Dairying, Dispossession, Devastation
Primitive Accumulation and the New Zealand Dairy Industry, 1814–2018
The past three-and-a-half decades of neoliberal orthodoxy in New Zealand have been marked by the rapid expansion and intensification of the New Zealand dairy industry. In the years since direct agricultural subsidies and supports were removed in the mid-1980s, the national dairy herd has more than doubled and the area given over to dairying has increased by some 750,000 hectares. This relentless drive to intensify has come at a simply enormous environmental cost: New Zealanders, present and future, are being systematically dispossessed of cherished freshwater ecosystems and endemic biodiversity. In this paper, I argue that this is but the latest episode in a long history of often-violent dispossession that has been crucial to the historical development of capitalist agriculture in New Zealand. In so doing, I draw on Marx’s theory of primitive accumulation.