Legitimacy of rural local government in the new governance environment

Legitimacy of rural local government in the new governance environment

Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459 Legitimacy of rural local government in the new governance environment Richard Welch* Department of Geogra...

230KB Sizes 0 Downloads 52 Views

Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459

Legitimacy of rural local government in the new governance environment Richard Welch* Department of Geography, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Abstract Since the early 1990s, the legitimacy of local government has been on the margins of debates about the regulation and governance of contemporary capitalism and their scalar forms. Yet, for those engaged in the day-to-day practice of local government in the governance environment, the question of how to maintain legitimacy is of central importance. This paper, which reports on the findings of a study of two rural districts in the South Island of New Zealand and Victoria, Australia, seeks to explore the interface between theory and practice of local government in the governance environment. Recent theorising about the implications of governance for the legitimacy of territorial local authorities is outlined, and recurring legitimacy-related themes in local governments’ engagement with governance are employed to construct a framework for analysing empirical cases. A brief (contextual) picture is drawn of the two rural cases, and the framework is employed to analyse them. Finally, the efficacy of this approach to the study of local government legitimacy, and the significance of the case study findings for the debate about the role of local representative government, are reflected upon. r 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: Legitimacy; Local government; Governance; New Zealand; Victoria

1. Introduction Since the early 1990s, the legitimacy of local government has been on the margins of debates about the regulation and governance of contemporary capitalism and their scalar forms. More recently, Goodwin (1998, p. 8) suggested that how ‘the ‘‘simple’’ legitimacy of elected democracy and accountability’ is replicated in the new governance environment is a sub-field that needs further research. In part response to this call, a study of local government was undertaken in 2000 in two predominantly rural districts in the South Island of New Zealand and Victoria, Australia. This study focused on the roles played by two territorial local authorities in their respective emerging governance environments, together with the concerns of key decision makers about the impact of governance on local government legitimacy, and the strategies formulated to maintain legitimacy. The study confirmed that the issue raised by Goodwin is more complex than it first appears. For there to be *Tel.: +64-3479-8772; fax: +64-3479-8706. E-mail address: [email protected] (R. Welch).

legitimacy of/in particular governance environments, there must either be legitimacy of key constituent parts, or a general understanding of (and legitimacy accorded to) the whole. The findings also suggested that while academic researchers appropriately seek a general understanding of governance, and may eventually formulate a general theory of local government legitimacy under governance, those engaged in contemporary local government have a more pragmatic and segmented view of the legitimacy of their activities. Aware of major systemic changes, captured—however imperfectly—by the term ‘governance’, those in local government have tended to focus on constituent representation, and been somewhat slower to appreciate the significance of these systemic changes for the continuing legitimacy of territorial local authorities in advanced capitalist states. This paper reports on some of the findings of this study. Its purpose is to explore the interface between academic writing that seeks to theorise the way contemporary localities and economies are governed, and the perceptions of those who practice local government. The paper is divided into four sections. In Section 2 that follows, perspectives on legitimacy are outlined and a working definition is proposed. An

0743-0167/02/$ - see front matter r 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 7 4 3 - 0 1 6 7 ( 0 2 ) 0 0 0 5 0 - 5


R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459

overview is then provided of recent theorising about the implications of governance for the legitimacy of the state, and especially territorial local authorities. Finally, consideration is given to how different cases might best be analysed to inform the theoretical debate, and recurring themes in local government’s legitimating activities are employed to construct a framework for analysing empirical cases. In Section 3, a brief (contextual) picture is drawn of two rural cases; the Central Otago District Council (CODC) in New Zealand and Mount Alexander Shire in Victoria, Australia. The framework is then employed to analyse these cases. In Section 4, the efficacy of this approach to the study of legitimacy of local government and the significance of the case study findings for the wider debate about the role of local representative government are reflected upon.

2. Legitimacy and rescaling of functions: a framework for analysis 2.1. Perspective on legitimacy More than a decade ago, Jessop (1990, p. 343) observed that ‘the nature and forms of [state] legitimation vary and so do the various functions and activities which states perform on behalf of the community’. In the same year, Barker (1990) wrote skeptically about Max Weber’s assertion that forms of legitimacy and regime vary in some kind of systematic relation with one another. The claim of a systematic relation between legitimacy and regime forms is no less debatable now, although the assertion that political legitimacy is a relative value would find wide agreement. But what do we mean when we talk of legitimacy with respect to states? Briefly, the position adopted in this paper is that legitimacy is a political relationship between state and subject/citizen whereby the former assumes powers of control and coercion over the latter in return for the provision of services and (decreasingly) protection. State legitimacy is embodied in: a set of rules or conventions that have more or less formal status; a state apparatus that is more or less neutral in carrying out its functions; and political agents elected or appointed to guide the processes of service provision and system/citizen protection. As such, the state is a site of struggle for hegemony (Gramsci, 1971), and legitimation is the variously viewed mechanism for systematising this process. Struggle firstly exists with respect to the sets of rules and conventions, although in contemporary capitalist states these have been formulated in sufficiently broad terms not to constitute a challenge to would-be hegemonic groups. The struggle for control over the state apparatus is undertaken with greater or lesser subtlety, with the ‘independence’ of (units of) the public

service, for example, being more or less formally stated. But it is the struggle to gain electoral support for formal government that has assumed greatest interest because of the potential such support has to provide a veneer of legitimacy for (acceptance of) all operations of the state. Although Gramsci (1971) argued that the capitalist state would seek to maintain itself through force where necessary, in practice, ideologically driven groups have achieved intellectual and cultural dominance with minimal coercion. Whether this results from the successful dissemination of false political ideas, or popular response to short-term material gains, remain a matter for debate—and the stuff of political science. What is significant is the common requirement by regimes for ‘legitimacy’. As Barker (1990, p. 14) notes, ‘[n]o one, it seems, wishes not to appear legitimate. The desire to justify one’s domination is as great as the desire to dominate’. We return to the imperfect notion of legitimacy as a political relationship; a ‘contract’ between a dominant regime and citizens variously aware of the level of (un)freedom they have to choose those who will govern. In practical terms, legitimacy is held to exist when majority support (votes, seats) has been achieved by an individual or group according to the rules/conventions pertaining in a defined community. Banal though it may be, legitimacy is understood to be a ‘democratic phenomenon, to be assessed by counting heads’ (Barker, 1990, p. 15). But in the period of economic upheaval experienced by capitalist states in the last three decades, political hegemony has proved difficult to maintain. Indeed, the continuing role (and legitimacy?) of states has been questioned. The dilemma for constituent local government units has, if anything, been yet more marked. The complexities of legitimacy for local government were traditionally focused on the maintenance of citizen support in return for efficient service provision. In an era of governance, as opposed to unchallenged representative government, however, this relationship is no longer straightforward because of the rescaling and repositioning of functions. The relative nature of political legitimacy would seem to have particular significance. 2.2. Rescaling of state functions and the legitimacy of government More than a decade of academic debate about evolving forms of governance has neither been predicated upon nor provided a general theory of the capitalist state. This should not surprise us. A leading voice in the debate, Jessop, had already questioned (1990, p. 339) whether the state exists in a readily accessible sense, arguing that any existing state ‘comprises a more or less distinct ensemble of multifunctional institutions and organizations which have at best

