There have been trends for governments to adopt more ‘bottom-up’ approaches on a range of matters including environmental and natural resource management planning. An example is the devolution of public funds to regional natural resource management (NRM) bodies in many areas of Australia. However, there is little empirical evidence available to guide policymakers in determining best value arrangements and strategic investments for building a region’s ‘collaborative advantage’. An economic appraisal of engagement processes might focus on evaluating whether the benefits of particular governance arrangements outweigh the costs. The identification and assessment of many of the costs and benefits associated with various engagement processes is not an easy task. Many of the costs can be classified as transaction costs, where the costs of collaboration and engagement in a process can be likened to the search, negotiation, monitoring, and enforcement costs familiar from market transactions. In a marginal analysis setting, the question is whether the costs incurred from an alternative governance arrangement are justified when the benefits are considered. The benefits of a more participatory and inclusive governance arrangement might include improvements to resource allocation, achieving changes in attitudes to land management practices, reduction in conflict, and development of ‘administrative capital’. These benefits are difficult to estimate, although non-market valuation techniques can offer some insights into the magnitude of such benefits. An outline of an approach to evaluate the benefits and costs of a Devolved Grants program administered by the Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA) regional natural resource management (NRM) body in Central Queensland is presented in this paper.


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