Experiences with three approaches intended to achieve increasing levels of regional and collaborative engagement – Ministerial water advisory committees, Catchment Water Management Boards and Natural Resources Management Boards – are examined over the period from the 1970s to early 2014. Attention focuses on two tensions: (1) whether to have a system-wide or regional focus and (2) whether to pursue extensive consultation and seek consensus, or have government agencies limit consultation and take decisions in a timely manner, knowing that winners and losers will emerge. Supporting legislation, policies, plans and programmes were reviewed, and interviews were completed with 88 individuals. Support generally exists for regional and collaborative approaches, but with recognition of a need to balance strengths and limitations for whatever choice is made.

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