R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459

partial, provisional and unstable political identity and operational unity and which involve a complex overdetermined dynamic’. But in a context of broad political and economic change that has had manifest implications for the legitimacy of state and elected government, the absence of a general theory of the state has been a recurring observation and a continuing challenge. One consequence has been a prolonged debate about the real nature of the rescaling of the state’s functions to supranational and sub-national levels. Initially, this was theorised as a ‘hollowing-out’ of state activity: a transfer of powers to political and economic forces operating at the suprastate scale, to local and regional authorities, and to quasi- and non-state actors through the processes of internationalization, denationalization and destatization. But as MacLeod and Goodwin (1999) cautioned, while these processes had been observed in a range of empirical contexts, they did not constitute an explanation of what was happening to/in states. Swyngedouw (1997, p. 141) has similarly argued that the formulation of socio-spatial theory, including consideration of the role of the state, could not be contingent upon a simple consideration of scale because ‘spatial scales are never fixed, but are perpetually redefined, contested and restructured in terms of their extent, content, relative importance, and interrelations’. The appropriate focus, therefore, should be the processes of redefinition, contestation and restructuring of spatial scales so that observed ‘scalar turns’ might be better understood (MacLeod and Goodwin, 1999). By the end of the 1990s, there was wide acknowledgement that the observed trends to rescaling were more complex than first suggested. The national (state) scale had clearly been challenged by supranational and local scales as a result of changes to the interscalar distribution of functions (MacLeod and Goodwin, 1999; Swyngedouw, 1997), but the process had been neither unidirectional nor uniform, nor were state governments merely passive observers of processes beyond their influence. For example, there was clear evidence from struggles within the EU that constituent states continued to wield considerable power. Furthermore, the transfer of powers from central state to local level, initially described as a ‘new localism’ (Goodwin and Painter, 1996) was by the end of the 1990s being viewed more as a ‘seepage’ with no attendant, wholesale growth in local level institutions (Deas and Ward, 2000, p. 287). Other researchers noted that as a result of a new central government ‘regionalist’ project in Britain, some traditionally local state functions were being repositioned at the regional level (Deas and Ward, 2000; Harding et al., 1996). Jones (2001) has gone further to argue that this (re)emphasis on the regional scale as the focus for knowledge creation, learning and innovation has assumed yet wider currency (Keating, 1998; Lovering, 1999; Scott, 1998), and might be defined as a ‘new


regionalist orthodoxy’. What these various studies confirm is that states, and their governments, are not ‘passive recipients of some global logic’ but ‘active agents’ (MacLeod and Goodwin, 1999) that have retained a key role in the re-scaling of functions. Questions about their continuing legitimacy had diminished by the end of the millennium. But the issue of legitimacy at the local scale, notably of local government, had not been resolved. For local government, the enhancement of private and voluntary sector roles in service provision and the concommitant reduction of its service role has been perceived to constitute a challenge to its legitimacy (Burns et al., 1994; Woods, 1998) because service provision is what territorial local authorities traditionally involved themselves in. That local government has been theorised to be a potentially important player in local level governance, that it has a key role to play in the co-ordination of public–private partnerships (Wilson, 1996; Ward and Jones, 1999), has not created a new ‘comfort zone’ for local government. Preliminary research undertaken by the present author in New Zealand, Australia and the UK suggests that the complexity and uncertainty generated by social and political changes over the last two decades have, if anything, added to the sense of challenge. In Britain, the best documented case, central government has gone further and formally questioned the efficacy of local government across its range of roles (Valler et al., 2000). In their analysis of the New Labour strategic line, Raco and Flint (2001) outline the New Labour view that representative systems of democracy that have traditionally characterised local government have not proved adequate in the governance environment. Criticism has focused on structures seen to promote nepotism, excessive bureaucracy, inefficiency and hidden decision making (DETR, 1997). Somewhat more speculative has been the assertion that such shortcomings are enhanced by the place-based democratic nature of local government. The proposed response has been to reform representative systems to foster active citizenship and empower communities. How this might be achieved remains undertheorised and, as Raco and Flint (2001, p. 610) suggest, the results of the programme are likely to be ‘partial and circumscribed’. This echoes Murdoch and Abrams’ earlier (1998) observation that there is differential capacity in the local state generally, and especially local government, to mediate exogenous imperatives for change, and Imre and Raco’s (1999) suggested institutional ‘layers’ and ‘filters’ that result in uneven geographies of change. Although not overtly hostile to local government, as was the case in the 1980s (Valler et al., 2000), the New Labour strategic line nevertheless constitutes a continuing challenge to territorial local authorities seeking to

R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459


projects, and strategic lines developed therefrom, they have in common the enhancement of private and voluntary sectors in service provision, a concomitant reduction of the local government service role, and an emphasis on creating new public–private partnerships (Valler et al., 2000). Finally, local government has a responsibility to represent the interests of diverse groups of constituents, often beyond strict statutory requirements, within an increasingly complex and confusing political-economic domain (MacLeod and Goodwin, 1999). These spheres of engagement are interrelated, and exist in a state of tension with one another. This may be seen to stem from what Jessop has termed the ‘partwhole paradox’ of the state, whereby ‘the state is but one institutional order among others in a given social formation; and yet, it is peculiarly charged with responsibility for maintaining the integration and cohesion of the wider society’ (Jessop, 1990, p. 346). Central governments, challenged by more than two

(re)establish or (re)affirm their legitimacy. Recent analyses of this strategic line are useful from our viewpoint because they highlight the spheres within which local government is required to engage in political-economic environments generally and, therefore, have significance beyond the British case. 2.3. Situating local government legitimacy: a framework Three generic spheres of engagement by local government are suggested, and shown in Fig. 1. First there is the ‘traditional’ struggle between central and local arms of government over function and domain; a struggle that variously involves statutory compliance, delegated authority, strategic and operational synergies and local advocacy pressure points (Reid, 1999). Second, local government is obliged to operate in a local governance environment of relatively recent origin. Although forms of governance environment vary in emphasis according to the specificities of individual state

CENTRAL GOVERNMENT (Diverse sub-groups)








Service delivery


Private sector Voluntary sector Quangos



CONSTITUENTS (Diverse groups)

Fig. 1. State strategic line, governance and constituent representation: a framework for analysing local government legitimacy.

