(Re)making space for kiwi: beyond ‘fortress conservation’ in Northland

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    (Re)making space for kiwi: beyond fortressconservation in Northland

    Lyndsay Blue1 and Greg Blunden21School of Environment, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019,Auckland, New Zealand, 2New Zealand Kiwi Foundation, PO Box 648, Kerikeri,New Zealand

    Abstract: Mainstream conservation has been long dominated globally by the pro-tected area paradigm. This approach has been widely challenged in recent years, andnew conservation initiatives have emerged. The situation is mirrored in New Zealand,where ongoing biodiversity loss has prompted reappraisal. Within this context, wehighlight the plight of kiwi, focusing on Northland and efforts there to (re)make spacefor this iconic bird which is at risk of extinction. While the state has primarilyresponded by fortifying islands on public conservation land, Far North communitiesare working in a variety of ways and localities, both within and beyond the fortress,to secure a future for the peoples bird.

    Key words: Bay of Islands, community conservation, kiwi, Northland.


    The protected area paradigm has dominatedconservation internationally since the 1870s.Founded on a dualistic view of humans as sepa-rate from wild nature and characterised bystate ownership and top-down scientific man-agement, fortress conservation has sought toprotect nature from human interference (Wells& Brandon 1992; Adams & Hulme 2001). Pro-tected areas have flourished as a key compo-nent of mainstream conservation (Brockingtonet al. 2008). Beginning as a means to preservescenery, they have become . . . a primaryweapon in the conservation arsenal (McNeely2008, p. 104). They now occupy c. 11% of theworlds land (Stevens 1997) and are a powerful. . . way of seeing, understanding, and (re)pro-ducing the world (West et al. 2006, p.252).

    In recent years, however, the protected areaapproach has been widely contested by both

    social and natural scientists. Critique hasfocused on social and environmental justice,biodiversity objectives and conservation effi-cacy, interwoven with interrogation of thephilosophical underpinnings of protected areas.From different starting points, critique has con-verged on the desirability of reconnectingpeople and wild nature, while balancing eco-logical concerns. The challenge is to placehumans and human-made landscapes into thepicture. This requires a different approach, onethat involves individuals and communities aspart of a broader participatory turn. The aim isto give people all kinds of agency in themaking of economies, ecologies and natures(Hinchcliffe et al. 2007). New debates haveemerged over the relative virtues of top-downand bottom-up conservation initiatives.

    New Zealands kiwi (Apteryx spp.) are on thebrink of extinction on the mainland. In thispaper, we investigate the extent to which new

    Note about the authors: Lyndsay Blue is a Senior Tutor in the School of Environment at The University ofAuckland. Greg Blunden lives in the Far North, specialising in legal protection and biodiversity managementon private land, and operating the New Zealand Kiwi Foundation.

    E-mail: l.blue@auckland.ac.nz

    New Zealand Geographer (2010) 66, 105123

    2010 The AuthorsJournal compilation 2010 The New Zealand Geographical Society

    doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7939.2010.01181.x

  • geographies of community kiwi conservation inNorthland have diverged from the fortressconservation approach in response to thisthreat. We review New Zealands succession ofconservation responses to biodiversity loss,highlighting the predominant national pro-tected area framework and evolving institu-tional and resourcing arrangements forbiodiversity protection. Responding to calls forgeographers to reverse our neglect of wildlife(Whatmore & Thorne 1998), we argue that dif-ferent ways of imagining and practising conser-vation are emerging from community and aremaking a positive difference to survival of kiwiin the Far North. While recognising the tempo-ral and spatial contingencies of this success andthe particular significance of the kiwis iconicstatus, we point to the wider potential of thischange in attitude to conservation. We empha-sise that such conservation initiatives extendbeyond a response to biodiversity decline toreshape place, and indeed region in the North-land case.

    Wilderness imaginaries,conservation, and

    the community turn

    Critique of protected area approaches hasemerged from different quarters. Much socialcommentary has been concerned with socialand environmental justice, particularly theeffects of displacement on indigenous peoples.An extensive literature has explored the social,economic and political impacts of protectedareas (e.g. West et al. 2006), prompting calls forrevised conservation approaches that incorpo-rate community participation (Stevens 1997).The challenge is to supplant notions of partici-pation that see local peoples invited to engagein protected area planning and management tovarying degrees, as part of wider developmentefforts, and imagine more genuine localcontrol.

