Reflections on Land & Water Australia

Alexandra, J. (2020)


Independent and impartial scientific research provides critical contributions to many contemporary policy debates, including those about climate adaptation and natural resources. Therefore, institutional arrangements that enable and protect scientific independence are central to resolving environmental problems in advanced liberal democracies. This paper provides an overview of the research and development (R&D) funding organisation Land & Water Australia (LWA) that, due to its statutory independence, was effective and influential in promoting sustainable natural resource management. Established by legislation that provided structural independence, LWA was insulated from direct interference, enabling it to operate at arm’s length from executive government. The paper profiles LWA contributions to changing policies and practices, and explores the features that enabled LWA to coordinate, organise and fund R&D, until its abolition in 2009. LWA provided a useful precedent of a statutory authority, chartered with a clear legislated purpose and legal mechanisms for ensuring independence. The paper highlights institutional arrangements that protect scientific independence, arguing that LWA provided an important model of public R&D investment directed to sustainability transformations.