R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459

decades of prospective and actual redistribution of power to different institutions and supranational scales, have been variously antagonistic towards local government freely negotiating its role in the governance environment. Tension also exists between local government’s co-ordinative role in the governance environment and as representer of constituents’ interests. As Swyngedouw (1997, p. 158) observes, local public–private partnerships ‘often lack democratic control of any sort’. Finally, democratic local government has long had contradictory obligations to ‘represent the interests of local constituents and to implement the policies of the central state’ (Woods, 1998, p. 25). Thus, while the framework situates local government at its core, suggesting a potentially pivotal role, its position is by no means a comfortable, unchallenged one. Central government continues to play a key role in defining what service functions local government will undertake and the ways in which local government will be more accountable to constituents—all within a framework of governance acceded to, even sought, by successive dominant (state) regimes. The complexity of scalar adjustment has been sufficiently great for no consistent pattern of renegotiation of central:local government relations to emerge, nor for a consistent position for local government in the governance environment to develop. What is more, the formulation of a standard local government response to calls for more effective constituent representation in local government is not evident. While the framework presented in Fig. 1 identifies three spheres of engagement for local government and indicates the likely range of constituent roles/activities within each, it does not prescribe or delimit these roles/ activities. Rather, it seeks to provide a frame into which the specificities of particular cases may be fitted; one that acknowledges difference in emphasis between, and articulation of, the spheres of engagement in different cases. Underpinning the framework are the following assumptions: (1) Local government units respond to central government directives and to calls for more citizen participation in decision making because that is what they have always done. These are known, if potentially contradictory and not completely safe and secure procedures. (2) The context within which local government’s contradictory obligations are played out has itself become more complex with the destatization of the political system (MacLeod and Goodwin, 1999). (3) Engagement with the governance environment, notably the adoption of a leadership role in local level partnerships, may be less well developed in rural areas because the private sector is less well represented there (Jones and Little, 2000).


(4) This point notwithstanding, the framework emphasises the requirement for local vision and leadership, for the capacity of local government leaders to comprehend wider contextual relationships (including correctly ‘reading’ dominant state projects), and for their capacity to think ‘outside the square’. (5) While restructuring of the local governance environment has resulted in a re-evaluation by local government of its role, this re-evaluation has not occurred in a standardised or highly informed manner (Murdoch and Abrams, 1998; Jones and Little, 2000). This is especially evident in rural parts of those states where local government has not traditionally played an extensive role in social service provision; where the new governance environment does not appear radically different from the old. In such contexts, at least, analyses of concrete cases are better based on the assumption that local government units have an imperfect understanding of the rationale behind the governance environment, and its implications for the dayto-day operations of local government. (6) The framework emphasises the significance of engagement with local constituents; that local government represents a site for struggle and for crises of representation and legitimacy (Jessop, 1990). In a recent work, Bonanno (2000) concludes that a crisis of representation has arisen as states find it more difficult to control and regulate their economic and non-economic environments. But Bonanno also refers to earlier work (Beck, 1992; Lash and Urry, 1994) which suggested that the crisis of the Keynesian welfare state generated conditions in which progressive (political) outcomes are possible at the level of the local state. Bonanno observes that ‘ylocal states can be more open to direct participation, to the inclusion of diverse groups and consequently they can foster substantive democracy’ (Bonanno, 2000, p. 318). This echoes the view expressed by the New Labour strategic line (DETR, 1997); that crises of representation and opportunity for inclusion co-exist in the governance environment. At issue is the emphasis a local government unit chooses to place on the engagement of constituents in the decision making process vis-a-vis representing the unit’s interests within the wider governance environment. Much of the new governance literature employs the premise that local government has been obliged to reimagine its role following the restructuring of governance at the local level; that its continuing legitimacy depends upon the shift from an organisational to a representational role (Woods, 1998). But the processes by which local governments interpret the contextual meanings inherent in the governance environment


R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459

remain undertheorised. Still to be established is the extent to which such interpretation, in so far as it occurs, modifies the behaviour of local governments; in effect, how much re-imagining occurs in practice. Employing the framework, we next examine two rural cases to explore this question.

3. Cases in governance and legitimacy 3.1. Case study areas: contextual considerations The territorial local authorities selected for study were the Central Otago District Council (CODC) in the South Island of New Zealand and the Mount Alexander Shire Council (MASC) in Central Victoria. The final choice of these local government units hinged on the fact that both had relatively recently been created by the amalgamation of strongly independent local government units and share a number of important contextual characteristics. Both are rural in character, but the bulk of their respective populations reside in identifiable centres, and both experience pressure from non-rural interests. They are similar in population size, with between 16,000 and 18,000 inhabitants. Each has a history of alluvial and reef gold mining and a legacy of 19th century buildings and mining infrastructure that provide a distinguishing character valuable for tourism. Each has experienced significant economic change in the last two decades that has involved both diversification and intensification of rural-based production and pressure to subdivide land for lifestyle blocks which are marginal as economic production units. Economic change has also emphasised the importance of tourism for constituent small towns, augmenting small-scale manufacturing and service provision functions. Accordingly, each displays some features of the ‘post-productivist countryside’ (Marsden, 1998). With respect to the relationship between central government and local government, the first sphere of engagement identified in the framework, there was some readjustment in both New Zealand and Victoria during the 1990s, but with the intention of re-positioning local government as much as further limiting its role. In part this can be explained by the fact that local government units in these states already had narrow task profiles. Local government units played only limited roles in social services provision generally, and education and health services in particular, even in sparsely populated rural districts. Regional and local arms of public service departments and special purpose authorities were the preferred mechanisms for service delivery in these fields. Both the New Zealand and Victorian central governments perceived the need for larger units of local government, capable of administering the delivery of basic services to diverse communities and assuming

responsibility for environmental regulation (McDermott and Forgie, 1999; Mercer and Jotkowitz, 2000). It is significant, however, that in neither case was the opportunity taken to delegate wider powers of competence to these new, larger units of local government. In New Zealand, for example, responsibility for administering most of the provisions of the Resource Management Act, 1991, was vested in a set of directly elected regional councils. While technically also local government units, the regional councils are viewed by citizens as regulatory authorities rather than representational units. The way local government does business has changed significantly, reflecting moves towards governance—the second sphere of engagement. New managerial systems have been put in place, including tighter accountability frameworks. In Victoria, for example, local government is required to employ the New Australian Standards for asset management. There have also been structural changes. Local government has become the purchaser, rather than the provider, of services and competitive tendering and contracting out procedures are now routinely employed. But while the level of compliance with dominant strategic lines expressed in legislation has been high, elective engagement with emerging governance environments has been more limited. In part this reflects traditional restrictions on local government involvement with health and education service provision, but the slow development of partnership relationships with the private and voluntary sectors suggests that the rural nature of the case study areas has also been influential (Jones and Little, 2000). In contrast, change with respect to the third sphere of engagement shown in the framework, the relationship between local government and its constituents, has been significant in the New Zealand and Victorian case examples studied. For while amalgamation programmes created enlarged units of local government to better administer the provisions of state legislation and compete in emerging quasi-markets, many new districts/shires lacked traditional identity, and the unity and unearned legitimacy this can bring. As a result, local government units have been obliged not only to respond to change stemming from the restructuring of the local governance environment, but also relegitimise themselves following state strategic lines that transformed local government into local administration (Kiss, 1999) and which have challenged the nature of place-based, democratic local government. In the two sub-sections that follow, the CODC and MASC cases are examined in more detail. Informing these analyses are data derived from semi-structured interviews with 52 past and present elected councillors, members of community boards, chief executive officers and their respective management teams, undertaken between April and August 2000.

