles or books), all or part of this thesis or dissertation.

Open Access

Yes

External Author Affiliations

Faculty of Arts, Business, Informatics and Education;

Era Eligible

No

Supervisor

Professor John Rolfe

Thesis Type

Doctoral Thesis