What are they taking us for? The Participatory Nature of Western Australia's Regional Forest Agreement Process
Taylor and Francis
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Natural Sciences / Centre for Ecosystem Management
The native forests of Western Australia (WA) have long been the subject of heated debate between policy makers, conservationists and the timber industry. A critical element of the forest dispute has been the issue of public input into the political decision-making processes responsible for forest policy. Over the last 40 years, there has been a growth in the demands by the public for active involvement in decisions on nature conservation in WA, which were largely met by a resistant and at times hostile political apparatus. In this context, this paper offers an analysis of the participatory nature of WA’s Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) process during the late 1990s, a Federal Government initiative aimed at resolving the nation-wide forest dispute. WA RFA stakeholders’ perceptions of the inclusiveness of the process are presented for the purpose of providing a gauge for the extent to which community demands for participation were enabled and also as an assessment of whether WA’s RFA process qualifies as an example of good governance. The findings point toward a systemic failure in the management of the Western Australian RFA , for the process constrained opportunities for stakeholder input and deliberation-based decision-making. In this context, the authors highlight the need for an opening of political structures and processes to enable and facilitate active stakeholder participation.