UBC Theses and Dissertations
Filling the void : struggles over implementing freshwater policy in Aotearoa New Zealand Tadaki, Marc Yoshio
This dissertation analyzes how the implementation of environmental policy is shaped by struggles over interpretation. Policy implementation is not a linear or mechanistic process, but is influenced by the subjective interpretation of policy concepts and how those relate to implementation practices. At the same time, however, not all interpretations are equal, and some are more influential than others. While there may be an initial ‘institutional void’ in which many interpretations are considered legitimate, political actors will attempt to structure this void by narrowing down the range of acceptable policy interpretations. The following chapters investigate how actors attempt to structure the institutional void of policy implementation. Chapter 2 situates the meaning of freshwater policy within historical debates about freshwater and its connection to colonial, biophysical, economic, and regulatory problems. Chapters 3-5 explore how three sets of actors engage in interpretive channelization by crafting and circulating their preferred interpretations of policy concepts in the implementation process. The state uses a diverse menu of regulatory and non-regulatory mechanisms to require and guide local authorities to implement policy in a certain way. Local governments face unique circumstances and must narrate the policy requirements into alignment with the interests of local organizations. Non-state experts such as intermediaries can augment local government interpretations by providing research and technical advice, but can also engage antagonistically by challenging interpretations in court or by using spatial inter-referencing to weaken the power of specific interpretations. By treating the implementation of policy as amenable to political struggle, a clearer political diagnosis of opportunities and constraints can be conducted. Within each of the channelizing processes described here, both constraint and opportunity exist: even a neoliberal government must respond to public aspirations for water; politicians influence but cannot completely control bureaucrats within the state apparatus; local governments experience progressive as well as conservative contextual forces; and expert intermediaries can be champions of decolonization and not just advocates of cost-minimization. While the contours of opportunity and constraint will be unique for each policy context, it is crucial to attend to both together if we want to realize environmental justice in practice.
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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International