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Biological Economies at the Centre for Sustainability

Biological Economies: Knowing and making new rural value relations

Principal investigator: Professor Hugh Campbell
Staff involved: Dr Chris Rosin

Brief abstract

Biological Economies emerged from a pilot project at the University of Auckland, funded by the Building Research Capability in the Social Sciences Network (BRCSS), and led by Professor Richard Le Heron (2008-2009). That pilot project brought together a group of economic geographers (and one rural sociologist): Richard Le Heron and Nick Lewis (University of Auckland); Mike Roche and Matt Henry (Massey University); Eric Pawson (University of Canterbury); Harvey Perkins (Lincoln University); and Chris Rosin and Hugh Campbell (University of Otago). The result was a successful bid to the Marsden Fund.

The Biological Economies project seeks to understand and theorise the dramatic changes that have been occurring in New Zealand's biological economies in the last 20 years. The emergence of new production and consumption activities with complex new value chains has altered rural landscapes and diversified land use away from a primarily pastoral economy. The term 'biological economies' describes the way that value is generated within relations among products, people, places, animals, and plants. The central question that the research addresses is how new values are being (and might be) created out of biological economies.

The project focuses on the intersections between value chains and places, in order to understand how these are changing with shifting global-local relations, as well as with new institutional and political frameworks. The fieldwork foci are three value chains (pastoralism, tourism, and wine) and two places (Hawkes Bay and Central Otago) representing sites and regions where key transitions are occurring between old and new rural economies. The dynamics of new rural value creation will be examined, centering on actor interactions, relationships, and possibilities. The project will contribute to a new knowledge system with the potential to stimulate innovative practice in the rural sector.