«Introduction This paper considers productivist/post-productivist conceptualisations of agriculture in the light of changing New Zealand attitudes ...»
A 1989 survey of 191 Waikato property owners with native bush or wetland on their property found that owners were highly positive in their attitudes toward indigenous vegetation In Geoff Kearsley and Blair Fitzharris (eds.) 2004. Glimpses of a Gaian World, Essays in Honour of Peter Holland, pp.151-170. School of Scoial Science, University of Otago, Dunedin (Cruickshank and Peuckert 1989). A majority thought that there was not enough native vegetation left in the County and that the remaining native vegetation should be protected. A more recent survey by the author2, of 130 dairy farmers in the same region found that 43% reported some indigenous vegetation on their property. Of the farmers with native bush on their property, 48% would “mind a lot” if the bush were cleared, and another 34% would “mind somewhat”. Of the farmers without indigenous vegetation on their property, a majority (56%) said that they would have liked native bush on the farm. These results reinforce the findings of the 1989 survey and are all the more impressive because the sample was weighted in favour of farmers who reported higher than average milk production3.
There may be regional differences in the way farmers perceive indigenous habitat. The results for farmers in the Waikato region contrast with those in the Catlins District of the South Island. A 1991 study by Wilson (1992) examined the nature, pace and causes of indigenous forest clearance on farms. He found that 61% of respondents gave practical reasons why indigenous forest was still present on their farm. Wilson concluded from the research that "on the majority of farms in the Catlins District, indigenous forest only persists to the present day because these areas are perceived as being unsuitable for farming" (Wilson 1992, 124).
Other studies suggest that while there may be sympathy for environmental issues and protection of native habitat, it is a value that most farmers must balance against competing objectives. A study of farmer goals by Parminter and Perkins (1997) identified goals such as 'being my own boss', keeping the farm in the family, being part of a stable community, paying off debts, and 'providing future opportunities for my children', as well as maximising farm profits. The study found that "Production goals were the most important goals for 43% of farmers. Less than 10% of farmers had their highest goals associated with the environment, although most farmers ranked environmental goals relatively highly". (Parminter and Perkins 1997, 108).
Doctoral research in progress with the survey completed in June 2001.
The annual milk production reported by the survey respondents was compared with the dairy statistics published by the Livestock Improvement Corporation.
In Geoff Kearsley and Blair Fitzharris (eds.) 2004. Glimpses of a Gaian World, Essays in Honour of Peter Holland, pp.151-170. School of Scoial Science, University of Otago, Dunedin Bradshaw, Cocklin and Smit (1998) found from a study of sheep and beef farmers in Northland that despite considerable private costs of on-farm environmental stewardship, approximately one-third of their respondents undertook tree planting. Motivations included practical reasons (e.g. erosion control and fencing of watercourses to prevent stock losses in watercourses), but also aesthetic and heritage reasons. They concluded, "Farm-level activities which protect or enhance the environment appear to be undertaken with or without direct state subsidies for such actions, as well as during periods of both financial stringency and wellbeing." (Bradshaw, Cocklin and Smit 1998, 18).
A study of North Island Hill Country Farmers (Rhodes, Willis and Smith 2000) found substantial commitment to sustainable land management, including planting of shelter belts, erosion control, establishment of conservation reserves, and a concern for the aesthetic quality of the land. However, the authors concluded that, "The study does show that for farmers struggling to survive, issues of long-term environmental sustainability are necessarily pushed aside in favour of immediate financial needs." (Rhodes, Willis ands Smith 2000, 2).
Underwood and Ripley (2000, 13) noted that farmers have a priority ordering of concerns, "with economic considerations coming first, then social priorities and thirdly environmental aspects of sustainability". Key constraints to the adoption of sustainable farming practices included low income, high debt, an ownership structure which limited the farmer's freedom to make management decisions, availability of labour, and "term of outlook" or how long the farmer had been on the farm and expected to remain on the farm.
The above studies suggest that although a majority of pastoral farmers are driven first and foremost by considerations of production and financial viability, environmental stewardship is a concern of many even when profitability and production are the top priority. For a majority of the farmers who undertake environmental measures, utilitarian motives are important, but non-utilitarian attitudes may also be significant. Although financial constraints are often identified as a barrier to protection of indigenous vegetation, there is evidence that many pastoral farmers protect indigenous vegetation despite financial constraints.
In Geoff Kearsley and Blair Fitzharris (eds.) 2004. Glimpses of a Gaian World, Essays in Honour of Peter Holland, pp.151-170. School of Scoial Science, University of Otago, Dunedin Productivism/post-productivism from a New Zealand perspective Is the productivist/post-productivist conceptualisation useful? In the view of this writer, the answer is a qualified “yes”. However, while the concept of 'productivist' agriculture succinctly describes the main focus of New Zealand pastoral farming, „post-productivism‟ is much more problematic because it fails to accurately describe the changes that are occurring within New Zealand agriculture and conflates social change with agricultural change. As currently formulated, it implies that productivism and post-productivism are primarily descriptive of agriculture, as opposed to rural society, and that there is a progression from productivist to post-productivist agriculture. In the New Zealand context, productivist and post-productivist forms of agriculture co-exist within the same social and agricultural spaces.
