Collaborative governance versus constitutional politics: decision rules for sustainability from Australia's South East Queensland forest agreement
Australia's Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) (1995-2000) involved a national program of bioregional assessment for native forest conservation and timber resource management. Eleven assessments covering 46 million ha or 6% of Australia, resulted in nine agreements (RFAs) between federal and state governments. While groundbreaking in some respects, however, the program had significant governance problems. Its main outcomes-intergovernmental agreements-were intended to overcome rather than resolve competing bodies of public opinion, and hence always risked entrenching rather than addressing underlying policy conflicts. This article reviews the problems inherent in the official approach, by contrasting it with the outcome reached in the major forest assessment not translated into an RFA. In September 1999, the South East Queensland assessment resulted in an agreement between lead timber production interests, key environmental NGOs and the state government, although rejected by the national government. Unique in Australia and rare in the world, this state-stakeholder agreement suggests the emergence of new decision rules for long-term resolution of biodiversity and natural resource conflicts. Consistently with other case studies, these centre on a fresh approach to integration of conflicting values, and the need for governments to accept more collaborative roles in environmental governance.
Environmental Science and Policy
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