Foxton Loop conflict : an investigation of nature : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Geography at Massey University

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Massey University
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This thesis examines the social construction of nature. The focus of this thesis is on how conflict can arise from different social constructions of the same 'natural' phenomenon. A 'constrained constructivist' approach is used through which it is argued that in addition to people's constructions of nature, nature retains an inherent physicality. Social constructions of nature are explored through the examination of the Foxton Loop, a cutoff meander bend on the Manawatu River. The Save the Foxton River Association contested the changes to the Loop through a petition to Parliament in 1986. They sought to re-establish a flow through the Loop to benefit Foxton and the greater Manawatu region. The way in which the two primary groups, the Manawatu Catchment Board and Save the Foxton River Association constructed the river environment is discussed, and how these constructions were used to legitimate their positions within the conflict is highlighted. Discourse analysis of key texts and semi-structured interviews is used to determine how nature was constructed. The Save the Foxton River Association drew from a Judeo-Christian perspective, which identified 'right' and 'wrong' nature, and a conventional Western discourse which understood nature primarily as a resource. The Manawatu Catchment Board also utilised this latter perspective, but within the context of a scientific worldview that upheld them as the 'managers' of the river environment for the good of the Manawatu Region. The Manawatu Catchment Board and Save the Foxton River Association differed in their interpretations of 'true' nature, although a technocentric worldview of nature underlined both of their arguments regarding the Loop. These technocentric ideas were used in opposition to each other. It is argued each of these perspectives were inscribed with differing amounts of power which defined their influence in the debate. The thesis concludes with the suggestion that a balance between a constructionist viewpoint and one that acknowledges the inherent physicality of nature may assist in creating an approach to nature which ensures its intrinsic value is not threatened.
Foxton Loop (N.Z.), Manawatu river, Flood control, New Zealand, Environmental effects, Save the Foxton River Association