Partnerships have emerged as a favoured strategy for achieving effective and equitable solutions to environmental challenges. Ideally, partnerships should benefit both parties by strengthening their individual interests and goals and complimenting their respective areas of expertise. Partnerships seem to be the panacea for ensuring sustainability of protected areas while allowing reasonable human use. Given mutual advantages that could arise from sharing of capacity, skills and expertise for managing protected areas, the dearth of partnerships is baffling.
Understanding the absence or inability to forge effective and mutually beneficial partnerships between conservation managers and tourist resort operators in protected areas is the focus of this work. It involved assessment of the degree to which conservation agencies and related resort operators in Queensland, Australia and in West Java, Indonesia had moved to develop partnerships with tourist resort operators. The study also sought to identify the potential for a partnership approach to addressing mutual problems. Predicating this work was the belief that the establishment of relevant bone fides, a mutual need and recognition of the benefits of a partnership, and organisational maturity would be precursors for partnership exploration and indeed formation. A multiple case study method provided a means of replication to explore and explain inter-organizational relationships and/or partnerships. To identify barriers to partnership formation and maintenance, a framework was developed based on existing, but modified, organisational assessment tools.
Initially, the research identified conditions and barriers that mitigate against partnership formation between the primary stakeholders. Findings showed that while opportunities for win-win situations existed, and were recognized by operators and a number of conservation agency managers, barriers to collaborative relationships existed. These included a 'mind-set' of exclusivity for national parks by some conservation managers and reliance on enforcement regulatory policy for management, a continuing fear of 'loss of control' by some managers, a lack of equitable risk taking, and the mistaken presumption that resort operators had the capacity to significantly contribute financially to operational park management, without clear objectives and work programs for any financial commitment expected.
Only one of the seven case study sites had a negotiated collaborative agreement between resort and conservation managers and shared amicable relations. Although other case study resorts were ·ready' and 'willing', and did identify collaborative management opportunities, leadership in the conservation managing agencies was not yet committed to collaborative management. The lack of enabling policy and procedures resulted in most operational managers being unwilling to risk undertaking such an initiative.
To explore the issue of establishing bone fides being a precursor to partnership establishment, it was hypothesized that since environmental compliance is central to the sustainability of resource in protected areas, environmental compliance might be a suitable indicator of resort operators' commitment to environmental and conservation principles. Four of the seven resorts achieved a satisfactory level of compliance. While not discounting the satisfactory level of environmental commitment by these four operators, there is evidence that conservation managers have valid concerns about resort activity in and near national parks. However, reasons for low compliance in some components were not necessarily related to lack of 'commitment' per se but to human factors and weaknesses in strategic choices made by resort management. At the inter-organizational level, the core problem was lack of communication and collaboration on developing a common vision for an equitable resolution to existing problems between the primary stakeholders.
To explore the role of organisational status in partnerships, it was hypothesized that organizations will not contemplate partnerships as a business opportunity unless at least one of the organizations is in the prime stage of Adizes's organizational lifecycle. Apart from two of the resort operations, other resorts and both conservation agencies failed to exhibit the key attributes of organizational prime. Although most resort operators had approached their relevant conservation agency with proposals for shared management of the conservation area, only one proposal had been successful. This cross-case finding indicated the importance of not just one, but both partners being in the prime stage of the organizational lifecycle for a successful outcome. Additionally, level of environmental compliance did not appear to be directly related to organizational lifecycle status. Rather, it appeared to be related to the level to which an organizational leader championed action.
While some barriers seemed insurmountable, and establishing bone fides and organisational life cycle status were shown to be important precursors to partnership formation, the research identified the importance of leadership in breaking through perceived barriers and organisational inertia. It is clear that the involvement of people with specific characteristics and values and who operate using a process that is participatory and inclusive based on strategic goals, are needed if partnerships are to be explored, established and maintained. To initiate, develop and sustain collaborative management partnerships, leaders of stakeholder organizations must be 'ready' (with a strategic vision or enabling policy) to identify opportunities and assess the suitability of partners. They must be 'willing' to develop shared goals and commit equitable resources to the undertaking, and they must have the 'ability' (capable personnel and effective systems) to successfully achieve planned outcomes.
Sustaining a partnership involves a deepening of the relationships, continued commitments and resource leveraging. Sustaining results means changing the behaviour of the partners and transferring information to practitioners and policy makers for the benefit of others. Successful partnerships should result in measurable environmental improvements and provide lessons through which these improvements can be sustained and replicated.