R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459


New Zealand



CROMWELL WARD Naseby Cromwell







25 km

Fig. 2. Location of Central Otago District.

3.2. The Central Otago District Council (CODC) case The Central Otago District (Fig. 2) was formed in 1989 with the amalgamation of parts of three counties (Vincent, Tuapeka and Maniototo) and four boroughs (Alexandra, Cromwell, Roxburgh and the tiny Naseby) as part of a state-wide local government reform programme. The immediate rationale for the reform programme was a perceived pressing need to create viable local territorial units to administer the provisions of pending resource management legislation. But the need for local government reform had been recognised for more than a century (Welch, 1989). By the early 1880s, a plethora of underpopulated, underresourced and underskilled local government units had been formed in response to an earlier state strategic project that the Colony’s role should be that of pastoral product exporter to Britain—unhindered by strong regional (provincial) or local government agendas (Welch, 1989). Crisis response and management functions were devolved to an equally large number of special purpose authorities set up as agents of the central state. As a

result, a local level administrative system developed that was both fragmented and highly resistant to change: *



power and responsibility were focused on various agents of the central state; with such enfeebled territorial local authorities, there was understandable reluctance to devolve a wider range of functions to local government—effectively ensuring that local government remained responsible for a limited field of service provision; the level of engagement between central and local government was limited.

Local government reform legislation in 1989 partially addressed these issues; by creating larger units of administration, and introducing new management structures for local government. But by transferring most of the responsibilities previously carried out by special purpose authorities to new regional councils, and by not allocating powers of general competence to local government, central government displayed its continuing ambivalence about localism in New Zealand. This point notwithstanding, the 1989 legislation required that

R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459


expertise in local level management, but also by the fact that locally generated rates constitute nearly 70%, and government subsidies only 13%, of CODC expenditure. In this respect, the CODC case more than meets the revenue control criterion identified by Chisholm (1999) as being critical for effective local accountability. But as later discussion makes clear, having this measure of independence from central government, and being (more) accountable to its local electorate, has shifted rather than removed questions of legitimacy facing the CODC. Fig. 3 also indicates that while management restructuring and the separation of purchaser and provider functions has occurred, the CODC has engaged with the

mayors be directly elected, and provided considerable flexibility with respect to how responsibilities might be devolved and constituents might be represented within newly created districts. In Fig. 3, elements of the CODC’s engagement with central government, the emerging governance regime, and its constituents are situated within the framework presented earlier in this paper. It shows the CODC’s first sphere of engagement—with central government—to be one that incorporates compliance and limited, delegated authority, but which offers only intermittent advocacygenerated dialogue. The limited need for direct engagement between the two arms of the state is accounted for by the limited local government domain and limited



Restructuring of local level responsibilities to create --




LOCAL GOVERNMENT Council Directly elected Mayor

CEO and Staff




Service delivery

Private sector providers Voluntary sector providers

Delegation of powers --------- water supply sewerage & storm water drainage solid waste disposal (now centralised) parks & recreation facilities co-ordination of community activities budget submissions resource consent hearings (now centralised) (LEGITIMACY THROUGH FUNCTIONIONAL DELEGATION)

Roxburgh CB

Maniototo CB

EarnscleughManuherikia CB

Cromwell Community Board

Alexandra CB

6 (1)

6 (2)

9 (3)

7 members, (3 of whom are councillors)

7 (3)



CONSTITUENTS (Diverse groups)

Fig. 3. Local government legitimacy in Central Otago District.

R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459

local level governance environment in a limited range of ways. Amid controversy, the CODC appointed an economic development officer in 2000, and the Council remains a significant source of funds for the public– private partnership that promotes tourism activity in the District: Tourism Central Otago. With respect to this latter endeavour, and in common with local government elsewhere, the CODC seeks to manage the tension between tourism and recreation promotion and the need to maintain the rural environment as a ‘quasi-agricultural space’ (Marsden, 1998, p. 112). But as the predominant demand during the last decade has been for vineyard and winery sites, which commonly have a symbiotic relationship with tourism, this has not required strong leadership from local government. The CODC has also maintained strictly limited engagement with the health sector. In the late 1990s the Council set up a steering committee to oversee changes to health provision in the district; a process that resulted in the setting up of a community-owned, limited liability company to run the local (cottage) hospital. It has since adopted a watching brief. The CODC’s engagement with voluntary sector agencies, beyond the degree to which the functioning of the local state has always depended upon voluntary organisations (Imre and Raco, 1999), has been minimal and intentionally so (CODC Mayor, pers. com., 2000). In part this can be explained by a paucity of potential private sector partners in what is still a thinly populated rural district (Jones and Little, 2000). But the CODC’s cautious engagement with the voluntary sector reflects the history of central government prohibition on local government involvement in welfare, health and education provision, the contingent lack of experience of leadership in these fields, and hesitation about direct involvement in activities that are perceived to be underfunded by central government. The CODC’s engagement with governance, therefore, is a complex construction; one that incorporates elements of compliance with the central state strategic line, but which also reflects historical precedent and a wariness of potentially costly responsibility shifting by central government. Finally, what Fig. 3 emphasises is that in the ‘real’ world experienced by Mayor and councillors of the CODC, it is neither compliance with central government statutes and directives, nor engagement with the central state’s strategic line of governance per se that are perceived to be the most direct challenge to local government legitimacy. Rather, it is how the CODC might best represent diverse groups of local constituents—given its additional, sometimes contradictory, but obligatory spheres of engagement. At its outset, the new district authority was required to consider a trade-off between systems that promised greater operational effectiveness and a form of repre-


