Rationality and politics in bureaucratic decision-making: a study of thesecond aluminium decision to establish a smelter in New Zealand (1982)
AuthorsMiller, Anthony Johnshow all
In July 1980 the National Government selected a proposal by the Fletcher-Alusuisse-Gove consortium for the establishment of an aluminium smelter which would take up the last and greatest part of a 5000 Gigawatt-hour electricity concession. This decison provides a convenient end-point for a long and complicated period of energy planning where a major concern has been the utilisation of surplus energy resources. The history of this decision will be traced in this study beginning with the discovery of the surplus energy resources in 1978. A considerable part of this decision-making has been conducted inside the government bureaucrary and in secret. This study focuses exclusively on this bureaucratic decisionmaking providing a detailed discussion of the energy planning issues and also endeavouring to treat the decision as the outcome of organisational processes. It is an important theoretical concern that only through an understanding of behavioural processes can the importance of managing the decision process be fully appreciated. Some of the circumstances in which this study was undertaken must be mentioned in order to explain the approach that has been adopted. The structure of this study has been largely determined by the requirements of a second report which is a detailed chronology of events commissioned by the Treasury. It has been through producing this Treasury report that access has been permitted to departmental files providing by far the greatest amount of research material. Access to government officials has also been assisted. However, because of the requirements of the Treasury report and the sensitivity of the issues covered, it has not been possible to interview key participants in the decision outside the government bureaucracy. It should also be noted that the controversy which has marked the public debate on the aluminium smelter and associated issues has also been evident in the bureaucratic decisionmaking where sharp interdepartmental differences appeared. This context has meant that when the interviewing was carried out in late 1980 and early 1981, many officials still felt unable to give a completely frank and detailed account of events. Despite these circumstances, many officials have been of considerable assistance to me and have been very generous with their valuable time. In particular I wish to acknowledge the assistance given to me by Mr Rob Laking and Mr Howard Fancy. I am also grateful for the kind and patient supervision offered to me by Professor Keith Jackson and for the generous services of Mr Richard Kennaway and Dr. Keith Ovenden.