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Importance of Power in Resource Management

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Management
Wordcount: 2930 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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1) Resource management and power

Power is not simple, it is complex and messy.
This has implications for how it can be challenged and reconfigured.

Focusing on a case study of a resource sector, resource corporation, and/or resource project, discuss why a relational understanding of power is important for a clearer understanding of the role of power in resource management systems and how it may enable government, corporate and/or civil society groups to intervene in resource management systems more effectively. You must consider theories of power in this essay, for example drawing on Foucault’s theories of networked power would be useful.


The role of power in natural resource management plays a vital function in allowing stakeholders to achieve their desired outcome. The traditional use of power allowed a categorical way of thinking forming a hierarchy, which ultimately dismissed the necessary use of scientific and cultural knowledge efficiently together, however if a relational viewpoint is achieved both knowledge’s can create the most suitable process for all stakeholders. The traditional governing bodies were typically engulfed by the desire to collect capital at all costs, but in this modern era perspectives of smaller stakeholder acquire a power to challenge large corporate bodies by the use of changing legislation. Kakadu National Park uses a successful diverse, cooperative management board, the use of the cooperative management board highlights that all scale stakeholders have a say in the decision making process as the board contains local Aboriginal community members, professional and experts in the natural resource management field.


As the world continues to evolve and becomes more technologically advanced the lust for capital can be interpreted in numerous ways, globalisation is a leading contributor as the process continues to drive transnational corporations. The governing bodies of these businesses focus to maximise profit through the exploitation of the world around them, the use and management of natural ecosystems and resources have become a common trait to continue maximisation of capital for these corporations (McKern, 1993). The natural landscape is changing and becoming modified as profit becomes pinnacle in most forms of power and the natural landscape is paying the toll as these large corporations continue to exploit whatever profit the land has to offer. Bass and Chakrabarty (2014) highlight that international firms show presence and power through the global market as the increasing climate pressures and land vulnerability is becoming a more visual, these international companies continue to extract natural resources, which ultimately indicate their power to local communities. Through the continuous mismanagement of resource use the negative effects have become more apparent, as the climate impacts have developed in to the forefront of today’s science, as the importance has been understood in recent decades. Resource management has gained momentum and now management practice is being implemented and the nature of resource extraction is changing for the better. Through the practice of resource management sustainable land management emerged simultaneously and resulted in power complexities between relations of stakeholders (Raik, Wilson & Decker, 2008). Agrawal and Gibson (1999) suggest that a hierarchy is founded thus creating a differential power display to the various parties and a categorical way of thinking is set, therefore these large multi national corporations display and use their power as an advantage and the role of communities displaced. Even though large corporations such as governing bodies like the way of categorical thought it is crucial for a relational way of thinking towards natural resources in areas which hold have a joint management. In natural resource tourism the Australian government is obliged to cooperative management with indigenous therefore must acquire the use of relational thinking in the process. The distribution of power and ways of thinking about communities and place must be imbedded through the process of cooperative management of land as a resource for tourism (Castree, 2004). For instance the National parks in Australia have the legal obligation to understand traditional knowledge’s of their particular land. Relational thinking in eco-tourism is crucial for the management of the particular area as each stake holder as a role to play in the system which enable indigenous communities, government and corporation to work cohesively making the process more efficient (Castree, 2004).

Case study: Kakadu National Park and its cooperative management


The case study I chose is the Kakadu National Park as it is one of largest economic influences in the northern territory is this sector. Kakadu National Park is a prime example of cooperative management with the use of relational thinking and power distribution providing obvious evidence of the benefits and efficiency. Kakadu National Park is a significant national park as it as many sacred sites and unique land formations, flora and fauna and due to this is classified as one of Australia’s most significant World Heritage sites (Davis & Weller, 1992). Kakadu is located south east of Darwin in the in the Northern Territory and is approximately 20,000 km2 it contains 6 major landforms form tidal mudflats to the Arnhem Land plateau, the area stretching between contains unique billabongs, waterfalls and rocky outcrops homing over one third of the Australian bird and a quarter of estuary and freshwater fish species (Department of the Environment & Energy, 2019). The traditional owners of this land are the Bininj Mungguy people and lived on this area of country for more than 50,000 years (Department of the Environment & Energy, 2019). Having such a long history on the land results in a deep connection and a significant sacred cultural landscape. The listing of Kakadu under World Heritage has encouraged tourism to the area and benefits from around $300million as in jobs and profit.

