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ANZRSAI 2015
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REGIONAL FUTURES

This article introduces the issue's special topic, which is regional futures, particularly as possibilities for regional futures are played out in one particular region, the Latrobe Valley in Victoria.

MIKE HEFFERAN, BRUCE WILSON AND LAUREN RICKARDS

Page Number - 295

ECONOMIES WITH PEOPLE IN THEM: REGIONAL FUTURES THROUGH THE LENS OF CONTEMPORARY REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT THEORY

Regional development theory seeks to understand why some regions are prosperous and others not, and what less-prosperous regions can do to improve. Theories of regional development originated in the field of regional economics, based on the analysis of economic dynamics at regional scale. Contemporary regional development theory now incorporates cross-disciplinary insights about how social processes such as collaboration and innovation drive regional economic competitiveness. In Australia, however, the regional development situation is complicated by cultural and policy attitudes that homogenise and peripheralise regions beyond the capital cities. Regional development theory gives practical guidance as to how rural and resource-based regions such as the La Trobe Valley can respond to the challenges of economic restructuring using endogenous development approaches. Yet in Australia, current ways of working regularly undermine the capacities that regions need to succeed.

ROBYN EVERSOLE

Page Number - 305

EXPLORING THE CONTRIBUTION OF TRANSITIONS MANAGEMENT TO INFORM REGIONAL FUTURES

Regions around the world are facing intersecting challenges associated with economic and industrial restructuring, demographic changes, urbanisation, and climate change. Regional development efforts have primarily focused on an economic agenda but, have struggled to fully integrate environmental and social concerns. Climate change requires an integrated approach to addressing multiple regional challenges. This paper illustrates how Transition Management (TM) can provide coherence and direction to the transformative efforts of regional actors. TM is an innovative governance framework for managing complex problems. Informed by theory and practice, it has achieved considerable policy success in Western Europe. Yet, TM has only begun to be explored in Australian contexts. Our paper considers what transitions theories can contribute to regional scholarship and practice in Australian regions experiencing major economic, social, and ecological restructuring.

ANDRÉANNE DOYON, BRIAN COFFEY, SUZIE MOLONEY, FJALAR DE HAAN AND KARYN BOSOMWORTH

Page Number - 321

LIVING IN UNCERTAIN LANDSCAPES: AN NRM LENS ON THE IMPLICATIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE FOR REGIONAL FUTURES

Climate change raises important challenges for regional futures, including how communities might live in and manage landscapes, and therefore what kinds of regional futures may emerge. Drawing on a larger study on climate change adaptation in natural resource management (NRM), we present insights from interviews with planners from Victoria’s Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) who are dealing with many practical and philosophical challenges in planning for climate changing regional futures. This NRM perspective highlights the need for planning and governance of regional futures that will enable communities to live well with uncertainty and change, including in regions already undergoing significant transitions such as the LaTrobe Valley in Victoria, Australia.

KARYN BOSOMWORTH, BENJAMIN COOKE AND BRIAN COFFEY

Page Number - 344

WATER AND COAL – TRANSFORMING AND REDEFINING ‘NATURAL’ RESOURCES IN AUSTRALIA’S LATROBE REGION

Victoria’s Latrobe Region is typically defined by its brown coal used for electricity production, but this focus obscures the complex histories and ecologies that underpin it. In this paper, assemblage theory is used to analyse the region’s transformations and the core role played by not just coal but water and climate in shaping the region. A century of state sponsored coal development has resulted in the region’s current economic reliance on fossil resources, but the recent closure of Hazelwood Power Station signals mounting pressures for decarbonising. In a climate of increasing constraints on coal use and uncertainties about water abundance, regional identities and resources are being redefined, highlighting the social co-construction of resources and regions. Analysis of the co-evolution and transformations of the region’s carbon, water and society assemblages supports the idea of new assemblages emerging with altered carbon-water dynamics.

JASON ALEXANDRA

Page Number - 358

THE GEOGRAPHICAL POLITICAL ECONOMY OF REGIONAL TRANSFORMATION IN THE LATROBE VALLEY

This paper explains the Latrobe Valley’s challenges from a geographical political economy perspective sensitive to the path dependent nature of regional change processes, to the influence of extra-local forces, to the socially constructed nature of regions, and to the inherently political nature of transformative change. The paper argues that the recent application of ‘new regional’ policies in the Valley—policies which aim to revitalize regions by promoting leadership, vision and local coalitions of elite stakeholders—have, in reality, replaced elected representatives with selected stakeholders and reframed the issue by stretching the spatial and temporal scales of action in a way that diminishes the apparent severity of the area’s problems. This paper contends that because these interventions sidestep local political contestation, they deepen the disempowerment and disenfranchisement of the people of the industrial Latrobe Valley. Moreover, the process has enabled business elites in Gippsland to capture and redirect redistributive funding to sectors and locations that were never affected by the closure of coal fired power stations.

SALLY A. WELLER

Page Number - 382

WHEN POLITICS MEETS ECONOMIC COMPLEXITY: DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY IN THE GIPPSLAND REGION, AUSTRALIA

Regional change and development is contested. The established approaches to social and economic change rely on either state intervention or a celebration of competition and markets, although often a messy combination. An alternative approach addresses political relations (who decides what and how) with socio-economic developmental proposals. This latter approach distinguishes between the foundational dimensions of a regional economy and the competitive aspects and initiatives. It also draws a contrast between patterns of change, focusing on the immediate (transitional) and the more long-term (transformational). The challenge is to exercise inclusive regional governance in relation to the opportunities and barriers to social and economic change. These themes are addressed in relation to the shift from a carbon-based economy to a less carbon reliant regional community, in Gippsland, the State of Victoria, Australia.

PETER FAIRBROTHER

Page Number - 400

THE LATROBE VALLEY: THE POLITICS OF LOSS AND HOPE IN A REGION OF TRANSITION

This paper suggests that in places like the Latrobe Valley in south-eastern Victoria, Australia, that are undergoing significant change and transition, the narratives describing historical and contemporary feelings about such change are integral to a better understanding of how certain politics of emotion and affect are mobilised. Subsequently implications of this for regional futures are explored. The article traces the origins of the Latrobe Valley’s coal industry and the establishment of its mining communities, with specific attention paid to narratives of communal belonging and loss as government involvement in the region shifted from a somewhat benign paternalism to the neoliberalist ideologies of the 1980s. This history is integral to current narratives about a perceived ongoing ignorance or lack of consideration on the impact of economic and social decisions made for this region. This paper focuses specifically on interview material that arises out of the work undertaken by the Community Wellbeing Stream of the Hazelwood Health Study. This interview material offers a means to examine participants’ emotional connections and responses to change. Through an analysis of this material the aim was to uncover the role such narratives may play in mobilising responses to the region’s current contexts and what this might tell us about future pathways.

MICHELLE DUFFY AND SUE WHYTE

Page Number - 421

FROM SUSTAINABLE TO RESILIENT REGIONS? SHIFTING CONCEPTUALISATIONS OF REGIONAL FUTURES: A CLOSING REVIEW

Professor Lars Coenen from the University of Melbourne has provided some concluding thoughts on the special issue on regional futures, particularly as possibilities for regional futures are played out in one particular region, the Latrobe Valley in Victoria.

LARS COENEN

Page Number - 447