Regional economic development, in its various guises, is deployed throughout much of Australia. Whilst it remains a contested activity, conventional wisdom extols the need to embrace complexity, whilst simultaneously imbuing order and control. Insights from the literature reveal that regional economic development organisations are often the primary interface between government and regional socio-economic systems – two highly dynamic and multidimensional, yet opaque, operational landscapes, characterised by interactive network relationships across place and time. Derived from an analysis of the Regional Development Australia Northern Inland Committee, we find that regional economic strategies may tend to reflect a bias towards structured processes, transactional relationships and hierarchical decisions, which eschew practical complexities. We identify some striking future risks for regional development if extant practice continues as we seek to contribute to a richer understanding of the complexity that confronts economic development policy-makers.