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Assessing Representation at Different Scales of Decision Making: Rethinking Local is Better

Rockloff, S.F. and Moore, S.A. (2006) Assessing Representation at Different Scales of Decision Making: Rethinking Local is Better. Policy Studies Journal, 34 (4). pp. 649-670.

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The nature and quality of representation in public participation is crucial to reaching acceptable environmental decisions that can be implemented. Ten case studies of natural resource management groups involved in agriculture in south western Australia were conducted at four spatial scales - state, regional, land conservation district (shire or county), and subcatchment. Qualitative analysis identified the desirable qualities of representatives, and then compared perceptions of current practice at the four scales against these ideals. Desirable qualities were being an active participant, competency (skills and knowledge), credibility, adopting the group identity and commitment, communicating outside the group, having established social networks, and an ability to function in multiple roles. Analysis across scales suggests that for groups at broader spatial scales of organizing, such as the state level, representation was closer to achieving the desired qualities than at other scales. This finding is contrary to much of the current rhetoric in natural resource management, and environmental management more generally, that "local is better." The article concludes with some thoughts as to why this is the case, suggesting that the success or otherwise of representation, and the public participation in which representatives are involved, is influenced not only by the scale of decision making but also by how representatives are selected and what they are expected to achieve.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Copyright: © 2006 The Policy Studies Journal
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