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Contested environments: A critical discourse analysis of applications for resource consents in Northland

This thesis reports on a study of disputed applications for environmental resource consent conducted in Northland. The study was placed against the backdrop of the Resource Management Act (1991) as a major social artefact that has the capacity to change the social fabric of Northland through its influence on environmental policy in the region. The purpose of the study was to analyse the discourses that are produced in cases of disputed application in order to show the ways that the environment is constituted in language and to contend that the material reality of the Northland environment increasingly results from the communication that occurs within the legislative framework of the Resource Management Act (1991). Data for the study were collected through archival research augmented by semi-structured interviews and observations. The collected texts were assembled in case studies which told the stories of the cases for disputed applications for resource consent and analysed using the systems of critical discourse analysis developed by Fairclough (1992; 2003) and Chouliaraki and Fairclough (2000). The empirical work collects, considers and analyses three district plans, elements of a regional plan and two case studies. The first case study examines the multiple discourses in a case about noise in a quiet suburb, and the second deals with an application to abstract water for irrigation from a Northland river. The heart of this study was the stories citizens tell as they deal with the impact of proposed environmental change on their lives. The study shows the discursive interaction between citizens and administrative organisations, and the way that citizens constructed themselves and others in language in bids to influence policy and environmental decisions. In doing so, it examines the effect of the dialectic relationships between the moment of discourse and other moments in the social process (Harvey, 1996). Finally, the research shows the effect in the material world of discursive shifts from "nature" to "the environment". The research has contributed to knowledge by telling the stories of disputed applications for resource consent from the points of view of the citizens who were involved and showing the discourse resources available to them to position themselves against the discourse of the official position. It has also contributed to knowledge by showing that, despite the definitions of the environment contained in the discourse of the official position, each case is the site of citizens' struggles for their concept of the environment and their experience of it. In this regard, the research has examined the impact of the specific discursive constructions used by citizens on the environment. Finally, the research has placed the citizens' stories against the conjuncture of social practices (Chouliaraki & Fairclough, 1999) connected with applications for resource consent, and revealed instances of the working of the Resource Management Act (1991) in the lives of citizens.
Type of thesis
Nelson, F. M. (2004). Contested environments: A critical discourse analysis of applications for resource consents in Northland (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13421
The University of Waikato
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