Regional whole-of-government in Central Queensland: a sociocultural interpretation

Barton Loechel (2010). Regional whole-of-government in Central Queensland: a sociocultural interpretation PhD Thesis, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Barton Loechel
Thesis Title Regional whole-of-government in Central Queensland: a sociocultural interpretation
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-03
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Professor Geoffrey Lawrence
Dr Lynda Cheshire
Total pages 247
Total colour pages 1
Total black and white pages 246
Subjects 16 Studies in Human Society
Abstract/Summary Over past decades, governments within Australia and throughout the Western world have sought to establish multi-sectoral planning processes that operate at a regional scale. Research on these processes has tended to focus on the challenges of ‘joining-up’ government and non-government sectors to create robust, effective and democratic regional structures and processes. Far less attention has been paid to integration within and between the various entities of government involved within these regional governance initiatives. This thesis, therefore, investigates the role of inter-governmental integration, or ‘whole-of-government’ activities, in relation to regional multi-sectoral governance. The institutional forms, enabling and constraining factors, and implications of inter-governmental arrangements between the various agencies and levels of government are examined. The study applies a sociocultural approach to institutional analysis. Commonly known as grid-group cultural theory, this approach provides a conceptual framework for identifying the fundamental social dynamics underlying differing forms of social organisation and governance. This framework specifies the primary forms, modus operandi and enabling social contexts of inter-institutional integration. These are, respectively: coordination by authority within hierarchy; cooperation through self-interest based collective action within competitive individualism; and collaboration through trust and a sense of commitment to the group within a communitarian social context. This study sought to investigate whole-of-government within regional governance through examination of two contemporaneous region-wide, multi-sectoral planning projects in Central Queensland, Australia. These were, namely, Central Queensland: A New Millennium, covering planning across a broad suite of issues, and the Fitzroy Basin Association, more specifically focussing on natural resource management planning for the region. Both bodies were in the process of implementing their regional plans at the time of this study. A qualitative case study methodology was employed in research, involving in-depth interviews with government officials, examination of project documents, and participation at meetings. The research data were analysed to identify the main processes and perceived outcomes of the two projects, and underlying factors relating to these. The two regional planning processes were generally perceived to have resulted in widely differing levels of success, and with many of the same government officials involved, there was considerable scope to contrast the whole-of-government structures and processes applied in the two cases. Analysis of the case material in the light of the theoretical framework and broader literature emphasised the nested and subordinate nature of regional whole-of-government efforts within the broader system of government. This system was revealed as characterised by horizontal fragmentation between departments and between jurisdictional tiers of government (Federal, State, and Local) but strong vertical integration within departments. The research highlighted the importance of central level political commitment to regional level integration efforts. Support is seen as particularly important in the form of 1) the political will to direct high-level coordination between departments and to advance cooperation between tiers of government; 2) sufficient resources allocated to regional plan implementation in order to motivate inter-governmental cooperation at a range of levels; and 3) the granting of sufficient autonomy to ensure effective devolution and regional level ownership that assists cooperation and collaboration at the regional level. In the light of the decisive importance of central level support, it was found that while high quality regional level leadership of regional whole-of-government processes is a necessary condition for their success, it is not a sufficient condition. To be effective, regional whole-of-government leadership requires both meaningful devolution and substantive central support. The study identified the multiple and contradictory forms of inter-governmental relations that comprise the social contexts at different levels within the broader system of government. In particular, the case study comparison suggested that success at the regional level relies on the application, at all levels, of forms and mechanisms of inter-governmental integration that are appropriate to the specific social contexts within which they are embedded.
Keyword Regional governance
whole-of-government
Joined-up government
grid-group cultural theory
cultural theory
multi-sectoral collaboration
inter-agency collaboration
inter-governmental relations
Regional planning -- Queensland.
Central Queensland
Additional Notes 13

 
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Created: Tue, 25 May 2010, 16:23:38 EST by Mr Barton Loechel on behalf of Library - Information Access Service