Governments and public servants have to stop thinking in terms of a single “regional policy”, understand the multiplicity of regional communities and the importance of localising policies and programs, and may not have the right analytical tools to properly drive regional policy, according to one of Canberra's most senior public servants.

National Water Commission CEO Ken Matthew -- a former secretary of the Transport and Regional Services and Agriculture departments in the Howard government before being appointed to the National Water Commission -- yesterday gave a valedictory lecture marking his retirement from the APS. Matthews handled regional issues for successive national party ministers as the Howard government confronted the challenge of One Nation in the late 1990s and used the speech to spell out the challenge for the bureaucracy adjusting again to a renewed focus on regional policy.