Negotiating the “Social License to Farm”: Lessons in Civic Accountability and Legitimacy Process in New Zealand

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
James HALE, University of Otago, New Zealand
Katharine LEGUN, University of Otago, New Zealand
Hugh CAMPBELL, University of Otago, New Zealand
As water pollution from agriculture continues to permeate New Zealand civic dialog, the process of “public” accountability and legitimacy in agri-environmental governance further intensifies. For example, in the media, we see stories of rivers being unswimmable, creating a threat to New Zealand’s “clean green” image. Such narratives shape a tension in which the public accounts for farming through sometimes conflicting proxy’s (i.e. can my kids swim in the water?, I want economic growth). To retain a “social license to farm”, farmers are framed as needing to achieve both “good” environmental practice, while also remaining the country’s economic “backbone”. Neoliberal governance amplifies the seemingly opposing interests of farmers and non-farmer by often removing from civic debate the culpable force of institutions, markets, knowledge, and ideology. Further, surveys suggest that farmers remain distrusting of non-farmers, while displaying trust toward industry networks. This research wrestles with these dynamics by examining emerging networks that widen the process of retaining a “social license to farm” beyond typical partitions. It considers how networks of accountability take shape, how legitimation is maintained through networks, and decision-making process which may increase buy-in and participation across diverse networks (i.e. urban and rural populations). We pay particular attention to relationships between regulatory agencies, industries, and communities in this agri-governance process.