Ch.3 : Planning ?

The goal is to avoid a disaster and to learn experiences of the Murray Darling Basin.

3.A. The Fitzroy River Basin and the IWRM. Follow-up after the 2010 undertakings ?


3.B. “Convivial regions” as sustainable development models?

3.B.1.  Organization of planning in Australia

The International Comparison Guide of Planning Systems of ISOCARP (IMPP 2008) presents a critical and rigorous picture of the way planning is organized in Australia. The main features are presented below. They were expressed by Robin Goodman and Alan March in 2005, but they are still very much up to date.

The challenges of coordination, between and across the levels of Government, are something to be concerned about. In the Australian context, a current difficulty was the implementation of an All-of-Government approach for planning and the environment. Many services work relatively independently of each other, between the various hierarchies, but also independently from the Government and the States, in a way that erodes the capability of comprehensive planning action. At the Commonwealth level, even while key funding for roads, social services, education services, health and taxation may have profound effects on planning issues, there is no coordinating organization with the practical responsibility for planning. Given the relative autonomy of the States in planning, finding new approaches to coordination of planning is an ongoing challenge.

At the level of the State, the current reshuffling of government services since the early 1980s led to a decrease in the number of departments, and an increase of their responsibilities, offering the potential for higher levels of integration led by the State, particularly in the

management of the environment, in the context of the planning functions. However, the implementation of an integrated action has been uneven. The development of super-ministries has also been associated with a general trend away from well-established bureaucracies (which have proven sometimes inexplicable) so as to establish planning agencies which are under direct Executive Ministerial control. In parallel, a general movement away from the regulations associated with neoliberalism has led this ministerial control to be used for the dismantling of most of the structures associated with coordination (Gleeson and Low 2000). Many States totally withdrew regional functions and strategic planning from the planning apparatus, leaving to local authorities the responsibility of issuing permits in line with planning objectives.

Together with the loss of coordination at the higher levels, local Australian governments have a relatively limited ‘panel’ (range) of responsibilities and powers conferred by the State legislation. Local Government authorities have always had a limited role in the provision of housing, social services, police and education. These functions are primarily offered at the State and Federal levels. This, combined with reduced capacities in planning rules means that local Governments are in a relatively weak position to coordinate and deliver many objectives, especially those that require a higher level of action and coordination.

Regarding the State of Western Australia, in 2012, local governments were stripped of their right to make decisions on any economic projects which had a budget of over $3 million, which ruled them out of making any significant decision in this area.

3.B.2.  Towards a strengthened regional level?

The regional dimension is essential, and the prospective in various academic subjects converges towards proposals for stronger regional governance, of about 60 to 80 regions in Australia. With the size of convivial regions in mind, this would mean some 250 regions would have to be created. It is the current number of Aboriginal languages still spoken, the number of indigenous peoples still living their country to this day. Let’s mention the research of Brown, Federalism and Regionalism in Australia New Approaches, New Institutions? edited by A.J. Brown and J.A. Bellamy Published by ANU E Press The Australian National University Canberra ACT 0200, Australia Email: