Western Australia's salinity investment framework: a study of priority setting in policy and practice

Jonelle Cleland

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    In March 2002 the Western Australian Minister for Environment and Heritage adopted a policy framework to guide investment decisions on salinity management. Promoted as Western Australia's Salinity Investment Framework (or the SIF), it offered a set of principles for prioritising investment decisions that were generally grounded in economic theory. This represented a significant landmark in terms of the government's appreciation of the scale of salinity problem and its acknowledgement that a full turnaround in the situation was beyond the reach of both volunteers and the public purse. The evolution of the SIF policy, including an initial trial in the Avon Basin, provided an opportunity to evaluate pre-policy processes; observe policy on the run; and test stakeholder reactions to the investment principles embodied in the the SIF, as well as their reaction to its implied outcomes. The intention of the study was to highlight any barriers standing in the way of effectively implementing a policy to prioritise investments in salinity management and identify any novel approaches developed in an attempt to overcome them. The evaluation was multifaceted to incorporate retrospective and prospective modes of inquiry. The retrospective investigation involved the construction of a series of policy narratives using evidence from notes and minutes taken at SIF meetings, as well as other formal and informal documents. It systematically captured the influence of key people, events and decisions on the SIF up until June 2008. This evaluation highlighted the impact of (1) policy entrepreneurs; (2) time lags; (3) vertical silos, and (4) priority setting hierarchies. The prospective investigation involved the execution of a community survey featuring attitudinal questions, paired comparisons and a choice modelling experiment. The survey involved 269 personal interviews with rural landholders, townspeople and landcare officers across the Avon Catchment. It captured perceptions towards past funding strategies and proposals for future allocations and explored the nature of priority setting decisions in relation to trade-offs between: (1) the mix of assets protected; (2) the degree of risk; (3) the level of community involvement in the decision, and (4) the distribution of benefits. This evaluation highlighted the importance of (1) incentives and disincentives for change; (2) awareness of priority setting concepts; (3) the capacity of regional bodies; and (4) elements perceived to be crucial in priority setting.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2008


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