Place struggles : a critical analysis of changing patterns of work, unemployment, and local development in New Zealand and the West Coast of the South Island.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The shift to a market-led economy in New Zealand over the last ten years has resulted in inequitable social and geographical outcomes. Some places and groups have suffered disproportionately from the decline in full-time paid work opportunities) producing seemingly intractable local unemployment problems. A widespread response to these problems has been the development of local initiatives involving agents of the state, private sector, and local communities. These have taken a variety of forms including: trying to attract overseas investment in competition with other places) small business development in the formal sector of the economy (especially self-employment) and to a lesser extent community businesses and co-operatives), and barter systems and other types of reciprocal exchange between households in the informal sector. This research attempts to gauge the extent and effectiveness of these local initiatives in the context of national restructuring, the trend towards a globally integrated economy based on market exchange, and the current debates on sustainable development. Drawing on insights from neo-marxist and ecocentric political and economic theory a model of local development which distinguishes between a market-led business development path, and a market-critical community development path, is formulated. Five North Island localities are then studied to determine how these two paths intersect with each other in these places, with particular attention given to the respective roles of the state and the market. The research then focuses on the West Coast of the South Island to study in more depth firstly the effects of restructuring, and secondly the extent and effectiveness of local development initiatives at the community and household levels. The results of two surveys - one of twenty formerly unemployed people who became self-employed; and one on the informal activities of households in the town of Westport - are reported and evaluated. It is concluded that, due to the constraints on local development in a globalising market-led economy, there will not be enough job opportunities available in the formal sector of the economy to provide paid work for all who want it in the place that they want it. Therefore, the unemployment debate in New Zealand needs to be widened to include consideration of all forms of work - paid and unpaid - and the relative economic and political power of agents at all geographical scales - local, national, and global. Social and political conflict, it is suggested, will increasingly take the form of what might be called place struggles i.e. how to maintain the economic and ecological integrity of places in a globalised world.