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Culture, New Institutionalist Theory, and the Commons: Linking Intractable Policy Controversies and Institutional Ethos

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Eisenhuth, Denise
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Globalisation, the Ninth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Conf. Date: June 17-21, 2002
Date: 2002
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/939
Sector: Social Organization
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Pacific and Australia
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
water resources
property rights
Abstract: "Why is it that the architects of modern water resource policy continue to believe that it is only through competition promoted by free market principles that the resource will be used efficiently and that this efficient usage will ultimately halt degradation of the resource? For what happens all too often in reality is that the free market principles promote conflict over competition that results in intractable policy controversies. Intractability is the term used to describe policy disputes that are controversial-- that is-- policy disputes that are immune to resolution by appeal to the facts. "In the modern Australian context, intractable policy controversies over water resources can be linked to the mobilisation of market forces through water resource policy, with no room for cooperation and trust to emerge between the users and those public authorities concerned with implementing and regulating the market. Trust and cooperation between governments and users are obligatory given the nature of the changes required for successful water resource governance in the 21st century. In Australia, this means the separation of access and usage property rights as well as the introduction of water markets to promote the type of competition that, so governments hope, will lead to efficient usage. The hostility that emerges is the result of the formulation and implementation of policy that attempts to introduce new playing fields in terms of water resource-usage and conservation to suit the modern context. "There exists in the Namoi Valley located in northwestern New South Wales an intractable policy controversy. The focus of this paper is to analyse the reasons why this intractable policy controversy exists. The policy dispute is over what group--government or the groundwater users-- are to bear the costs of the introduction of the new playing field. To help understand the issues involved in such structural change I want to draw some lessons from the Alto Vinalopo comunidades de regantes (irrigating communities) and huertas of Spain, where policy for the introduction of a new playing field has been framed, so that the associated costs are shared between the European Union and the State of Spain, as well as the Alto Vinalopo irrigating communities."

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