A New Approach to Conservation: A Critical Analysis of DOC’s Commercial Partnership Strategy
The complex range of challenges facing the environment has prompted the conservation movement to evolve and incorporate new concepts, attitudes and strategies. A prominent approach that has attracted scholarly attention is the appeal for broader societal involvement and an increased human-focus for the conservation movement. This new approach is particularly notable for the inclusion of private business in conservation strategies. Subsequently, these strategies have prompted criticism of their links to neoliberal ideology and the encouragement of consumption-based measures. Conservation in Aotearoa New Zealand has followed this strategy of business involvement, represented by the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) commercial partnerships. The deliberate use of large businesses is used to access external resources and expertise alongside exposure to their respective customer bases. However, the criticisms of neoliberal ideology, matched by the national significance of the conservation estate and its relationship with the New Zealand public has created numerous challenges and considerations for DOC to navigate. To acknowledge the different attitudes and relationships that people have to the environment and conservation, a constructivist approach was used to examine the implementation of DOC’s partnership strategy. A case study consisting of seven interviews with representatives from DOC, environmental NGOs and the businesses involved in the partnerships was carried out. The data revealed three central themes; initially, of the need for a wider approach to conservation, followed by the intrusion and influence of neoliberal ideology into the domain, and the presentation of win-win strategies. This research provides a critical analysis of DOC’s recent shift in strategy and the implications of it on future strategies.