sentation that would engage diverse, sub-district communities. The directly elected mayor and newly appointed CEO persuaded councillors that the delegation of wide decision making powers to five (ward) community boards, broadly reflecting the political units that preceded amalgamation (Fig. 2), was the best option. This is generally acknowledged to have been ‘an approach consistent with minimal change’ (CODC Councillor 1); one that would not generate more opposition than was inevitable during the Council’s immediate post-establishment phase. In effect, it would minimise challenges to the perceived legitimacy of an amalgamated territorial authority whose form had received only limited support within the District. The intention to head off potential challenges to the legitimacy of the new Council was exemplified by the composition of community boards and the range of powers delegated to the ward level. As committees of Council, community boards are composed of ward councillor appointees and directly elected members (Fig. 3). Citing Section 114Q of the Local Government Act, 1974, the CODC employs the principle of delegation by exception with respect to community boards; the powers of Council are delegated unless specific exceptions apply. Initially, these exceptions were few in number. They included the power to levy rates, acquire property and appoint staff. Accordingly, community boards oversaw water supply, sewerage and storm-water drainage systems, solid waste disposal, parks and recreational facilities, and co-ordinated community activities in their areas. They also heard resource consents applications under the provisions of the Resource Management Act, 1991, and prepared annual submissions to the budgetary process of Council to secure funding for these activities (Fig. 3). In the first half of the 1990s, therefore, the community boards represented a significantly higher order of delegated responsibility than, for example, do community councils in Wales; a case discussed by Tewdwr-Jones (1998). The community board system continues to satisfy reasonable requirements for numerical representation, notwithstanding the sparseness of the population, with 36 councillors and board members for some 18,000 citizens. As a result, some board members view the system as a near perfect application of the subsidiary principle (Osti, 2000); a case of effective democracy. As one community board member observed: When issues are brought to the Community Board you can take them apart. We can be a wee bit parochial. We still have that wee bit of democracy. (Community Board Member 1) A second community board member emphasised the advantage of greater accessibility to representatives provided by the community board system, compared with a ward/councillor system:


R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459

Greatest advantage in this District is that constituents can pick up the phone to a board member. If we had a ward system [i.e. no boards, just councillors] people would not ring up because a barrier would be put in place. (Community Board Member 2) But the CODC’s attempt to sidestep questions about its legitimacy by devolving a range of powers to community boards and thereby enhancing local level representation, could work only so long as ward level decision making remained broadly congruent with the district responsibility to conform to the state strategic line. As Murdoch and Abram (1998) note, there is a general tendency for decisions consistent with a state’s strategic line to override the wishes of local communities and citizens, and this proved to be the case in Central Otago with respect to resource consents hearings initially undertaken by community boards. Briefly, the Resource Management Act, 1991, required that within 10 years all prior existing local authority plans be superceded by district-wide plans, and that uniform interpretations of district and regional planning requirements be made. From 1991 until the 1998 local government elections, there was little consistency between boards, and it was widely asserted that boards had not always followed required procedures to the letter. The community boards did not view this as a problem. On the contrary, they saw the resource consents procedure as a means to promote the types of development their respective communities deemed appropriate and inhibit those deemed unsuitable—the direct participation and substantive democracy referred to by Bonanno (2000). This perspective confronted the state strategic line that there be consistent and evenhanded decision making across districts. The CODC concluded that even with the issuing of a District plan, it could not guarantee uniformity of implementation across the District if community boards remained responsible for resource consents hearings. The choice for the CODC was between continuing to foster community level decision making with respect to resource consents, and facing costly challenges in the Environment Court, and centralising such decision making at the District level. It chose the second option. The decision had far-reaching implications for the perceived efficacy of the system of community boards and, consequently, for the legitimacy of the District Council itself. By setting up community boards and delegating to them responsibility for hearing resource consents applications, the Council had supported an already existing ethos of community self-responsibility and self-determination in this rural district. In centralising the resource consents hearing function, the Council created uncertainty and disappointment among elected community board members about the continuing

efficacy of community boards. For example, community board members lamented: We lost the sense of being in control of what was happening in our district [sic]. It was [had been] fun! (Community Board Member 2); The first term was very interesting; now I just wonder what we are doing. (Community Board Member 3); Role of the community board has been watered down. In the first term we were very much involved; at the centre. With the taking away of resource consents something has been lost. (Community Board Member 4); Resource consents removal after the last election ruined the boardycommunity board as it is is a waste of time and money (Community Board Member 5); I reckon they were dead wrong to take the resource consents away from us. We would go along and look beforehand; got the backgroundyIt gave the job some meaning. Now there’s not so much to it. (Community Board Member 6). Concern about the efficacy of community boards and citizen participation in decision making also resulted in wider questioning of the capacity for co-ordination and leadership within the CODC. In effect, challenges to the system of delegated decision making and to the perception of democratic representation in the District resulted in the realisation by elected representatives that legitimacy of local government within the governance environment cannot be assured by focussing on systems of representation alone. Tentatively, members of the CODC have been exploring what this means for the District. Mayoral leadership emerged as a principal focus of this growing concern prior to the 2001 local body elections. There was wide acknowledgement among interviewees that the structure of Council operations brokered by the Mayor and CEO more than a decade before had been an inspired response to difficult and potentially disruptive political conditions in the newly amalgamated District. Both councillors and community board members affirmed that a requirement in the early years had been quiet, facilitative guidance rather than directive, potentially confrontational leadership, and the first Mayor’s style provided this. But, as several interviewees observed, after more than a decade this ‘hands-off’ approach had not brokered an effective relationship between community level decision making and Council’s wider co-ordination and representational role in the governance environment. Strong leadership was perceived to be essential (i) to integrate community boards more fully into ‘whole Council’ development thinking as well as day-to-day operations, (ii) to effectively co-ordinate social and economic

R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459

decision making in the emerging Central Otago governance environment, and (iii) to provide an affective interface with the economic and political worlds beyond the District (Fig. 3). The prevailing view was that such leadership was lacking. As CODC Councillor (2) put it, ‘There’s no big picture policy coming out of Council’. In late 2001, a new mayor was elected on a ‘strong leadership’ ticket. The question of how effective Council engagement with local level governance can be successfully integrated with the promotion of active citizenship constitutes an early leadership challenge (CODC Mayor, pers. com. 2002). 3.3. The Mount Alexander Shire (MASC) case Mount Alexander Shire (Fig. 4) was created in 1995 by the amalgamation of three smaller shires, Maldon, Metcalfe and Newstead, together with the city of Castlemaine. It is a Victoria State Government creation, and much more an arm of central government than is CODC in the New Zealand context. It acts as the State’s local level agent, has only a small discretionary budget, and has restructured its management and service delivery operations according to State requirements. The range of possible services local government might purchase is prescribed by the State Government, the distribution of costs is determined by formula, and the extent of activities undertaken is effectively limited by cost. For example, in the social services field, the cost of any new service is shared with the State Government on a 20:80 basis. But at the time of amalgamation in the


mid-1990s, the State Government decreed that income from locally generated rates be cut by 20 percent, and by 2000 the Shire had little discretionary income and, therefore, few policy options. Thus, while the State’s dominant strategic line with respect to service provision requires engagement by local government with a range of activities, these are closely prescribed and do not encourage a high degree of local level flexibility and innovation. The objective has been to make local government accountable only to the Victorian State Government (Mercer and Jotkowitz, 2000). Accordingly, in Fig. 5, the relationship between MASC and the State Government is shown to be one dominated by ‘compliance with Melbourne’ (MASC Councillor 1). The Victorian State Government’s intent to prescribe most local government activities and proscribe others in the 1990s meant that the MASC’s engagement with local level governance was largely orchestrated for it. As outlined earlier, it focused on adjustments to both management and structure required by the State Government strategic line, and reflected the latter’s determination to remain the principal force in Victorian public administration and a key overseer of the economy. Thus while during the 1990s the MASC progressively engaged with the private sector through the purchase of services, and introduced a more rigorous system of asset management, it did so through highly prescribed compliance with State directives rather than complete conviction about the efficacy of such moves.




