An action research study of public partnership in public private partnerships that are established for the development of community-based infrastructure

  • Paul Manuell

    Student thesis: Professional Doctorate - CDU


    This research project applied an action research methodology in conjunction with grounded theory and process consultation to develop knowledge on public private partnerships in the development of community based infrastructure. It applied the methodology to engage people within two related organisations, the Manly Warringah Basketball Association and the Northern Beaches Indoor Sports Centre. The study was conducted during 2005 and 2006 in the Northern Beaches locale of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The research led to the examination of key governance issues in partnerships formed to deliver this type of infrastructure.

    The research study was triggered by a request from the Board of Directors of Manly Warringah Basketball Association to convene a taskforce to develop changes in the business and financial practices of the organisation. As comprehensive research revealed some complex relationships between Manly Warringah Basketball Association and other organisations its focus shifted from the Manly Warringah Basketball Association to the Northern Beaches Indoor Sport Centre.

    Northern Beaches Indoor Sport Centre is an independent, private not for profit company that controls the venue. The centre has been built on land owned by the New South Wales Department of Education and Training in the grounds of the Narrabeen Sports High School. Northern Beaches Indoor Sport Centre is governed by a Board of three volunteers representing three main interest groups, the Pittwater Council, the Manly Warringah Basketball Association and the Academy Netball Club. The financial sustainability of the centre is based on the revenue raised from several community based sporting organisations including the Manly Warringah Basketball Association, who use the facility on a long term user-pays basis.

    The research found some complex financial relationships between several New South Wales Government Departments, local government bodies and community groups. The Department of Education and Training enjoys free use of venue during school hours and there are currently no contributions for any maintenance as a result of this intensive use.

    It was found that collaboration of community based user groups in conjunction with the innovative use of government funds, generated through prescribed local government and environmental planning as well as corporate governance, resulted in the construction of high quality community infrastructure.

    As the grounded theory process was applied there emerged several theories addressing the governance issues and the extent of participation in the partnership. By applying process consultation in the taskforce’s interaction with Board of Directors of the Manly Warringah Basketball Association it was found that within the governance issues for community based organisations there was a primary need for strategic planning to optimise the contributions of the volunteers as well as the overall functional efficiency of the organisation.

    Other aspects addressed during the research of this project included the concept of the Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and the level of public participation within those partnerships. A key outcome in the context of National Competition Policy is to encourage establishment of non Government enterprise. Emerging from this study is the question of public interest in the use of Government assets such as land that may provide government bodies an unfair advantage in asset development.

    There is further research necessary to address an unanswered question whether the eventual ownership of the community based infrastructure by Government entities is consistent with the principles of Competitive Neutrality and the public interest as defined by the Federal Government’s National Competition Policy Agreements. Under the conditions specific to the arrangements in this particular venue the Department of Education and Training will retain ownership of the infrastructure which has been essentially funded by the membership of the community groups paying to use it and this is preventing them from ownership of infrastructure assets.
    Date of AwardJan 2009
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMurray Keith Redman (Supervisor)

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