Regional collaboration and partnering with the state are foundational platforms of the NSW Government’s proposal to establish Joint Organisations (JO). The Background Paper: Joint Organisations Towards a New Model for Regional Collaboration sets out the Government’s intent for these new legal entities and one of the proposed key functions is to assist regional strategic planning and priority setting.
The development of regional priorities and plans is not new but generally these processes have been top down from Government to deliver State priorities, rather than bottom up to deliver local communities’ priorities regionally. Previous processes can become compromised by the political differences between state and local governments, which the establishment of JOs is unlikely to address. Any new process of setting regional priorities requires a commitment and willingness to collaborate as well as an openness to the result.
For regional collaboration to be successful a new approach is essential. States can no longer impose regional policy nor can local government demand specific local planning responses from state government. One of the barriers for true regional collaboration on priority setting is the number of stakeholders. Dealing with multiple government agencies, multiple regional stakeholder organisations across multiple local governments can be problematic yet the responsibility for regional priority setting proposed for JOs provides an opportunities to bring all stakeholders into a single visioning process.
A regional visioning process can produce similar goals as no matter where people live, they tend to have very similar aspirations for their own life and their family’s well-being. Having a job, being healthy, safe, educated, social connection, to move around freely with good recreation and leisure opportunities are elements common to most individuals’ aspirations. Where individuals and communities vary is on where the priorities are placed on these aspirations.
JOs are well placed to lead a single engagement process that brings together all stakeholders and identifies regional and local priorities in a collaborative way that can then be used strategically in state, regional and local plans.
The engagement process can:
Regional engagement processes have been successful in other jurisdictions. When New Zealand councils were required to develop Community Outcome statements and priorities, the Hawke’s Bay Region conducted a regional outcomes process. This single process engaged Central Government agencies, regional organisations, councils and communities to identify a shared regional vision and a set of shared regional priorities and outcomes.
The role of JOs in setting regional strategic planning priorities provides an ideal opportunity to integrate state, regional and local planning processes and strengthen delivery partnerships for regional priorities and create better outcomes for all stakeholders.
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