The Upper Spencer Gulf Common Purpose Group: a model of intra-regional cooperation for economic development

Harvey, Jim, and Cheers, Brian (2011) The Upper Spencer Gulf Common Purpose Group: a model of intra-regional cooperation for economic development. In: Xu, Jiang, and Yeh, Anthony G.O., (eds.) Governance and planning of mega-city regions: an international comparative perspective. Routledge Studies in Human Geography . Routlege, Abingdon, Oxon, pp. 191-210.

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[Extract] In recent years, the global notion of regional development has changed, from an emphasis on targeted policies to redress the problems of uneven growth in lagging areas to a more positive understanding of the need for all regions to develop their competitiveness through value-adding in such a way that business can become more successful against both national and international competition.

In Australia, employment has become a key concern for both the government and regional cornmunities. Unemployment rates have become a dominant political measure of the federal government's economic management. Therefore, regional development initiatives have been predominantly economic in nature and labor force in focus. Emphasis has been on short-term projects to increase the employment rate. This has created tension between the concerns of regions (particularly those in long-term decline and with high rates of unemployment) and federal governments.

Declining regions are characterized by a vicious cycle of welfare dependency, service withdrawal, depopulation, and deteriorating quality oflife. Some policies are made to revitalize these regions. However, approaches that require all tiers of government to consult and lead at the local level appear to be out of step with the established neoliberal political structures and modes of operation. Consequently, the long-term mechanisms needed for breaking the cycles that entrap and isolate declining regions seldom exist.

This chapter reports on a regionally based initiative known as the "Upper Spencer Gulf Common Purpose Group" (CPG). The CPG was established in 1998 to ameliorate the rapidly deteriorating economy of the Upper Spencer Gulf Region in the state of South Australia by fostering cooperation and collaboration between the local governments, industries, and businesses of the three cities within the region. The region is one of contrasts: extensive rural and semi-desert areas in its interior, yet with three major urban areas hugging the coast of Spencer Gulf and around 100 kilometers apart. Approximately 80 percent of the population resides in the seaside centers that were developed to serve the traditional industries of the Upper Spencer Gulf: minerals extraction and processing; shipbuilding; steel and heavy manufacturing; and railways. The region is perhaps a "mega-region" more by area than by population size. From 1970 to 1998, these industries were seriously impacted by national and international changes to their markets and experienced considerable downsizing and restructuring. Previous attempts to strengthen the regional economy through government programs had failed to reverse the decline. This was due in part to the region's long history of intercity rivalry and insularity. The formation of the CPG represented an initially tentative move from separate and, in some ways, parochial and competitive attempts to tackle the economic, demographic, and social decline of the three cities to focus on collaboration as a vehicle for repositioning and reinvigorating its competitive advantages over a ten-year period.

In 2001, the Australian Department of Transport and Regional Services commissioned the Centre for Rural and Regional Development to review the CPG as an example of best practice in intra-regional cooperation involving two or more local governments. This chapter is based on the final report.

In this chapter, we describe the CPG, trace its development, and analyze the processes that underpin its focus and operation. From an analysis of similar structures in other parts of the world and regional development "best practice" principles, we identifY a number of dimensions that can be used to describe organizations that are established to facilitate intra-regional cooperation. We present a set of key process performance indicators for such organizations that were developed during the study from which this chapter is derived, and use these to evaluate the CPG as a unique example of "best practice" in intra-regional cooperation.

The CPG model is unique. However, we were able to demonstrate that the long-term involvement of multiple stakeholders with all levels of government is clearly essential for overcoming previous failures, and those initiatives that are capable of doing this, and of remaining stable, deserve the label best practice. For these and other reasons the CPG, which is both stable and a bridge between local and central government, is a candidate for best practice.

Item ID: 19604
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 978-0-415-56089-4
Keywords: economic development; regional development; intra-regional cooperation; mega-city; governance
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Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2012 02:28
FoR Codes: 14 ECONOMICS > 1402 Applied Economics > 140202 Economic Development and Growth @ 100%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9402 Government and Politics > 940299 Government and Politics not elsewhere classified @ 50%
91 ECONOMIC FRAMEWORK > 9101 Macroeconomics > 910103 Economic Growth @ 50%
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