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Australian National University (2000)

Regional planning for sustainability : towards adaptive and collaborative perspectives

Mobbs, Catherine

Titre : Regional planning for sustainability : towards adaptive and collaborative perspectives

Auteur : Mobbs, Catherine

Université de soutenance : Australian National University

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2000

Résumé
This thesis concerns processes of regional planning for ecologically sustainable development (ESD) in Australia. Two key perspectives on regional planning have emerged in response to the range and intractability of social, environmental and economic problems : ’adaptive’ and ’collaborative’. The adaptive perspective argues that a necessary response to our problems lies in recognition of ecological principles and processes and the role of scientific understandings in acknowledging and responding purposefully to the complexities and uncertainties of achieving ESD. The collaborative perspective argues that a necessary response to our problems lies in recognition of democratic rights and principles and the role of discussion and consensus in creating the conditions in society for ESD. This thesis explores and clarifies the nature of these perspectives in theory and in practice. The research challenges the assumption that adaptive and collaborative perspectives are broadly compatible. A theoretical framework based on types of rationality in planning is proposed, extending a previous schema developed by critical planning theorist, Tore Sager. I argue that the adaptive perspective has developed from instrumental rationality but modifies this orientation in crucial ways with commitments to ecological rationality, while the collaborative perspective is closely associated with communicative rationality. Drawing on theory in areas associated with adaptive management and collaborative planning, this thesis establishes the distinctive characteristics of these perspectives and proposes an analytical framework for examination of regional planning in practice. The analytical framework is applied to two case studies of regional planning in Australia : the Regional Forest Agreement process in New South Wales and the Cape York Peninsula Land Use Strategy in Queensland. The specific contributions, potential and limits of the planning approaches adopted in each case study are identified and discussed in terms of adaptive and collaborative perspectives. I argue that both adaptive and collaborative perspectives are necessary in regional planning for sustainability but this research suggests they exist in tension. They are not always supportive of each other or easily combined in practice to achieve sustainability. I conclude that understanding the form and content of each perspective is fundamental to understanding how prioritising one within a planning process can undermine the capacity to meet the objectives of the other. A more sensitive theoretical and practical understanding of adaptive and collaborative perspectives may provide a firmer foundation for the development of planning processes in which both can flourish and alleviate problems for sustainability.

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