The "Makers and Shapers" of Tourism Policy in the Northern Territory of Australia: A Policy Network Analysis of Actors and Their Relational Constellations

Article excerpt

This paper explores the actors and their relational constellation in the Northern Territory tourism policy domain. The policy network approach is employed as an analytical tool to describe and explain the complex nature of the interaction between the various players who assembled around a single policy issue, the development of the Northern Territory Tourism Development Masterplan (TDMP). In this case study, the focus is therefore set on issue-specific communication networks which underlie the formulation process of that tourism plan. To map the pattern of relationships two main questions are at the forefront--"who are the core actors?" and "what is the nature of their interaction?".

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As part of a larger study which explores tourism policy making in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia from various analytical perspectives (Pforr, 1999, 2001), this paper presents the structural description and explanation of actors and their relational constellation in the NT tourism policy domain. The focus is set on one particular policy issue, the development of an overall tourism plan, termed the Northern Territory Tourism Development Masterplan: A Commitment to Growth (TDMP). As the foundation of NT tourism policy, the plan was released in 1994 in conjunction with four Regional Tourism Development Masterplans. They were strategic documents outlining directions for tourism development formally until 1999 (1) and provided guidelines for government and the tourism industry (Northern Territory Tourism Commission; NTTC, 1994). (2)

In the following, the policy network approach (3) is adopted as an explanatory tool to describe the complex nature of the interaction between the various actors in the NT tourism policy domain.

With its focus on the TDMP, only issue-specific network structures are explored in greater detail; consequently, findings cannot automatically be generalised for the entire policy sector but still present a distinct pattern (e.g., Marin & Mayntz, 1991; Schneider & Werle, 1991) and correspond with the outcomes of a policy process study of the Masterplan (Pforr, 2001).

Commonly, the tool box for describing network structures is borrowed from social network analysis (see Wassermann & Faust, 1994; Scott, 2000). Various methods (e.g., position approach, reputation method and decision-method or participation method) are available (Melbeck, 1998), this study of policy networks follows what is termed in the literature (e.g., Marsh & Smith, 2000; Marsh, 1998) the "structural approach" (Knoke, 1990; Marsh & Rhodes, 1992) where the relations between actors rather than their individual attributes are used to explain public policy processes (Knoke, 1998). This connectedness perspective allows for the structural description of actors and their relational constellation, an investigation of sub-networks, so-called blocks of actors, which are characterised by a higher degree of cohesiveness, as well as an analysis of the overall network structure, its density and level of centrality. In essence, the main focus is directed to the questions "who are the core actors in the TDMP process?" and on "what is the nature of their interaction?" The aim is, thus, to map the pattern of relationships in the NT tourism policy domain. Generally, relational configurations can represent the involved actors' communications, participation, resource exchange, socio-political support, influence reputation or status relations (Brandes, Kenis, Raab, Schneider, & Wagner, 1999). In this case study, the focus is set only on communication networks in form of information exchange. (4)

Melbeck (1998) points out three characteristics of empirical network analysis which also apply to this work: The investigation is often concentrated on one policy domain (Laumann, Heinz, Nelson, & Salisbury, 1991), in this case the tourism policy sector, which does not mean, however, that the analysis is concerned with the policy field as a whole but relates to only one particular policy issue, here the TDMP (Pappi, 1993; Melbeck, 1998). …