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The Challenges of Collaboration in Environmental Governance

The Challenges of Collaboration in Environmental Governance

Barriers and Responses

New Horizons in Environmental Politics series

Edited by Richard D. Margerum and Cathy J. Robinson

Collaborative approaches to governance are being used to address some of the most difficult environmental issues across the world, but there is limited focus on the challenges of practice. Leading scholars from the United States, Europe and Australia explore the theory and practice in a range of contexts, highlighting the lessons from practice, the potential limitations of collaboration and the potential strategies for addressing these challenges.

Chapter 8: Collaboration challenges in addressing natural resource management problems: Australian regional case studies

Helen Ross, Jennifer Bellamy and Brian Head

Subjects: environment, energy policy and regulation, environmental governance and regulation, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental governance and regulation


This chapter examines the challenges of using collaboration on a regional scale to address wicked problems in Australia. The authors’ research reviews four diverse collaborative efforts: salinity management in an important irrigated agricultural region, dryland salinity in a landscape with high biodiversity values, water quantity management in inland Australia, and water quality in the urbanized southeast Queensland region. Their comparative work reveals four consistent challenges. First, the complexity and difficulty associated with solving the problems creates significant resistance that requires major problems or crises to develop political will. Second, building and maintaining collaborative arrangements with continuous policy adjustments and changing stakeholders has generated a constantly adapting governance environment. Third, a diverse range of collaborative scientific research of unique relevance to each region may be available, but needs to be well linked with local knowledge systems and management needs in order to gain acceptance. Fourth, there has been a mismatch between political and policy timeframes and the timescales needed to address long-term resource decision-making. Finally, there has been the difficulty of managing in a multi-level context; ranging from national- and state-level policy to community engagement and local participation.

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