Regional governance is being embraced across rural Australia by a diverse ensemble of actors, including rural communities, private corporations, environmental activists and government agencies.
The promoters of regional governance argue that utilising approaches to governance such as 'regional partnerships' improves the functionality and democracy of governance and enables 'sustainable regional development'. Closer scrutiny reveals that the regional governance ideal appeals to this diverse range of interests in contradictory ways.
Concerns for environmental, social and economic sustainability intersect with concerns about economic decline, community empowerment, fragmented government, and broad-scale resource use conflicts in rural areas.
Against a backdrop of international trends in ecosystem management, new regionalism, collaborative planning and new public management, this article reviews the reasons why these diverse actors have converged on similar conceptual terrain in their search for rural sustainability. This serves to illuminate the contradictions inherent in this conceptual convergence, the challenges to achieving the regional governance ideal, and enables us to posit some constructive suggestions as to how these challenges can be overcome.