Impact management and social performance in the petrochemical industry in Taranaki : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University
This thesis addresses the practices of the petrochemical industry, in particular exploration and production companies (E& P), in interacting with operations-affected community stakeholders. It does so by reviewing the range of methodologies common to the industry, and by surveying companies active in the Taranaki region of New Zealand. It seeks to answer the question: how can exploration companies minimise their social impacts and conflict with operations-affected communities, and the associated costs, in a mutually acceptable and sustainable way? The thesis challenges the practice of addressing community concerns with, what the author has identified as, a public relations approach, the primary and underlying purpose of which is, it is argued, to further the economic interests of business. It maintains that practices arising from a public relations approach are both socially inappropriate and commercially ineffective when applied to communities who are negatively affected by companies with which they are obliged to share the same social and physical environment. Instead the thesis supports a community development approach to interactions between the petrochemical industry and community stakeholders. This approach emanates from a philosophical framework that espouses human rights and the integration of social, environmental and economic development as an enduring function of commercial enterprise. It is posited that effective management of the dynamics of opposing interests will not be achieved through companies deploying 'nice people' to negotiate with disaffected, disparate and disempowered groups, but through the use of qualified social practitioners and the community development tools of social assessment, participation and empowerment to create mutuality beneficial outcomes.