Conferences, Proceedings of the 3rd National Local Government Research Forum

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The pitfalls and promises of an academic approach to solving real world problems in local government
Jennifer Scott, Jennie Cramp, Sophia Findlay, Jay Jonasson

Last modified: 2013-10-23


Traditionally many local government entities have been entrenched in a system of no change. Change has been regarded as a threat to available resources, existing projects, and to top-down risk adverse management’s control of priorities. Local governments are not usually regarded as research hubs. However, the highly localised and complex nature of many environmental management issues, in particular, often means research is essential to ensure effective and efficient management. Dealing with issues of a high magnitude of complexity is thought to be beyond the scope of Councils and better left to state and federal agencies. In recent years this perception is proving increasingly false. Despite the lack of recognition, difficult internal management priorities, and a community unaware of the benefits, several local councils have managed to create a substantial research profile designed to address important knowledge gaps. Ku-ring-gai Council has benefited greatly from the development of a research agenda. Management has recognised the value of fostering innovation, the dangers of clinging onto the old mantra ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, and the positive effects a culture of problem solving can have for staff and the overall wellbeing of the community. Although research into pressing environmental management issues including water, bushfire and climate change has not been without substantial challenges, the benefits of this approach are clear – ensuring that already limited resources are being spent where they will have the greatest effect. Through continued research, monitoring and review, this provides a basis on which to make sound managerial decisions.

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