For example, within the Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Canterbury regions highly production-focused dairy farmers and horticulturalists may be neighbours to life-style and hobby farmers. Conversely, within the peripheral regions of Northland and the East Coast of the North Island, subsistence farmers co-exist with production-focused dairy farms and sheep and beef farms.
Equally to the point, society-wide value changes in relation to the environment brought legislative and institutional changes that called for greater protection of the environment, including conservation of indigenous fauna and flora. The new environmental legislation reflected a changed relationship between the environment and New Zealand society as a whole; the environment was no longer perceived as the ground for unlimited primary production, but as a source of material and non-material values outside of agriculture. As the habitat of the kiwi, the native tree fern, and other natural icons, it is a source of national identity, and as a visitor destination it provides a significant alternative source of income for the national accounts. In addition, as more and more New Zealanders travel overseas, there is perhaps a realisation that many of the plants and animals of their homeland are found nowhere else on earth. This realisation applies to farmers as well as city people; as we become globally more interconnected, the uniqueness of home becomes more obvious and more valued. Just as a majority of the farming community accepted the policies of economic liberalisation imposed by the 4th Labour government in the latter 1980s (Cloke 1996), the research reported earlier suggests that many farmers accept the value of indigenous fauna and flora.
In Geoff Kearsley and Blair Fitzharris (eds.) 2004. Glimpses of a Gaian World, Essays in Honour of Peter Holland, pp.151-170. School of Scoial Science, University of Otago, Dunedin Thus in the New Zealand case, post-productivist elements appear to be more a feature of rural society rather than „agriculture‟ as a single entity, and to reflect value changes that apply to New Zealand society as a whole. The diversity of farm sizes and farm types reflect social structural changes such as reverse urban to rural migration, and diversifying economic opportunities (e.g. tourism and craft production), while the value changes include a greater concern for environmental protection and the symbolic value of New Zealand‟s distinctive fauna and flora and natural landscapes.
Conclusion The concept of post-productivism reflects an observation, repeated in the US, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries, that rural society and some aspects of agriculture are undergoing fundamental change. However, the details of change vary from place to place in accord with local, regional and national circumstance of landscape and political economy.
In the UK, where agricultural overproduction is a serious problem, but where agricultural policies are a fundamental part of Britain's relationship with its European partners, agricultural changes are strongly tied to policy instruments consistent with the European Common Agricultural Policy. In Australia, the post-productivist changes of the dry interior rangelands have involved a re-assertion of Aboriginal landrights and moves to traditional Aboriginal uses, recreation and landscape preservation (Holmes 2002). Argent suggests that for the more humid south-east Australia, agricultural change has been influenced by nationalist ideals of Australian self-sufficiency and independence coupled with the growing concern of policy makersand environmentalists about the environmental effects of agriculture (Argent 2002). In New Zealand, post-productivist values and institutional arrangements reflect a concern for the damaging impact of agriculture on soil, water, native fauna and flora, and natural landscapes and the economic threat to agricultural exports and tourism that results from damage to a „clean green‟ image.
The elements of post-productivism in these countries have been more driven by urban-based interest groups than farmers. In New Zealand, the key reforms of the mid-1980s, like those of Australia a decade earlier, were instituted by urban-based government policy-makers, business In Geoff Kearsley and Blair Fitzharris (eds.) 2004. Glimpses of a Gaian World, Essays in Honour of Peter Holland, pp.151-170. School of Scoial Science, University of Otago, Dunedin interests, environmentalists, conservationists, recreationists and tourism entrepreneurs (Memon 1993; Palmer 1990; 1995). Farmers, at the „front edge' of society's interaction with the environment, may have been identified as the key agents of agricultural change, but at least in New Zealand, they have been the recipients as much as leaders of change. As the economic reforms of the 4th Labour government demonstrated, the policies which impact most on agriculture may not be those created by or for farmers, but may apply to society as a whole.
Finally, at least in the case of the UK, Australia and New Zealand, significant elements of post-productivism reflect a realignment of relationships between the environment and society In the UK, significant aspects of the post-productivist „reformation‟ have as a whole.
involved disputes about the impacts of productivist agriculture on valued traditional farming landscapes, heritage buildings, and wildlife. Agri-environmental policies have sought to reduce the impact on valued features and to reinstate traditional farming land management practices. In Australia, with its fragile soils and scarce water resources, the concerns have related strongly to the impact of farming on soil and water resources as well as the impact on Australia‟s unique fauna and flora. In New Zealand the environmental concerns have related to soil and water issues, but also, as already indicated, to the impacts of agriculture on native habitat and natural landscapes. These are not only important for the „clean green‟ image of New Zealand‟s export products, and for tourism, but are important to many individual New Zealanders for symbolic reasons.
While the „hard‟ elements of environmental damage (e.g. pesticide pollution, soil and water contamination) have received the most attention from policy makers and analysts, however, it may well be that the „soft‟ elements of the environment (valued landscapes, symbolic icons, indigenous rights) are ones which are the most regionally and nationally distinctive, and which reveal the most significant spread of change from a productivist to post-productivist paradigm.
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