Elphinstone Newstead





Castlemaine 0

5 km

Fig. 4. Location of Mount Alexander Shire.

R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459




Restructuring of local level responsibilities to create --





Council Mayor

CEO and Staff

Barker ward


Calder ward

Campbell ward

Coliban ward

Metcalfe Community Association

Forest ward

Service delivery Private sector providers Voluntary sector providers

Loddon ward


Tarrengower ward

Elphinstone Community Association


Issue group


Taradale Community Forum

Individual constituents

CONSTITUENTS (Diverse groups)

Fig. 5. Local government legitimacy in Mount Alexander Shire.

Three cases exemplify this proposition. The first resulted from incomplete engagement with privatisation by the Shire Council. When the MASC was structured by the Victorian Electoral Commission in 1995 some senior Council management positions were privatised and senior officials from the disestablished shires invited to tender for specified management tasks. Successful ‘tenderers’ were encouraged to employ staff who had been (re-)engaged by the newly created MASC, thereby forming public–private teams. For example, while the head of Technical Operations was not a Council employee in 2000, his three engineers (with whom he had earlier tendered for the task of running technical operations) were so. This partial privatisation of function, a minimal change option, has created a dilemma for the Council; namely, what to do with employees who could be surplus to needs if the

next round of tendering should favour a provider that currently has no association with MASC and which chooses not to engage its employees on contract. The second case resulted from what some interviewees considered to be an innovative privatisation of the Council’s local economic development function, but which to others was an arrangement that they ‘could not get their head around’ (MASC Official 1). After initial seeding support from the State Government, the Council’s Economic Development Unit was contracted out to a private organisation, Southern Skies, on a commission basis—the latter receiving 10% of all external funding for LED that it generated. Once again, the boundaries between Council and private contractor were blurred, with Southern Skies renting space and furniture from the Council, and contracting Council

R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459

staff when needed. This was a cause for concern for some respondents: It’s too much of a blur where the contractor stops and the Council starts. (MASC Councillor 2) The community regard Southern Skies as a department of Council [when it is not] (MASC Official 2). Another concern expressed was that Southern Skies’ need to generate commissions might lead it to favour certain types of LED activities—those promoted by funding agencies—rather than those reflecting the MAS perspective on economic development. At issue was whether the arrangement with Southern Skies might not, in the absence of firmly enunciated LED policy, inappropriately encourage MAS to develop some policy options ahead of others. This finding both echoes and augments those outlined in Jones and Little (2000, p. 181), notably concerns expressed by project officers about ‘false’ or ‘paper’ partnerships established to ‘chase money’. The third case focused on the unpreparedness of MASC to take advantage of what were perceived to be opportunities offered by local level governance and the emerging quasi-market in Central Victoria. Of concern were perceived impediments to the exercise of leadership and vision in MASC; qualities needed if the Shire were to successfully negotiate its relationships with surrounding shires and with the State, and take maximum advantage of changing State and Federal systems of support. For this to occur, it was acknowledged that councillors, and the Mayor in particular, would need to display effective leadership in the wider politicoeconomic context. The perceived task was both to comprehend this context and represent the Shire’s interests within it. MASC Councillor (1), an ex-mayor, was particularly aware of the complexity of this task. In e-mail communication with the author, he observed that The process of adjustment [from small rural district to heterogeneous peri-urban district] is made more problematic by the simultaneous adjustment of the quasi market that is central Victoria to international influences including market (production and distribution) pressures, but also social and cultural influences, in which residents old and new alike expect mobile communications, Internet access, high quality cultural and sporting events, and political processes that they perceive enable them to participate meaningfully in the global as well as local community. But the system of local level administration in Mount Alexander Shire provided a significant impediment to the development of the leadership needed to address these issues. The Mayor of the Shire is selected by councillors from among their number, and holds office for 1 year only. While this ‘spread the load’ and reduced


the likelihood of a mayoral personality cult emerging, it meant that the continuity of vision was dependent upon there being a surfeit of leadership qualities among councillors. In practice this could not be guaranteed. Accordingly, both leadership and vision are represented in Fig. 5 as more limited engagements with the governance environment than is the purchasing of services from private sector providers. As a result of the dominance of local government by the State in Victoria, constituent representation within MAS has evolved very differently from the Central Otago case (Fig. 5). Rather than permit the newly created local government unit to determine its system of internal representation, the Victorian Electoral Commission appointed commissioners for a 2 year transitional jurisdictional period, during which time they made key structural decisions affecting representation. A seven ward option was chosen by the Commissioners (Figs. 4 and 5); each ward to be represented by a single councillor. There would be no devolution of responsibilities to wards; all decision making would occur at the level of full council. Wards would be of approximately the same population size (between 1900 and 2300 constituents) which meant that several appeared quite arbitrary in form and included communities with no historical connection. At the outset, therefore, there were concerns about the appropriateness of the wards created. Once the new Council was formed these were transmuted into questions about how the diverse interests of constituent communities might be represented. Unlike Central Otago the question of appropriate numerical representation was not resolved at the outset. Among the submissions on the Commissioners’ ward proposals had been several that voiced concern about the small number of prospective councillors. Prior to amalgamation there had been 42 councillors in total, and it was feared that seven would not be enough to allow for adequate representation. One group argued that Seven or five councillors to be elected from the whole Shire does not allow adequate representation. Only a limited number of viewpoints will be represented in each riding [sic]. The workload of each councillor will be too great to allow proper consideration of all issues. Council will not have the numbers to be able to operate an effective portfolio nor committee system, and neither will councillors have the time to give attention to representations from residents. (Submission on Commissioners’ Options; March 1996) The references to workload and accessibility were prophetic. The few continuing councillors found that their roles, and demands made of them, had changed markedly. For those entering formal local politics for


