The statutory authority is a little understood administrative device which has been widely used in Australia by both State and Commonwealth to discharge a variety of responsibilities. By briefly charting the administrative history of the Hunter District Water Board, this paper presents a case study of the debates over management reform and political control of the statutory authority. At a more specific level, it suggests: that the Hunter District Water Board historically showed a reluctance to accept full responsibility for the costs of the services ostensibly under its control; that the so called political independence of statutory authorities is little more than an expedient indictment for politicians' use when the heat is on and; that the tensions which existed for many years between the engineers and the clerks of the Hunter Water Board, may be best seen as the result of clashes between cultures . Although for a considerable time , the Hunter District Water Board suffered from many of the failings for which bureaucracies are commonly criticised, the paper concludes that recently the Hunter District Water Board has greatly improved in terms of organizational strategies, efficiency, responsiveness and responsibility.
Urban Research Program, Research School ofSocial Sciences, Australian National University 1991