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Jonathan Sobels

The focus of Sobels in Chapter 10 is on empirical evidence of ‘governance in flux’ as budget cuts, evolving water policy, its associated legislation for regional Water Allocation Plans in South Australia, and economic imperatives change the relationship of government, commerce and community. According to him, the previous relationship in this context was very much an autocratic, ‘top-down’ style of government administration, with government policing compliance of water licence holders who extract water from farm bores licensed for irrigation. Sobels argues that this instrumental approach of interactive governance was strongly dominating, at the expense of a more democratic and cultural approach. More recent negotiations by local industry associations on behalf of irrigators moved through a period of up to ten years of ‘community engagement’, representing a new phase of democratic interactive governance. However, the process has continued to evolve, such that the new rules of how to share the groundwater are indicative of a power shift to irrigators, who are in the process of establishing the new rules as expected norms of behaviour, and values inherent in practices. Sobels concludes that there is an increasing cultural form of interactive governance emerging. He closes his contribution by suggesting a hierarchical and evolutionary order in the different forms of interactive governance.