Evaluating reef governance: challenges and prospects | Mark Limb

While most technical projects and programs that directly intervene in the management of the reef already have a range of detailed evaluation and monitoring mechanisms focused on individual and combined project outcomes, there is currently limited evaluation of the collective capacity and effectiveness of implementation of the Reef 2050 Plan. While there have been several governance studies in the GBR (Dale et al 2018, 2016, 2013) critical gaps in understanding governance state and trends in effectiveness of policy responses remain. In this presentation we outline the challenges involved in evaluating the implementation of complex governance systems and the interrelationships between hierarchical nested plans and policies, and the actors involved in their implementation. As plans and policies for reef management exist in a dynamic world, they require frequent and ongoing interpretation by decision makers and other actors. Evaluative approaches that exclusively focus on project outcome miss the communicative role of policies and plans to inform, rather than rigidly enforce, particular directions in decision making (Faludi, 2000). We argue that evaluations of governance therefore must consider more than the conformance between plans, decisions, and outcomes. It is therefore necessary to also consider how policies and plans were used when making decisions, as well as the quality the plans themselves (and the processes used to create them). We conclude the presentation by outlining a proposed approach for governance evaluation for reef management that considers plan quality together with assessments of plan use and risk, which are in turn linked with more traditional conformance evaluations of plan outcome. In this way we offer a method to comprehensively evaluate governance that fairly accounts for the complexity and dynamism involved in large, multi-jurisdictional, and multi-scalar policy environments.

About the speaker: Mark is a qualified urban planner with more than a decade of experience in strategic and statutory land use planning. His doctoral research evaluated the implementation of compact city policy in greater Brisbane. Mark is a lecturer in Urban and Regional Planning at the Queensland University of Technology where he coordinates and lectures units in Planning and Design Practice, Stakeholder Engagement, and Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. His ongoing research interests include policy evaluation, infill development, land use planning, and active transportation.

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