Cooperative planning and management for regional landscapes

Low Choy, Darryl (2003). Cooperative planning and management for regional landscapes PhD Thesis, School of Geography, Planning and Architecture, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2016.759

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Author Low Choy, Darryl
Thesis Title Cooperative planning and management for regional landscapes
School, Centre or Institute School of Geography, Planning and Architecture
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2016.759
Publication date 2003
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Geoff McDonald
Total pages 601
Collection year 2003
Language eng
Subjects L
300899 Environmental Sciences not elsewhere classified
760200 Environmental and Resource Evaluation
Formatted abstract
This research study investigated the proposition that regional level landscape protection could be achieved on a river catchment basis through a voluntary cooperative working arrangement of local authorities exercising their statutory planning responsibilities within the traditional planning framework. This approach required local authorities to successfully address a range of contemporary environmental management issues of regional significance that had a strong correlation with selected national State of Environment (SoE) key sustainability and associated 'quality of life' issues.

The study explored three main research themes associated with this proposition that are considered to be critical dimensions of environmental management particularly within the emergent paradigm of sustainable development. The first theme considered the appropriateness of planning as a method of managing contemporary and emergent environmental issues. The second explored the validity of addressing these issues at the regional scale. The final theme considered whether cooperative arrangements involving local government could achieve higher order regional outcomes and thereby eliminate the need for the establishment of a fourth tier of governance with associated institutional and administrative support.

The qualitative research method adopted for the investigation was a longitudinal participatory action research study that utilised a single intrinsic case study. The geographic research setting for the intrinsic case study was the Logan-Albert Rivers catchment of South East Queensland (SEQ) and comprised some 3,740 square kilometers.

An enhanced six phase cooperative planning model was utilised as a descriptive and evaluation framework to examine the Logan-Albert experience in terms of the research question. It extends the generic Collaborative Planning Model (CPM) by acknowledging additional phases that involve the preliminary demonstration of the need for a cooperative undertaking to potential participants, and a separate phase to acknowledge the business end of the actual cooperative planning activity. The enhanced CPM also highlights the importance of incorporating an adaptive management approach into the implementation and review phase.

The review of the Logan-Albert case study has confirmed the initiative as a working example of the CPM that involved a range of cooperative and collaborative planning undertakings. The triad organisational structure of a management committee, technical support group and community consultative committee exemplify a joint "bottom up-lateral" regional cooperative planning and management model. It provided horizontal linkages between local authorities and vertical linkages between the community and two levels of government and their respective agencies. It was required to function as a partnership between existing management institutions,the community and the private sector in order to collectively identify, then address, the regionally significant environmental management issues within a catchment of mutual interest to the partners. Applying this enhanced CPM across a longitudinal study spanning some eleven years allowed for a detailed insight into the changing circumstances and attitudes to cooperative planning by a number of participants, particularly the five local authorities within the catchment. A major advantage of this approach was the utilisation of the existing structures of local government and its management mechanisms such as the statutory planning system.

The experience of the Logan-Albert initiative has established that contemporary environmental management issues of regional significance can be identified and managed for the common good through the cooperative planning efforts of local authorities based on a natural unit such as a river catchment. These catchment issues became the prioritised focus of the collaborative planning effort which led to the joint development of policy for coordinated implementation by the participating voluntary group of local authorities. This initiative was directly influential in getting greater focus on the river system and on river related issues particularly in the policies and statutory planning schemes of individual local authorities.

The original CPM was a minimalist approach characterised by ad hoc arrangements supported by limited contributions and commitment from the participating members. Acceptance of the cooperative approach was slow and participants adopted a very cautious series of stepped levels of increased cooperative commitment. At the conclusion of the case study review period (1999), the Logan-Albert initiative had moved up the steps of cooperative effort to the point where it now reflected a higher order of cooperative-collaborative undertaking than at its genesis in 1989. These distinct levels of increased cooperation represent a major departure from the uniform collaboration that is normally assumed with the generic CPM.

The initiative emerged as a formal partnership in the form of a standing sub-committee of SouthROC, one of the official Regional Organisation of Councils in the SEQ region and a partner in the recognized regional planning processes. This legitimised the outcomes of the cooperative planning process and increased their standing and acceptance amongst the agencies and groups who were expected to complete their implementation.

The initiative evolved to a higher order of collaboration through a series of experiments with community engagement that increased the members trust and confidence in bringing the community into a fuller partnership. This was evident in the establishment of a consultative committee from the catchment community that was formed with gradually increased, although modest, empowerment and representation on the central management committee. This shift can be attributed to a process of adaptive management and learning-by-doing experienced by the core decision-makers of the Logan-Albert initiative. The learning experience allowed members to grow in confidence and understanding, which subsequently allowed them to adapt their corporate positions for the common good. This eventually led to the development of a joint catchment-wide policy framework that was ready for implementation by individual local authorities through their separate statutory planning instruments. In this manner, the local authorities could retain control of the process and therefore maintain their management autonomy. It also meant however, that the joint catchment-wide policy could be implemented in a coordinated fashion throughout all local authority areas in the catchment. The initiative was now placed well in front of the previous minimalist information exchange function that characterised its formative period.

The Logan-Albert initiative has demonstrated that new subnational levels of governance are not required to address contemporary regional scale management challenges. It is clear that voluntary groupings of local authorities can address regionally significant environmental issues. It has also demonstrated that traditional planning can reinvent itself to respond to the array of regional scale challenges typical of those that confronted this catchment group.

This research has identified a clear mandate for traditional planning to embrace change, particularly the emergent paradigm shift noted from the literature, in order to actively contribute to the address of contemporary environmental and landscape management issues of regional significance. The research also demonstrates the benefits of emergent planning processes, in particular, cooperative and collaborative planning. It provides an insight into cooperative planning processes that attempt to engage the community at the scale of a river catchment. This has helped to define the changing role of the professional planner and the implications for profession planning practice, planning education and local government practices.

The outcomes of this work have defined the importance of the regional perspective and focus, especially as an appropriate scale for addressing certain key sustainability issues. Importantly, it has provided a clearer understanding of the political context for cooperative planning and the decision-making processes that operate at local government level in regional collaborative forums.

Within the limitations and recommended enhancements noted, this study has concluded that a voluntary cooperative coalition of existing local authorities within a river catchment can manage regionally significant environmental issues through their traditional planning frameworks.
Keyword Regional planning

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Created: Fri, 24 Aug 2007, 18:06:49 EST