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Australian water governance in the global context: understanding the benefits of localism

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Effective water governance is essential for sustainable global futures. However, conflicting water values increases tension in water governance, highlighting the need for governance systems able to cope with competing objectives. In this paper, we explore the potential for ‘localism’ to improve water governance through increased social learning and institutional integration. We argue that localism can provide a bridge between policy-makers and policy-implementers, as long as there is sufficient capacity to effectively engage. Following the work of Orsini [2013. “Multi-Forum Non-State Actors: Navigating the Regime Complexes for Forestry and Genetic Resources.” Global Environmental Politics 13 (3): 34–55], we consider that this capacity is influenced by the availability of ‘power resources’; namely material, ideational and organizational power. Using a conceptual framework combining power resources and localism strategies, two examples of localism in the implementation of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan are explored. We find that localism can provide the necessary resources for effective water governance, although consideration of the challenges of localism highlights the need for a mix of localism strategies due to variable resource availability.
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Keywords: Water governance; localism; natural resource management; power resources

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia 2: Murray–Darling Basin Futures Collaborative Research Network, Canberra, Australia

Publication date: September 3, 2017

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