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Terms of Engagement: Consensus or Control in Remote Australian Resource Management?


  • Thomas G Measham
  • Carol Richards
  • Cathy Robinson
  • Silva Larson
  • Lynn Brake

    () (CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Australia)


Community based natural resource management (NRM) has seen a shift in the discourse from participation to engagement, reflecting a focus on increasingly active citizen involvement in management and action. This paper considers this shift in relation to two contrasting theoretical perspectives. The first is deliberative democracy, drawing on Habermas, which emphasises the importance of discussing and rationalising values and actions. The second is governmentality, or ‘governing through community’ which draws on Foucault, emphasising neo-liberal management styles and ‘self-help’. In considering the empirical relevance of these theoretical perspectives, this paper draws on a case study of public engagement in NRM in the Lake Eyre Basin, a remote, inland region of Australia. This research yielded a practical set of “factors for success” for public engagement in remote areas. The findings support the view that, especially in remote regions, public engagement in NRM reflects contrasting goals. We make two conclusions. First, that these contrasting objectives emphasise the tension between deliberative and neo-liberal conceptualisations of engagement; and second, the evidence for neo-liberal interpretations of engagement are stronger than for deliberative interpretations of engagement in the case study region.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas G Measham & Carol Richards & Cathy Robinson & Silva Larson & Lynn Brake, 2009. "Terms of Engagement: Consensus or Control in Remote Australian Resource Management?," Socio-Economics and the Environment in Discussion (SEED) Working Paper Series 2009-10, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.
  • Handle: RePEc:cse:wpaper:2009-10

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Leach, Melissa & Mearns, Robin & Scoones, Ian, 1999. "Environmental Entitlements: Dynamics and Institutions in Community-Based Natural Resource Management," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 225-247, February.
    2. Simon Niemeyer & Clive L Spash, 2001. "Environmental Valuation Analysis, Public Deliberation, and their Pragmatic Syntheses: A Critical Appraisal," Environment and Planning C, , vol. 19(4), pages 567-585, August.
    3. Silva Larson & Thomas G Measham & Liana J Williams, 2009. "Remotely Engaged? A Framework for Monitoring the Success of Stakeholder Engagement in Remote Regions," Socio-Economics and the Environment in Discussion (SEED) Working Paper Series 2009-11, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.
    4. Thomas G Measham & Guy B Barnett, 2007. "Environmental Volunteering: Motivations, Modes and Outcomes," Socio-Economics and the Environment in Discussion (SEED) Working Paper Series 2007-03, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.
    5. Toni Darbas, 2008. "Reflexive governance of urban catchments: a case of deliberative truncation," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 40(6), pages 1454-1469, June.
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    More about this item


    participation; decentralisation; governmentality; deliberation;

    JEL classification:

    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics

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