Public involvement in regional planning: A case analysis of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, North Queensland, Australia

Lane, Marcus B. (1996). Public involvement in regional planning: A case analysis of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, North Queensland, Australia PhD Thesis, School of Geography, Planning and Architecture, The University of Queensland.

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Author Lane, Marcus B.
Thesis Title Public involvement in regional planning: A case analysis of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, North Queensland, Australia
School, Centre or Institute School of Geography, Planning and Architecture
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1996
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor -
Total pages 390
Language eng
Subjects 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity
310103 Urban and Regional Planning
Formatted abstract This study investigates the role of public involvement in the planning of a protected area. It is concerned with understanding the nature of the links between the approach  to planning and the role afforded the public in planning processes. It is also concerned with understanding how planners use the information they receive from public involvement exercises and the impediments which constrain the successful operation of a public involvement program.

The empirical focus for the study is the planning and public involvement programs of the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA). The WTMA is a statutory authority responsible for the management of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA). The WTWHA is a 900 000 hectare protected area encompassing both lowland and mountain tropical rainforest on the northeastern coast of Queensland, Australia. The area was protected by the Commonwealth government after a protracted and bitter conflict between conservationists and pro-logging groups. As a protected area, the WTWHA is unique in Australia and poses a challenging set of planning problems. It is a multiple-use, multi-tenured and highly fragmented protected area which is further characterised by a large number of diverse, highly motivated stakeholders who have retained an interest in the nature of proposed management regimes.

The conceptual and theoretical framework developed for the study draws on disparate bodies of literature. Given the context of this study is a protected area, one aspect of the framework developed concerns understanding the rationale, history and issues associated with the management and planning of protected areas. This review reveals that a central issue in protected area management and planning relates to the nature of the relations between protected area managers and local resident communities. A further aspect of the framework provided is concerned with public involvement. The focus of the study - public involvement in planning - demands that this review investigate the central conceptual themes on this topic, rather than provide an orthodox, disciplinary theoretical perspective. The discussion of public involvement is therefore a multi-disciplinary one and one which identifies the significant issues associated with community participation in planning. As a result of the large Aboriginal population in the study area, the chapter also considers the literature on involving Aboriginal people in planning activities.

The final, and probably most important aspect of the theoretical framework provided, concerns planning. This review demonstrates that conceptions of planning and the role afforded to the non-planner are inextricably linked. It further reveals that, as a result of the substantial intellectual revolutions which have transpired in the planning field this century, a wide range of planning conceptions exist. These range from the rational-comprehensive approaches which have dominated planning for much of this period, through to a suite of recent conceptions, including bargaining and communicative approaches, which have challenged the rational-comprehensive paradigm. The recent approaches entail a radically different role for the professional planner - that of reticulist -and emphasise the plurality and atomistic nature of society, the distributional nature of planning and, as a result, the political nature of planning activity.

The case analysis presented provides further demonstration of the link between planning conception and the role of public involvement. It further reveals the extent to which approaches to public involvement can be driven by pragmatic, organisational concerns, rather than by normative considerations. It shows that the nature of existing relations is a product of historical factors, which in the case of the Wet Tropics proved particularly important in further shaping both planning and public involvement activities. The study also revealed the extent to which the nature of the institutional and organisational contexts were an important influence on these matters. These factors proved pivotal in shaping the approach of the WTMA and the outcomes of both planning and public involvement processes. The study also examines Aboriginal involvement in planning. It shows that an accurate understanding of traditional and contemporary social and political organisation is fundamental to understanding how to involve Aboriginal people in planning processes. The failure of the WTMA to understand these matters, and their importance to Aboriginal participation, constituted a significant problem in their approach.

The study concludes that (i) the role of public involvement in planning is substantially shaped by the approach to of the planning agency to the planning task; (ii) public involvement in planning is fashioned by institutional and organisational environment which either re-fashions or re-shapes the social and political relations in the planning community; and (iii) public involvement is in turn itself shaped by these social and political relations.
Keyword Environmental protection -- Queensland, Northeastern -- Citizen participation
Conservation of natural resources -- Queensland, Northeastern -- Citizen participation

 
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