Conradson, David and Pawson, Eric
New cultural economies of marginality: revisiting the West Coast, South Island, New Zealand
Journal of Rural Studies, 25, (1), . (doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2008.06.002).
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Marginal regions have been the subject of political concern and remedial action in western states for several decades now. The West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand is an interesting case study in this regard, for recent economic growth has confounded earlier expectations of post-restructuring decline,
while also contradicting several of the nostrums of new regionalism. In an effort to understand this trajectory, this paper draws on documents from public and private sector organisations, newspaper articles and field visits to examine developments in four key sectors of the West Coast’s economy: mining, dairy farming, forestry and tourism. Economic growth is found to be closely linked to the cultivation of new markets for primary products, but efforts to rework the cultural dimensions of marginality have also been important. Value has been added to specific products through the insertion of references to the
region’s alpine and forested landscapes. Isolation and peripherality have been recast in more positive terms, echoing the broader reframing of New Zealand as a scenic, unspoiled destination. In adopting a cultural economic perspective on marginal regions, the paper illustrates the significance of symbolic forms of value, the potentially flexible nature of marginality as a discursive category, and the importance of the networks which connect regions to national and international flows of capital and tourists.
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