The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) has undertaken a Stocktake of Regional Research project. One component of the project requires a literature review to be prepared for each of RAI's four themes, namely:
Theme 1 - Position and Potential: potential for new growth and prosperity in each region;
Theme 2 - Realising Opportunities: understand how opportunities for growth and development can translate into tangible benefits for regions;
Theme 3 - Successful Transitions: develop better strategies for communities in transition to enable them to cope with change; and
Theme 4 - Better Services and Engagement: better ways of engaging regional communities and delivering services.
This literature review addresses Theme 2 - Realising Opportunities. Theme 2 follows closely from Theme 1 and seeks to identify processes, systems, policies and patterns that help turn identified potential into real outcomes.Examples of particular issues raised in consultations in relation to realising opportunities included the concepts of wealth transfers (geographic and inter-generational), opportunity costs and crowding out of other forms of investment or change.
For example, environmental restrictions in the Wild Rivers area of north Queensland may be perceived by some groups as an 'opportunity realisation' while simultaneously being seen by other groups as a wealth negative transfer and an opportunity wasted. Another example is that major public sector initiatives in relatively well-endowed regions may crowd out private sector investment that won't then be allocated to other locations where risk to capital is slightly higher for which public capital might have a higher tolerance level than private capital.
During stakeholder consultations we obtained the sense that Theme 2 is probably of most acute interest to policy makers. Most policy makers, driven by imperatives from administrative and political leaders, are looking for ways to turn potential into reality or to at least be seen trying and not wanting to make any missteps along the way. They are looking for case studies, tools, evidence, systems and approaches. Perversely, despite this theme being in greatest demand, as we explain below, this theme has attracted the least amount of research attention.