Tourism public policy in the Northern Territory of Australia - a process facilitating sustainability?
: a policy study of the Northern Territory tourism development masterplan

  • Christof Pforr

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Sustainable development is not a clearly defined concept characterised by precise action. Rather, it is a vague notion such that, analytically and politically, it has generated a contradictory discourse, in which it is open to a variety of interpretations and implementation mechanisms. Consequently, attempts to implement principles of sustainable development by embedding them into policies in a practical manner is a dynamic and controversial socio-political process.

    This thesis examines if and how principles of sustainability are translated into public policy through a close analysis of the pattern of tourism policy-making in a specific geographical and political social formation, the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia. The key vehicle for this study, which focuses in particular on the period between 1992 and 2000, is the Northern Territory Tourism Development Masterplan (TDMP) and the debates and processes surrounding its genesis and implementation.

    This study of tourism public policy is conducted within the analytical framework of three different, though complementary, conceptual perspectives (the systems approach, the policy cycle model and the policy network approach); when combined, they provide a tool for a comprehensive and detailed description and explanation. It is argued that to comprehend the tourism system in the Northern Territory, it is fundamental to develop an understanding of its policy environment, in particular its political dimensions. The complex amalgamation of local factors is an important element, which shapes processes of tourism public policy in the case study area. Against this background the development of the TDMP is explored in greater detail to highlight its process character and to explain the dynamics underlying tourism policy and decision-making in the NT.
    Further, the complex nature of the interactions between the various actors who contributed to or participated in the development of the TDMP is described and explained.

    The thesis explores the various ways in which the existing political framework facilitated or hindered the incorporation of principles of sustainable development. It is argued that two main themes or considerations dominated the TDMP process. One was the key role played by the NT government in 'driving' the process and the other was a paradigm of developmentalism. These two preoccupations controlled the nature of the political debate, determined the forms of consultation and policy co-ordination and thereby shaped the content of the TDMP. It is argued that the specific economic and political climate in the Territory was not sympathetic to the idea of sustainable tourism and explains why the sustainability agenda was not of prime concern in the development of the TDMP.

    In summary, the thesis provides a systematic account of tourism policy-making in the NT. Just as importantly, it aims to provide through its case study a better understanding of the interaction between tourism and political processes. From a political science perspective it advances theoretically and practically the study of tourism public policy and tourism policy-making processes. The thesis also aims to move forward the debate about the policy perspectives of sustainable tourism and the translation of the sustainability agenda into the tourism system.

    Note: Permission to display Abstract only.
    Date of AwardMar 2003
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJim Jose (Supervisor)

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