The Dutch countryside forms the scene for pressing problems of management and allocation of land and water. These problems underscore the need for comprehensive rural policies. For that purpose, area-based rural policy has been initiated. This new policy is part of a larger policy shift, labelled in literature as 'new rural governance'. Area-based rural policy co-ordinates the different interests of stakeholders and establishes consensus-based solutions. In this article we question this claim. We analyse the conflicts, rationalities and interests within a Dutch rural planning project. This project displays a power struggle in which actors try to (de)construct legitimacy. This observation contrasts sharply with the consensual rationality on which area-based policies are founded. Therefore, we conclude that a tension exists between 'what should be done' and 'what is actually done' in Dutch rural policy. Area-based policy does not guarantee the establishment of consensus among rural stakeholders. Therefore, Dutch area-based policies need to be contextualised to purposefully address spatial rural problems.