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To complement Zack Taylor’s paper on Regionalism from Above: Metro Governance in Canada, the journal commissioned four short ‘perspectives’ from Commonwealth countries grappling with similar issues – Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa. The purpose was not in any way to ‘review’ Taylor’s work, but rather to establish a broader picture of issues and trends in metropolitan governance, and to identify common threads.
The perspectives from Australia, England and South Africa focus on recent developments and governance issues in particular metropolitan areas. These are respectively the fast-growing outer metropolitan sub-region of Western Sydney; the long-established conurbation of Greater Manchester; and the vast, emerging ‘multi-nodal sprawl’ of South Africa’s Gauteng City Region, centred on Johannesburg. The New Zealand perspective takes a different approach, exploring the implications of shifts in national policy towards a focus on wellbeing and the quality of life in communities, with significant implications for the future of local government and the way metropolitan areas are governed.
Nevertheless, all four perspectives reveal similar underlying concerns that metropolitan governance frameworks and practices often struggle to keep pace with global trends, urban growth, community needs and national priorities. Effective inter-government relations are crucial, but local governments may not be at the table, or their views may be largely ignored. The governance of metropolitan regions becomes increasingly fraught, a battleground between the forces of devolution and centralisation. How can meaningful and effective collaborative governance be realised? Who should take the lead and do we have the right tools and skills? In such a complex and fluid environment, can we realistically expect anything more than brief periods of clarity and consensus that at least enable agreement on the next few steps?
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