R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459

the first time, there was no cumulative experience of the system to guide them. When questioned about their strategies for representing ward constituents most councillors and ex-councillors acknowledged that they did not employ formal mechanisms. A number stated that they did not need to, nor had they the time to, adopt a formal approach because of the plethora of issues that ‘come to them’. But representation was an issue, both because of the need to be seen to be responding to constituents’ expressed concerns and because of the pressure of workload that this entailed. Several had sought to move beyond a purely reactive position by getting special interest groups to assume initial responsibility for negotiating with each other on issues of common concern (Fig. 5). As councillors, they became involved once these negotiations had been completed. In this way, duplication of effort was minimised and the number of representatives making a case to be taken to Council was reduced. But what councillors also found was that the issues raised by such interest groups were frequently inter-ward in nature, for example the need to upgrade sports facilities in the greater Castlemaine area. The dilemma councillors faced was that while such interward representation was personally satisfying, especially if they had a particular interest in an issue, they were uncertain about how their efforts would be evaluated within their own wards—where re-election is determined. But even when representing groups whose interests lay within individual wards the position of councillors was not unproblematic, because of the number and diversity of such groups. A similar collaborative format, but to encourage diverse groups to collaborate where they focused on the same community, had been encouraged since the period of the Commissioners when informal community forums were established in Newstead and Taradale (Fig. 4). More recently, in Coliban Ward, this procedure had been modified and extended by employing the provisions of Section 86 of the Local Government Act, 1989, to set up community associations as formal, advisory committees of Council (Fig. 5). Advocates of the forum approach emphasised the importance of the freedom to publicly express displeasure at Council decisions. Those promoting community associations referred to the advantages of more direct access to Council. Whether either version of the model actually reduced the workload of councillors, or simply changed its configuration, was much less clear. As MASC Councillor (3) observed, ‘With two or three communities, each having an association, the number of regular ward meetings to attend could make the workload problem [for ward councillors] unmanageable’. The challenge remained to devise ways to represent diverse, sometimes competing, interests within wards

without generating excessive workloads and burnout for councillors. Councillors’ perceptions of their role as ward representatives, advocating community and special interest groups’ cases to Council, varied among those interviewed. For some it was the very core of Council activity, for others a time consuming and expensive exercise. As MASC Councillor (4) observed: ‘The Council almost consults too much, to the point of not appearing to want to make decisions. We don’t have the money to be advertising [every last proposal]; we don’t have the luxury of being able to consult to this degree’. MASC Councillor (1) developed this theme further in email correspondence with the author: ythe most effective Councillors in the long term will be those who adopt a Shire perspectiveymost of the time. They will rationalise the two roles (Wards vs. Shire representation) by focussing on the demographic, economic facts and features of the Ward, not on the psychological needs of the small number of constituents who think that where they live has another, more ‘‘authentic’’ purpose. Fig. 5 indicates that the domain of local government in this central Victorian case is dominated by exigencies of State regulation. In fields such as the adjustment to the management and structure of local government, and the requirement for CCT and quasi-privatising of functions, the State Government strategic line required local government engagement with governance. But during the late 1990s, this limited activity was under the watchful eye of a State Government concerned to cement its political credentials in a changing political economy. As a result, the involvement of the private sector in local level decision making was limited, and local government’s co-ordinative role was similarly inhibited. Yet within this highly prescriptive and restrictive frame, individual MASC councillors found some room to manoeuvre. They responded to what was arguably a higher order imperative, namely to seek innovative ways to represent constituents’ interests and, thereby, establish their personal legitimacy within the new Shire.

4. Conclusions This paper has addressed two related, but distinct, issues: (1) how different cases of local government engagement with governance might be effectively analysed and compared; (2) among the competing spheres of local government activity that have a bearing on legitimacy in the governance environment, which is viewed by practitioners as being the most significant? In response to the first issue, a framework has been suggested that facilitates analysis of empirical cases by

R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459

identifying three generic spheres of engagement: with state strategic lines whose origins predate the ‘new’ governance; with different governance environments that derive from particular dominant strategic lines; and with local constituents in more or less representative arrangements. The framework has been shown to be able to accommodate differences between cases, and between theoretical perspectives and practical realities. It has, therefore, proved to be a useful mechanism for addressing the second issue, namely how those involved in local government on a day-to-day basis prioritise spheres of engagement with the governance environment. The recently created territorial local authorities, Central Otago District Council and Mount Alexander Shire Council, have structured their operations according to respective dominant strategic lines. New managerial structures have been introduced to the respective local government units, and most service provision is undertaken through competitive tendering processes. District and Shire have become the purchasers rather than the providers of services, and respective Council holdings of plant and equipment—for long the symbols of the Councils themselves—have all but disappeared. But the dominant strategic lines that have required such compliance were quite different. The New Zealand State’s distant relationship with local government and the latter’s traditionally limited range of responsibilities, together with the extent of State restructuring in the 1980s, meant that local government has been left to itself to determine how best to operate in the governance environment. In contrast, the Victorian Government’s use of local government as its agent for the provision of a much wider range of services, and its determination during the 1990s to remain the dominant (political) force within the evolving Victorian political economy, meant that the MASC’s engagement with governance has been effectively prescribed. Accordingly, the reevaluation of roles following restructuring for governance within these very different contexts has not occurred in a standardised way. Other issues raised in the British governance debate also engage these Antipodean cases. Imre and Raco’s (1999) observations that local government has always engaged with local governance networks, and that the distinction between government and governance is artificial and problematic, are clearly supported. Engagement with private and voluntary sectors, to the extent that it occurs, is viewed as ‘normal business’, and nothing new. This author also encountered widespread uncertainty among both elected representatives and appointed officials about what is meant by governance. One of the few willing to define the term, a senior official from CODC, distinguished between the practical, dayto-day work of the District Council undertaken by officials (government) and the development of policy by


elected representatives (governance). This suggests a gulf between the interpretation of key terms by theoreticians and practitioners of local government—an issue that warrants further study. In a 1998 paper that examined the regulating of differentiated rural spaces in Britain, Marsden (1998) sought to determine the degree to which different rural areas develop contrasting strategies of adjustment and compromise with the state and wider economy. The present paper suggests that while adjustments have certainly been made by CODC and MASC in response to state strategic lines, the potential for compromise has, in practice, been minimal. In Central Otago this has been because of the limited range of functions traditionally undertaken by local government, and the State’s unwillingness to date to renegotiate this position [This position may change in 2002. A Local Government Amendment Bill currently before Parliament proposes that powers of general competence be conferred on territorial local authorities—within specified parameters]. The MASC’s minimal room for manoeuvre stems from the State Government’s highly prescriptive (‘dictatorial’ according to one interviewee) approach to local government operations. Under these circumstances, the CODC and MASC have been variously constrained in their relationships with the private and voluntary sectors, and only limited partnerships have developed. This provides further support for the interrogation of partnerships as appropriate mechanisms for the ‘specific political, economic and social needs and environment of rural areas’ (Little, 2001, p. 99; Jones and Little, 2000). With respect to CODC and MASC engagement with the wider economy, this paper has indicated that while a number of respondents operate as both politicaladministrative and private economic agents, concern was expressed that the territorial local authorities had not provided co-ordinative leadership—to ensure economic success vis-a-vis adjacent districts. Notwithstanding this last-mentioned concern, and differences in approach to governance, this paper has shown that what is of primary interest to councillors in both CODC and MASC is that respective forms of representative local government continue to receive constituent support. As such, they are ultimately more concerned about the implications for local level democracy of earlier local government reforms than they are with either the theoretical niceties or contemporary practices of local government in the governance environment. As has always been the case, the urgency of constituents’ demands outweighs other considerations. The CODC case, in particular, illustrates how the rescaling of state functions and changed relationship between central government and the private sector can further complicate the uncomfortable position of local government—between central state dominant strategic


