Beyond 'Interfering Greenies' and 'Intransigent Farmers': The Contested Place of Tenure Review in New Zealand's High Country.
Payne, Benjamin Alexander
The landscapes spanning north to south along the hinterland and mountains of New Zealand’s South Island are a fast evolving focus of national contestation over their use, aesthetics and value. This region known as the ‘high country’ provides an interesting backdrop to my research into the dynamics of protecting ecological values alongside a socially and politically powerful agriculture. Neoliberalism, as an objective of political-economic restructuring since 1984, has significantly impacted on how the high country is conceptualised spatially. Instigated in 1989, the policy of tenure review is an on-going process. It has entailed converting the generally large Crown perpetual pastoral leases (originally totalling 303 properties) on a voluntary basis, to privatised freehold held by the original lessees in exchange for the return of land holding Significant Inherent Values, foreseen to require extrinsic protection, and public access values, to Department of Conservation control and management. The process has operated to alienate vast areas of leasehold from crown management control, which in some regions and on some landholdings has facilitated landscape transformation and different productive models. The thesis discusses the orthodoxy central to tenure review, which sought to separate the protection of ecological values and public access from productive use. In particular, the study foregrounds thinking in contemporary, constructionist geographies and social theory acutely aware of the issues stemming from Western environmentalisms that rely on the resilient duality erected between nature and society. Such logic systems conceive of ‘nature’ contained within one sphere, and the economy, society and politics in another and subsequently seek isolation between the two. However, this fails to understand or make room for complex interactions and linkages between nature and society within ever increasingly ‘hybrid’ landscapes. Emphasising Bourdieu’s methodological principles, a locally grounded research approach was employed to understand how ‘the landscape’ is socially constructed and valued within a defined geographical region. Three basins within the mid-Canterbury high country were selected as the case study region for research. A rich sample of ethnographic data regarding values, inter-subjective experiences, attitudes towards tenure review and changing productive and protective habitus was explored by interviewing 84 participants from farming and conservation groupings involved within the region. Early in analysis it became clear that negotiation of values and knowledge claims was occurring locally between actor groups. However, at a macro-level, tenure review, as a politically contested and difficult process of separation is transforming at least two sets of processes: 1) relationships with nature and the landscape, which has previously been held as a relatively integrated pastoral system; 2) dividing between production and protection interests is modifying the habitus of practice and relationships between ‘productivist’ and ‘protectionist’ interests. In this thesis I argue that both processes are complex but tenure review has operated in a way that further alienates powerful productivist and protectionist orders within the current constitution of New Zealand society. What analysis highlighted is that division with tenure review categorises separated spaces as either 'for production' or 'for protection', leading to narrowed habitus that may undermine the potential to look towards or maintain more sensitive forms of production. An impasse arises, where ‘locking away’ purified nature in externalised parks and reserves may negate social responsibility for ‘other’ natures, especially those produced from and more obviously ‘human impacted’. Concluding the thesis, the important argument gained from concepts of hybridity and multi-naturalism, is that removing humans and production from ‘nature’, will not necessarily ‘save’ or restore pre-human nature, as is politically mobilised in some conservation discourse. But removing humans will transform and direct nature in a different, human influenced trajectory of change (Braun, 2006b). This is because humans are intricately tied with biophysical nature in complex material, social-semiotic and political ways. As Harvey (1996: 186) asserts, removing humans from nature would be “disastrous for all species and all forms [of life] that have become dependent on it”. Hence, by acknowledging how all global natures are hybrid in form postmodern eco-politics becomes about navigating diverse trajectories of social-spatial change. Interrogating tensions between productivist and protectionist objectives, as dominant interests within high country space, is therefore important for promoting socially justified and supported conservation outcomes.
Advisor: Thompson-Fawcett, Michelle; Hill , Douglas; Lovelock , Brent
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Conservation; High Country; New Zealand; Nature; Culture; Dualism; Western centric; Bourdieu; Social Constructionism; collaborative; governance; alternative politics; space; place; Imaginative Geographies; Social Theory
Research Type: Thesis