An anthropological investigation of urban land development : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of M.A. in Social Anthropology at Massey University

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The impetus for this project came from examples of neighbours' disempowerment in the land and property development process. There is a growing academic consensus that dominant approaches to land development fail to adequately address this issue. NeoMarxist approaches focus on conflict, power, and exploitation, but effectively eliminate the role of the actual developer in exercising power. Case study approaches, on the other hand, have been concerned with conflict and disempowerment, but have focused on specific instances of neighbourhood opposition and resistance. Explanation is often confined to local and national features of the social and geographical environment. These inadequacies pointed to the need to investigate the increasingly significant role that professional, entrepreneurial developers play at the nexus of the contemporary development process. An ethnographic methodology was used to provide a richer understanding of the land and property development process. The principal participants in the study are a set of 'entrepreneurial developers' operating in and around Palmerston North. Interviews, participant observation, and the examination of case studies are employed. This is complemented by an investigation of the Regulatory Procedure, including interviews with Council Officers, and examination of Council case studies. The research also uses interviews with neighbours, and a wide body of material published within the development industry. Planning for the study drew on Giddens' 'Theory of Structuration' (1979,1984) which stresses the interrelationship between the social structures of the development process, and the agency of developers. The research sought to elucidate the dominant forms of action and ideology which development agents acknowledge, and which therefore constitute the action and ideology of the development industry. The interpretation of the empirical data uses three interrelated perspectives: The first, provides a broad, industry-level, perspective on the local development industry. It asks, 'What are the major influences which shape and structure the contemporary development industry?'; The second, examines the level of action. It asks 'What are the actions of most significance to developers?', and 'What forms of conduct constitute the Institutional structures of the Regulatory Procedure?'; The third focuses on ideology. It asks, 'What are the dominant motivations which direct and influence developers' conduct?', and 'How do developers legitimate and rationalise conduct?'. An interesting aspect to the thesis is the extent to which developers share patterns of ideology, not only with each other, but also with a wider business community. Much of this characteristic ideology parallels findings in other ethnographic studies of capitalistic systems. The research highlights the fact that ethnography, and the notion of 'culture', provide an insightful and useful perspective of both the business world, and the study of development.
New Zealand -- Palmerston North, Land use, Urban, Community development, Urban, City planning