R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459

line and community wishes. The conducting of resource consents hearings at a sub-district level in Central Otago had more than symbolic value for citizens, even though the number of applications assessed by most community boards was small. It was viewed as the manifestation of democratic best practice. The subsequent centralising of this function at the District level led to considerable disenchantment among elected community board members because the move appeared to run counter to an unvoiced contract between local government and constituent. This case suggests that the ‘narrowing of democratic control, and, consequently, a redefinition (or rather a limitation) of citizenship’ that Swyngedouw (1997, p. 158) argues results from the double rearticulation of political scales, is played out within the frame of local government as well as the governance of the local state. The CODC case suggests that the process of (re)empowering communities and creating active citizens may be considerably more complex than is suggested by New Labour in Britain (DETR, 1997)—even when territorial local authorities favour further delegation of functions. Engagement with the central state strategic requirement for local level governance may render such community empowerment difficult to achieve if not completely impracticable. The legitimacy of local government in governance environments may, as yet, have received relatively little attention in the governance literature; however, this paper shows that in two rural districts in the Antipodes it is the subject that most taxes those who practice local government. It is appropriate to suggest, therefore, that any understanding of local governance in practice will need to incorporate the (political) lived worlds of elected and appointed practitioners of local government, and engage the issues of primary concern to them.

Acknowledgements This work arises from field research in New Zealand and Australia supported by the University of Otago. I would like to thank elected representatives and appointed officials from Central Otago District and Mount Alexander Shire for their interest in, and support of, the research programme. I am also grateful to two anonymous referees and Paul Cloke for suggesting how the paper might be more effectively positioned and to Ruth Panelli for helpful comments on an earlier draft.

References Barker, R., 1990. Political Legitimacy and the State. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Beck, U., 1992. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. Sage, London. Bonanno, A., 2000. The crisis of representation: the limits of liberal democracy in the global era. Journal of Rural Studies 16, 305–323. Burns, D., Hambleton, R., Hoggett, P., 1994. The Politics of Decentralisation: Revitalising Local Democracy. Macmillan, London. Chisholm, M., 1999. He who pays the piper calls the tune. Journal of Local Government Law 2, 95–100. Deas, I., Ward, K., 2000. From the ‘new localism’ to the ‘new regionalism’? The implications of regional development agencies for city-regional relations. Political Geography 19, 273–292. Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions [DETR], 1997. Regeneration Programmes: the Way Forward. HMSO, London. Goodwin, M., 1998. The governance of rural areas: some emerging research issues and agendas. Journal of Rural Studies 14, 5–12. Goodwin, M., Painter, J., 1996. Local governance, the crises of Fordism and the changing geographies of regulation. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 21, 635–648. Gramsci, A., 1971. In: Hoare, Q., Nowell Smith, G. (Eds., transl.), Selections From the Prison Notebooks. International Publishers, New York. Harding, A., Evans, R., Parkinson, M., Garside, P., 1996. Regional Government in Britain: an Economic Solution? Policy Press, Bristol. Imre, R., Raco, M., 1999. How new is the new local governance? Lessons from the United Kingdom. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 24, 45–63. Jessop, B., 1990. State Theory: Putting Capitalist States in Their Place. Polity Press, Cambridge. Jones, M., 2001. The rise of the regional state in economic governance: ‘partnerships for prosperity’ or new scales of state power? Environment and Planning A 33, 1185–1211. Jones, O., Little, J., 2000. Rural challenge(s): partnership and new rural governance. Journal of Rural Studies 16, 171–183. Keating, M., 1998. The New Regionalism in Western Europe: Territorial Restructuring and Political Change. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham UK. Kiss, R., 1999. Local government to local administration: the new order. In: Costar, B., Economou, N. (Eds.), The Kennett Revolution: Victorian Politics in the 1990s. University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, pp. 110–121. Lash, S., Urry, J., 1994. Economics of Signs and Space. Sage, London. Little, J., 2001. New rural governance? Progress in Human Geography 25, 97–102. Lovering, J., 1999. Theory led by policy: the inadequacies of the ‘new regionalism’ (illustrated from the case of Wales). International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 23, 379–395. MacLeod, G., Goodwin, M., 1999. Space, scale and state strategy: rethinking urban and regional governance. Progress in Human Geography 23, 503–527. Marsden, T., 1998. New rural territories: regulating the differentiated rural spaces. Journal of Rural Studies 14, 107–117. McDermott, P., Forgie, V., 1999. Trends in local government: efficiency, functions and democracy. Political Science 50, 247–265. Mercer, D., Jotkowitz, B., 2000. Local Agenda 21 and barriers to sustainability at the local government level in Victoria, Australia. Australian Geographer 31, 163–181. Murdoch, J., Abram, S., 1998. Defining the limits of community governance. Journal of Rural Studies 14, 41–50. Osti, G., 2000. LEADER and partnerships: the case of Italy. Sociologia Ruralis 40, 172–180.

R. Welch / Journal of Rural Studies 18 (2002) 443–459 Raco, M., Flint, J., 2001. Communities, places and institutional relations: assessing the role of area-based community representation in local governance. Political Geography 20, 585–612. Reid, M., 1999. The central-local government relationship: the need for a framework? Political Science 50, 165–181. Scott, A., 1998. Regions and the World Economy. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Swyngedouw, E., 1997. Neither global nor local. ‘‘Glocalization’’ and the politics of scale. In: Cox, K. (Ed.), Spaces of Globalization: Reasserting the Power of the Local. Guilford Press, New York. Tewdwr-Jones, M., 1998. Rural government and community participation: the planning role of community councils. Journal of Rural Studies 14, 51–62.


Valler, D., Wood, A., North, P., 2000. Local governance and local business interests: a critical review. Progress in Human Geography 24, 409–428. Ward, K., Jones, M., 1999. Researching local elites: reflexivity, ‘situatedness’ and political-temporal contingency. Geoforum 30, 301–312. Welch, R., 1989. Local government commissions and local government reform: the failures and now success? Public Sector 13, 17–18. Wilson, D., 1996. Structural ‘solutions’ for local government: an exercise in chasing shadows? Parliamentary Affairs 49, 441–454. Woods, M., 1998. Advocating rurality? The repositioning of rural local government. Journal of Rural Studies 14, 13–26.