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Reworking the geography of the long boom: the small town experience of restructuring in Reefton, New Zealand

  • Economics
  • Political Science


During the postwar long boom, the economic, political, and cultural configurations adopted to regulate the crisis tendencies of capitalism in New Zealand were broadly those of social democracy. Key features of social democratic policy in this period were the assistance of primary production through subsidies, the protection of domestic industry, a well-developed welfare state, and the promotion of economic development in marginal places and regions. These regulatory arrangements found expression as a distinctive geography of the long boom. In small towns this was typified by clusters of agencies associated with the state's intervention in production and its provision of infrastructure. Local employment was often concentrated in these agencies. We examine the nature of such a geography during the long boom in Reefton, a small town on the West Coast of the South Island, and its subsequent reworking during the restructuring of the 1980s. This reworking is explored through a focus on the major state and private sector workplaces within the town's economic base and their employees. As key influences upon the newly emerging geography of the town, the forms of local governance that are being adopted in order to attract the spending and investment lost during restructuring are examined.

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