When and why governments and non-government stakeholders engage in collaborative governance of water policy - lessons from the Murray Darling Basin and Great Barrier Reef

Stream: Panel 87 - Environmental Politics: Cooperation and Conflict over Water and Forests 
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 1.30 pm – 3.00 pm


Environmental policy issues are classic wicked problems – where problem complexity and stakeholder divergence resist resolution. In water policy, major water users (typically agriculture) need to change their behaviours. Good governance practice suggests that collaborative strategies are the best approach to resolving wicked problems that involve stakeholder behavioural change. Collaborative governance promises better policy design, greater community acceptance and the negotiation of implementation roles. Influential non-government organisations that represent different communities of interest mediate policy development and implementation through formal and informal pathways. The need to engage and negotiate water policy within and across government, as well as with key stakeholder groups, challenges the traditional hierarchical modes of government decision-making. This paper presents findings from research examining the evolution of water policy in the Murray Darling Basin and Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. Adopting a critical realist approach, the research has explored the dynamics of water policy evolution and the roles and institutional logics of government and non-government organisations active in policy dialogue. Preliminary findings document the contexts and mechanisms that have driven institutional behaviour in these two case studies. These offer tantalising insights into how policy debates can be better facilitated to support effective collaborative governance, required to negotiate the resolution of water, climate and other environmental issues that are of critical significance and urgency.


Rachel Eberhard (Presenter), Queensland University of Technology
Rachel Eberhard (B.Ag.Sci., M.Nat.Res., M.Bus.) has a long history of working with natural resource management. As an independent consultant Rachel provides brokerage, planning and evaluation services to regional NRM groups, industry and governments. As a PhD scholar, Rachel is researching governance in the Great Barrier Reef and Murray Darling Basin.