Conceptualizing Nature: The Politics behind Allocating and Utilizing Native Forest Resources in New Zealand


This paper explores the political ecological basis behind events in New Zealand's sustainable harvesting regime of native forest species on public land. The case study centers on the mandate of the 1999 newly elected Labour-led government to stop all native forest harvesting on Crown-owned land along the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. Ethnographic research was conducted from May to July of 2001. This study examined how different members of a given institution or community often have disparate views on logging practices and natural resource conservation while simultaneously exhibiting consensus regarding certain logging and conservation practices. A historical background traces the trajectory of New Zealand's forestry sector and the relationships between conservationists and logging communities. This is followed by a discussion on the key institutions involved in the Labour-led government decision for the cessation of native forest harvesting and what their primary sentiments were regarding the government mandate. Ultimately, this study illustrates how the appropriate utilization of natural resources shift over time and that the struggles over the 'proper' use of resources are politically and historically constructed. These struggles, of course, are pertinent in any context where human-environment interactions occur, regardless of conventional notions on 'developed' and 'undeveloped.'


Sociology and Anthropology

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Journal of Ecological Anthropology