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Tracking Rural Change

Tracking Rural Change: Community, Policy and Technology in Australia, New Zealand and Europe

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: ANU Press
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    Tracking Rural Change
    Book Description:

    A key, intensifying change affecting rural areas in the last few decades has been a decline in the proportion of national populations whose principal livelihood is farming. The corresponding re-distribution of population has typically resulted in a net population loss to rural areas, and diversification of rural activity. The corporatization and technological modification of food production has prompted new policy challenges, and has bound rural and urban populations together in new relationships articulated in moral discourses of custodianship, food safety, and sustainability. Contributors to this volume came together in the attempt to stimulate collective insight into trends of rural change in Australia, New Zealand and Europe. The first two countries have been characterised by avowedly `neoliberal' rural policy - with considerable departures from it in practice; Europe, on the other hand, by a mix of policy measures which attempt to integrate land management and sustainability, diversification and maintenance of a competitive farming sector within an overarching policy framework more overtly, though only partially, oriented towards sustaining rural society. Aiming to build on research relating to the character of rural transitions, this volume offers substantive and critical contributions to the understanding of the sources of unpredictability, instability, and continuity, that underpin rural transition. The papers explore changes and continuities in policy, the governance of rural spaces, technological developments relating to rural areas and populations, and social forms of subjectivation and participation in increasingly diverse rural settings.

    eISBN: 978-1-921536-53-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction The rural future in Australia and New Zealand: mapping the terrain of rural change
    (pp. 1-14)
    Francesca Merlan and David Raftery

    On 16 October 2006, Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, announced funding of $350 million to assist Australian farmers struggling with drought, whose circumstances had been declared ‘exceptional’. This announcement has many precedents: since 2001, $1.2 billion worth of such payments has been disbursed to Australian farming families (Peatling 2006). What was distinctive about the announcement of the drought payments of 2006 was the assertion of national agricultural values that accompanied such routine implementation of policy. The Prime Minister, in announcing these disbursements, stressed that farming was central to Australia’s psyche and that family farms should not be allowed to die:...

  4. 1 Rurality and rural space: the ‘policy effect’ of the Common Agricultural Policy in the Borders of Scotland
    (pp. 15-40)
    John Gray

    This chapter is a case study of the relationship between agricultural policy and human activity as it is manifest in rural landscapes and concepts of rurality. The particular case I analyse is the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the activities and experiences of hill sheep farmers in the Scottish borderlands. My aim is not just an analysis of the production of rural space in this particular locality but a more general understanding of rural space/landscapes (in Australia, Europe and North America) as materialisations of policy-motivated formulations of rurality by governments (whether local, national or supranational) and practically generated...

  5. 2 Has Australia’s administrative heritage maintained a culture of agrarian dependency?
    (pp. 41-58)
    Ian Gray

    Any comparison between Australia and Europe—most obviously, the United Kingdom—could not escape the fundamental point that Australia was colonised while industrialising Europe was colonising. Colonial settlement grew relatively rapidly during the late eighteenth century and, although much growth occurred inland, each colony was administered from a capital city located on the coast with very little delegation to local communities. The colonial relationship is still apparent in each state’s administrative hierarchy and the federal system, making reasonable overseas comparisons in governance enduringly difficult, even though neo-liberalism and parallel new models of localising and regionalising governance have been very influential...

  6. 3 The role of agrarian sentiment in Australian rural policy
    (pp. 59-78)
    Linda Botterill

    Politics has been described as the ‘authoritative allocation of values’ (Easton 1953:129) and the public policy literature discusses how values are incorporated in policy development processes and how decision makers balance the conflicting values that inevitably arise. Almost every policy decision involves a compromise between differing objectives, many of which are anchored in particular values: the trade off between inflation and unemployment is a clear example in economic policy, as is the balance between wages and profits. With a few exceptions, the discussion of values in the policy process has focused on identifiable values promoted by particular advocates within the...

  7. 4 Wildlife, wilderness and the politics of alternative land use: an Australian ethnography
    (pp. 79-92)
    Adrian Peace

    The review and reorganisation of long-established settler land-use practices is going to be one of the more urgent and positive outcomes of the current Australian drought and the wider climatic changes of which it is a significant part. While it has taken not just an agricultural crisis but a societal one to bring the situation about, even the short to mid-term prospects of intensive farming in marginal locations are already under review from agricultural organisations, governmental bodies, environmental agencies and related policy-oriented institutions. Inasmuch as the sheer sustainability of settler agriculture in marginal areas is the subject of review and...

  8. 5 Land tenure and identity in the New Zealand high country
    (pp. 93-110)
    Carolyn Morris

    In many of the so-called developed countries, rural places and conceptions of ruralism appear to be undergoing radical transformation. Historically, in Anglo traditions, high moral value has been attributed to ruralism, and notions of the rural idyll have deep histories (Williams 1973; Schama 1995), an enduring aspect of which is the idea that rural regions are sites for the production of national goods—economic and cultural. In these traditions, ruralism and agrarianism have been often considered synonymous (suppressing the brute realities of agricultural life), but in recent decades this link has begun to be uncoupled. In many European countries, in...

  9. 6 Moving to the country for a graduated retirement: constructing new meaningful lives
    (pp. 111-134)
    Lesley Hunt

    We see a lot on television and in books (for example, Mayle 1992) about baby boomers starting a new life in the country, people, who, after stressful but successful professional careers in the city, are able to use their accumulated wealth to buy land. There they are, talking or writing enthusiastically about producing their own wine, olives, avocados or whatever, and about the merits of getting out of the rat race to live the idyllic life that the country provides. As one of the women in the research reported on here said: ‘Other trees around—yeah, we’ve got persimmons, avocados,...

  10. 7 Intergenerational transitions in rural Western Australia: an issue for sustainability?
    (pp. 135-150)
    Daniela Stehlik

    Rapid transition from rural to peri-urban settlement in coastal southern Western Australia, combined with the potential changes in climate, demographic growth and intergenerational transitions, are creating potential future policy challenges. This has emerged as an issue for research within the context of the natural resource management (NRM) sector in the region and the concept of ‘transitions’ of knowledge and capital as Australia ages.

    In a discussion about ‘rural futures’ for the developed world, a landmark paper written in 1999, which focuses on the issue for the developing world, offers some frameworks for discussion. This chapter draws on this framework to...

  11. 8 Under the regulatory radar? Nanotechnologies and their impacts for rural Australia
    (pp. 151-172)
    Kristen Lyons and Gyorgy Scrinis

    Nanotechnologies are a panacea for global social and environmental problems—or so industry and governments proclaim. At the same time, critics argue that nanotechnologies could present a range of new risks to human and environmental health and safety (Friends of the Earth 2006a; ETC Group 2003; International Centre for Technology Assessment 2006). Despite these conflicting views, research and development of nanotechnologies are occurring at a rapid pace, with total global investment in 2005 estimated to be worth US$9.6 billion (Lux Research Incorporated 2005). As a result, products derived from nano-techniques or containing nano-materials are already on the market, despite the...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 173-188)
    Francesca Merlan and David Raftery

    The National Party, a political party that explicitly represents rural interests, experienced vastly different results on different sides of Australia in a single weekend of September 2008. In a by-election for the northern NSW federal electorate of Lyne, a seat formerly held by the National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Mark Vaile, an independent candidate, himself a former National Party member, won the seat. In attempting to explain the reasons for this result, Senator Barnaby Joyce, a federal National Party MP, refused to entertain the possibility that a ‘rural vote’, one that explicitly recognised agrarian values, had diminished. Joyce...