|dc.description.abstract||This thesis examines how people in the coastal environment of the Akaroa area of Banks Peninsula, New Zealand are doing at building adaptive capacity for local approaches to natural resource management. Adaptive capacity is viewed through the lens of resilience research, which conceptualises human society and ecosystems as complex social-ecological systems, in which uncertainty and non-linear feedback are inherent. A single, in-depth case study probes the processes operating in the multi-layered network of natural resource management initiatives in Akaroa coastal environment. Through interviews with a wide range of people involved in these initiatives and attending meetings of local groups, data was gathered about how knowledges are being learned, shared and valued, how relationships are developing, how management groups are operating and how power relationships are affecting building adaptive capacity in this location.
The research uses a phronetic approach, which is informed by post-normal science and critical systems thinking and focuses on praxis and values. Consequently, as well as exploring what is happening and how it is happening, this study also questions if what is happening is desirable, both according to theoretical perspectives regarding building adaptive capacity and to local perceptions about being involved in land-based conservation, coastal-marine conservation and the management of local fisheries in this location. In this way the research presents a situated and contextualised understanding of building adaptive capacity, which considers values and the inevitable influence of power. This is a necessary complement to normative studies of adaptive capacity in natural resource management.
This thesis is firmly committed to a belief that understandings of social-ecological systems are inevitably perspective-bound and uncertain; there can be no objective position and no certain facts or truths. Consequently multiple legitimate perspectives should be deliberated in order to determine what is best for the people and ecosystems involved, with the people impacted by natural resource management decisions closely involved in judging what are the best knowledges to inform these. Thus the epistemological position of this research is constructivist, considering all knowledges as constructed and partial and privileging none.
From this constructivist perspective and focusing clearly at the local level of natural resource management, this thesis illustrates how many of the factors considered to enhance building adaptive capacity in the literature are also factors that locals value and are enthusiastic about. Key factors are respecting and valuing both local expertise and knowledge and scientific expertise and knowledge, and locals having a sense of ownership and decision-making powers in their resource management work. The study also illustrates how power disparities and privileging certain knowledges can undermine the development of collaborative approaches to local natural resource management, and how the historical context can strongly influence the perceptions, attitudes and behaviour of people involved in local management initiatives.
In consequence, the research questions the nature of public consultation for natural resource policies and plans in New Zealand, identifying that there needs to be a greater degree of local involvement in decision-making that impacts on local lives and livelihoods. The research also questions the way expertise is regarded in the natural resource management arena, recommending that local expertise should be valued alongside scientific expertise, with knowledges arising from both these areas of expertise considered and discussed by a group of stakeholders before decisions are made. In addition, the research also recommends that New Zealand natural resource management at all levels needs to more clearly embrace the inherent uncertainties that are present in many natural resource management issues and the ways this impacts on decision-making processes.||