Governments have been developing and applying various approaches to ecological sustainable development (ESD) and sustainability over the last twenty yean The broad trend, partly displacing the traditional focus on regulatory standards and consultation, is that governments have increasingly adopted collaborative approaches, in concert with diverse and conflicting non-government organisation (NGO) stakeholders, to address the "big issues". Tensions and conflicts are not avoided, but are contained as far as possible within broad longterm frameworks supported by inclusive processes and good science. In Australia, management of these major sustainability issues is made more complex through the interplay between three levels of government. This article adds to the emerging literature presenting models of government and NGO relationships by developing the concept of collaborative partnership as participatory co-governance. Two case studies oj natural resource management in the state of Queensland (Australia) are used to examine the means by which government-NGO relationships might move from consultation to significant collaborative participation.