From ‘Producers’ to ‘Polluters’: Farmers’ experience in the Lake Taupō Water Quality Trading Program
Improvement of freshwater quality within New Zealand poses a threat not only to the country’s treasured and pristine waterways, but the culturally and economically dominant agricultural sector as well. Encompassing the nation’s largest lake, the Lake Taupō catchment is considered a national treasure and supports a large tourism industry. After discovering a decline in water clarity in 1999 due to excess nitrogen (N) leaching, the Waikato Regional Council worked with stakeholders to cap the total amount of N in the catchment, implement a cap and trade programme, and create a quasi-government institution to reduce N outputs by 20%. Farmers in the catchment were, for first time in the country’s history, treated in a formal regulatory context as polluters rather than solely agricultural producers. They were also instrumental in creating a new and experimental market based regulatory regime. Using a governmentality approach, this Master’s research will focus on the situated and contextual nature of Lake Taupō farmers’ experiences in this market-based environmental governance system. With this methodology, I examine how we think about governance and government. I focus on the people within, and thought behind, the market-based environmental governance occurring within the Lake Taupo catchment. I investigate farmer characterizations of self and focus on how the farming community questioned the way things were and how they came to be. I do not evaluate the environmental outcomes of the program. Rather, I have investigated how the market-based tool privileged certain ‘rational’ actions, how its practices came to be contested, and how its logics have potentially become solidified within the community. To inform this case study, interviews with eighteen farmers and seven other stakeholders in March of 2015 were analysed and coded using a Foucauldian discourse analysis. This research concludes that over the fifteen years of policy negotiation and implementation, farmer in the catchment transitioned over time from being constituted as ‘producers’, to ‘polluters’, to ‘nitrogen managers’. The market based tool that was implemented did not necessarily change farmers’ environmental beliefs but did require an ‘environmental’ concern to become centralized in farmers’ businesses. This research offers insight into the relevance of farmers’ subjectivities to understand the dynamics and outcomes of a market based policy instrument to manage pollution from agricultural sources.
Advisor: Campbell, Hugh; Bond, Sophie; Legun, Katharine; Rosin, Chris
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Neoliberalism; Governmentality; Lake Taupo; Water Quality; New Zealand; Subjectivity; Farmers
Research Type: Thesis