Governing sustainable agriculture : a case study of the farming of highly erodible hill country in the Manawatu-Whanganui region of New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Agriculture and Environment, Massey University, Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa, University of New Zealand, Palmerston North, New Zealand
The sustainability of agriculture and what constitutes sustainable agriculture is the focus of ongoing challenge and debate in New Zealand. In particular, the sustainability of current farming practices are targeted for criticism and demands made for fundamental changes in farming. This research adds to the debate by providing insights into how an aspect of farming that has environmental implications is governed. The farming of highly erodible hill country (HEHC) in the Manawatu-Whanganui region is the single qualitative case studied and how the farming of HEHC is governed and the reasons why it is governed in this way are the research questions answered. Foucault‘s governmentality theory is the basis of the theoretical framework which is expanded to include the concept of farming knowledge-culture to recognise and capture farming as a form of government. Results are structured into a national, regional and farm level phase and are based on data drawn from semi structured interviews and documents.
This research provides an example of the difficulties farmers face, in balancing the diverse and conflicting demands placed on them to farm sustainably. This research illustrates the complex contradictory and inconsistent demands brought to bear on farmers‘ management of HEHC through the governing by central government and the regional council of HEHC specifically, but of farming generally, also. Farmers are encouraged to be, both, competitively-productive and financially profitable, and socially responsible in managing the impact of farming on the environment. Accepted farming practices maintain and enhance, as well as constrain and compromise, the environmental sustainability of natural resources.
The farming of HEHC in the Manawatu-Whanganui region is governed by an interwoven multi-scale of governing by central government, the regional council and farming. There is no coherent or deliberate governing of the farming of HEHC or sustainable agriculture. However, aspects of sustainable agriculture are governed across central government programmes but the sustainability outcomes are incidental to broader economic and trade outcomes sought by central government. The main agenda for agriculture advanced by central government is one of competitive productivism through the facilitation of market-led governing.
The significant role that regional level government in New Zealand can, and do have in governing farmers use and impact on natural resources is revealed in this research. The regional council are advancing competitive productivism in farming moderated by sustainability objectives.