Recently I present to the Melbourne Water Liveability Panel on possible governance models related to open space management and now have been working with a number of entities exploring future collective governance models.

There have been many examinations of “park” management arrangements from a range of different perspectives such as governance, leadership, business models, revenue generation and innovation.  I have had the fortunate experience to develop a number of these, the original Melbourne Parks & Waterways model, Philip Island Nature Park and Parks Victoria.  Also I have had the pleasure of working closely with innovative leaders in this area such as Steve Coleman (Washington Parks & People), Brian O’Neill (Golden Gate) and Mark Camley (at Royal Parks).

A recent report “Rethinking Parks” by the Nesta Foundation in the UK is a good example of the exploration of possible management arrangements to enable better financial sustainability.  However, they nearly always result in looking at governance from one perspective and in many cases without any cultural or legislative context.

So what is Governance – It is about who holds power, authority and responsibility and who is, or should be, held accountable. The IUCN described four main governance types which are governance by:

  • government
  • various rights holders and stakeholders together
  • private individuals and organizations
  • indigenous peoples and/or local communities

Governance is also (the process of) “…interactions among structures, processes and traditions that determine how power and responsibilities are exercised, how decisions are taken and how citizens or other stakeholders have their say…”

However, my exploration centered around initially the “funding construct” (from General Tax, Property Rate, NFP through to Profit) and the degree of ownership (the “social construct” (from Government – Social/Community – Private).  This governance dichotomy (source of funds – social ownership) allows for consideration and understanding of underlying scale, forms of organisations and legislative and cultural contexts.  The table below depicts this governance dichotomy and will be used to explore examples from around the world.

This framework allows the first analysis of existing park governance arrangements from around the world ranging from the governance models involved in Golden Gate NP, Auckland City through to Chicago Wilderness Alliance.

As I venture through this topic I may use terminology that may be commonly used in Australia and New Zealand, so please contact me for either clarity or suggestions you have.

Also I will keep stressing the point through out this topic, that there is no one perfect solution and many successful park systems have multiple Governance arrangements that provide flexibility and innovation.

As I work through various examples that use these proposed framework (lens) and demonstrate the different and varied governance model, I will with each example briefly describe their key attributes and limits. The limits aren’t to be viewed as a criticism or a weakness of any given example but to highlight where and when this type of governance should be used and when another type of governance maybe more preferred.

However, this will not provide you with an analytical tool to explore which one or many governance arrangements might suit a certain situation.  However, eventually I will address this challenge.



There are 6 Articles in this Series:

  1. Introduction – this Article
  2. Park Governance Models – Government Tax Centric View
  3. Park Governance Models: The Community – NFP Centric View
  4. Park Governance Models: Profit Centric View
  5. Summary
  6. What governance for when?