This article examines the new collaborative environmental governance, an enterprise that involves collaboration between a diversity of private, public, and non-government stakeholders who, acting together towards commonly agreed goals, hope to achieve far more collectively, than individually. Such an approach appears to blur the familiar sharp boundaries that separate 'the state' from civil society, yet we still know very little about exactly what this blurring of public and private adds up to, and what its implications are. This new form of governance is examined through the lens of three Australian case studies. Each of these studies involves participatory dialogue, flexibility, inclusiveness, transparency, institutionalized consensus-building practices, and, at least to some extent, a shift from hierarchy to heterarchy. The paper examines the relationships between new and old governance, the architecture of these new initiatives, the role of the state, and the importance of negotiating in 'the shadow of hierarchy'.