    Natural scientists have focused primarily onthe failure of protected areas to halt biodiver-sity decline (McNeely 2008). In part, suchfailure has been attributed to institutional andresourcing problems which constrain the effec-tiveness of protected areas, rendering manypaper parks (Brandon et al. 1998). In part, itreflects the growing realisation that the pro-

    tected area approach ignores the considerablebiodiversity and critical ecosystem processesbeyond reserve boundaries. Conservationbiologists have thus turned attention to themanagement of intervening space, advocatingan integrated sustainability approach to conser-vation and production space (Mitchell & Craig2000): . . . a more sensible form of human rela-tions with the land across the entire planet(McNeely 2008, p. 106).This approach has beenendorsed by the International Union forConservation of Nature move to create moreflexible protected area categories. Somecommentators have gone further to label fenceand fine strategies ineffectual (Wells &Brandon 1992), while, in practice, many parkagencies have sought biodiversity benefits fromgenerating improved relationships with localpeoples and enhanced community participa-tion (Stevens 1997).

    While conservation biology has dominatedresponses to global concern about biodiversitysince the mid-1980s (Meine et al. 2006), Wolchet al. (2003) describe the emergence of abroader discourse about animals and society inthe late 20th and early 21st centuries, partlyprompted by . . . growing concern regardingenvironmental degradation, habitat loss andspecies endangerment (p.187). In his seminalwork, Cronon (1995) challenges the fundamen-tal notion of wilderness, arguing that:

    The wilderness dualism tends to cast any useas ab-use, and thereby denies us a middleground in which responsible use and non-usemight attain some kind of balanced, sustain-able relationship. (p. 85)

    Elaborating on the middle ground, where welive and make our homes, Cronon draws atten-tion to . . . the wildness in our own backyards. . . the nature that is all around us if only wehave eyes to see it (p. 86), and articulates hisprincipal concern that wilderness, the BigOutside, teaches us to be dismissive of suchplaces.

    Integration of conservation and productionspace, advocated by conservation biologists, isthus again emphasised but framed differently:

    If wildness can stop being (just) out thereand start being (also) in here, if it can start

    L. Blue and G. Blunden106

    2010 The AuthorsJournal compilation 2010 The New Zealand Geographical Society

  • being as humane as it is natural, then perhapswe can get on with the unending task ofstruggling to live rightly in the world notjust in the garden, not just in the wilderness,but in the home that encompasses them both.(Cronon 1995, p. 90)

    Geographers Whatmore and Thorne (1998)add that:

    . . . the futures of earth creatures (includinghumans) lie not in fortifying the utopianspace/time of a pristine wilderness, but on theinside, where the everyday worlds of people,plants and animals are already in the processof being mixed up. (p. 437)

    In practice, Adams and Hulme (2001) contendthat disenchantment with fortress conserva-tion has been so profound that there has been. . . a significant shift in the dominant globalnarrative of conservation. The new conserva-tion narrative is community conservation(p.193). This notion, however, is problematic.The idea is to promote social justice and moreeffective conservation by empowering localgroups (Brockington et al. 2008). This raisesquestions of how much control, whose is it tocede, into whose hands, and under what condi-tions, and the meaning of community.

    Agrawal and Gibson (1999) challenge preoc-cupation with the mythic integrated commu-nity, instead depicting communities ascharacterised by internal differences and per-meated with networks and external linkagesthat may make it difficult to see where . . .local conservation begins and the external(that helps construct the local) ends (p. 637).They argue that greater attention should focuson:

    . . . the multiple actors with multiple intereststhat make up communities, the processesthrough which these actors interrelate, and,especially, the institutional arrangementsthat structure their interactions. (p. 636)

    Further, control is not simply transferred froman active state to passive communities(Agrawal and Gibson 1999). Community actorsare active agents who seek their own differentand dynamic interests in conservation, stitch

    together alliances of interests, and may changetheir interests as new opportunities emerge. AsBrockington et al. (2008) observe, communityconservation may distribute fortune and mis-fortune unequally.

    A brief history of