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Kakadu National park is a cooperative administration run by the Australian government with a board of management with 10 seats to local Aboriginal people and the other 4 seats to specified professionals as in a director, tourism expert and conservation expert. (Department of the Environment & Energy, 2019). Davis and Well (1992) state that Kakadu’s management has many conflicts regarding tourism and mining as economical power drives to pursue financial power. Lawrence (1997) clarifies that with the rich cultural history the traditional ownership of country the Aboriginal people work towards the sustainable use of the land, which ultimately dictate the use and management of Kakadu as the parks board of management has a majority of traditional owners on it. Since the introduction of cooperative management of the Kakadu as a resource the local communities (Bininj Mungguy people) have been granted back the ownership of around half the land in the region and the legislative ownership title, this was the benefit from cooperation of the board and through the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976 (AIATSIS, 2009). In conclusion the parks land is leased from the Bininj Mungguy people since the introduction of the this act and continues to managed through the government run board even though the majority of the people on the board are Bininj Mungguy people.

Relational Understanding of Power in Cooperative Management 

As external pressures towards cultural and land management as a resource become more complex cooperative management is becoming more prominent as it is crucial for the distribution of power through partnerships between Aboriginal, government and corporations. As the development of relational thinking in a larger perspective a power balance is achieved resulting in a cooperative management. Previously natural resource management only considered the science of the time but with the understanding of relational thinking cultural practice and traditional management are being drawn in (AIATSIS, 2009). Through the modern era it is important to understand the complexity of cultural significance and traditional management, continuous pressure for active rights groups, potential lawsuits and the forever changing legislations form the necessary actions of inclusion of all stakeholders (Tremblay, 2006). Djenontin and Meadow (2018) explain that the addition of traditional cultural management working cooperatively with the modern science can display a more efficient process as conflict is avoided and the efficiency of the management is seen. The use of cultural knowledge is a significant step in power distribution as the higher powers as in governments and corporations are acknowledging the years spent on country, therefore acquire a vast knowledge developed to sustain the ecosystems and resources for thousands of years. Understanding that scientific and cultural knowledge work together seamlessly well in natural resource management promotes both efficiency and adaptive nature (Tremblay, 2008). Berkes, Colding and Folke (2000) recognise that with the use of traditional ecological knowledge is a specified understanding of the local ecosystem, which provides science an appropriate and accurate mechanism for specified management of a local area.

Issues of Power Imbalance & Relational Thinking for Efficiency

In addition to the stated social challenges, a government distributing power can dictate a situation and could result is a complex and messy power imbalance. Inappropriate and inequalities of power distribution by an overseeing party can complicate the cooperative management (Markus, 1983). These create further issues as power plays and important role of cooperative management, without a suitable balance misleading and unsustainable practices may arise through the ignoring of perspectives and knowledge. With the cooperative approach and suitable power distribution all stakeholders will have equal opportunities for beneficial gain (Jentoft, 1989). Understanding relational thinking is crucial for the handling of resource management, the use of relational thought can create an equal hierarchy of power therefore a balance. Alternatively to having a governing body the power is distributed amongst all stakeholders and discussion is used to make factual and the correct decision in the management process (Pérez & Cambra-Fierro, 2015). The process of cooperative management becomes a more free flowing process as all parties are less likely to complicate the process as all stake holders have a chance to say their piece.

Kakadu National Park: Linking Together


Drawing back to the management of Kakadu the local Aboriginal population have the majority of the seats on the board of management, this is a result of relational thinking and how it produces efficient and sustainable outcomes of the natural resource (AIATSIS, 2009). As the process becomes less complex with the lack of an imbalanced hierarchy, the use of the board provides a systematic role to distribute the power across the platforms resulting in complications from corporations and small communities. Through the interconnection and representation of most stakeholders Kakadu National Park demonstrates relational thought through the balance of power (Keen, 2010). Furthermore the use of the local Aboriginal population in cooperative manner has created the linkage between government, corporations and local communities, this being said allows small populations to intervene in the management of Kakadu National Park and have a say in the decision making process (Jentoft, 1989). This process permits cohesion of working between limited stakeholders and larger percentiles, therefore efficiency and affectivity of resource management is applied.


The nature of management hierarchies contains many complexities as contemporary viewpoints challenge traditional way of resource management, through relational thought barriers and power issues can be broken down, therefore a new system of cooperative management can be conducted. The cooperative board approach is crucial in allowing all stakeholders no matter the scale to have a chance to dictate the outcomes. The resource management sector traditionally required only vast and in depth understanding of scientific knowledge but in the modern ear it has been understood that cultural knowledge is crucial for all stakeholders. If a categorical viewpoint is achieved knowledge from either stakeholder could potentially be dismissed. By the use of relational thought allows a balance of power to be achieved, which acknowledges government, corporate and Aboriginal stakeholders to have their say, this has been shown in the cooperative management board from the Kakadu National Park. By having the understanding of which power can play with resource management a clearer image of the desired can be achieved. With the inclusive board the efficiency and credibility of the decision making process become less like to encounter impediments by small parties. This in term is a successful showing of resource management with an affective yet efficient manner of allowing intervention of a diverse government, corporate and social group into the management system via a cooperative board.


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