Most people working in NRM will agree that the institutional landscape in rural environments is overwhelmingly complex (see Figure 1). Academics regard such institutional complexity as intractable or 'wicked'. Increasing concern about institutional complexity in rural areas, combined with the need to manage ecosystems at a bioregional scale, has resulted in a distinct trend in Australia toward 'regional institutional integration'.
Regional strategic planning, regional organisational amalgamation and regional administrative boundary reconfiguration is increasingly being proposed in order to achieve such regional institutional integration. Despite this increasing popularity, these approaches were not well thought out in 2000, when this research began. In particular, there had been little critical hypothesis development on institutions and regional integration by which reforms towards achieving rural sustainability could be guided.