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A milestone in community participation in environmental management in New South Wales was the introduction of the Catchment Management Act 1989. To oversee the strategic planning and implementation of natural resource management, the Act provided for a network of committees across the State composed of agency staff, stakeholders and community representatives. In the selection process for this network, the focus of stakeholder and community participation has been on ensuring appropriate representation, rather than merit, and in rural areas the term ‘community’ has been synonymised with ‘land holder/land user’. This definition of community has frequently resulted in environmental management being placed in the hands of sectional interests. In this paper the potential problems of this approach are discussed and examples provided.

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