Michael Vincent McGinnis

Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS)


Michael McGinnis is Associate Professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS). He has published over 100 journal articles, essays, books, government reports, and technical documents on the subject of large- scale ecosystem-based planning and biodiversity conservation. His edited compendium Bioregionalism (Routledge, 1999) is the primary text in the field. He has received research support from the National Science Foundation and the Department of the Interior, among others. In 2008, he was a Fulbright Scholar to The Republic of Montenegro. In 2012, he completed a two-year study on New Zealand’s marine governance framework funded by the ministries of that country. 


Creating Ecological Scarcity: The Struggle to Sustain New Zealand’s Water, Watersheds and Pastoral Heritage

New Zealand’s watershed program was developed in the early 1990s, and was considered by scholars as an ecologically progressive and ‘green’ ideal for other countries to emulate. The framework led to the creation of 14 regional councils whose boundaries include the interdependencies between a mountain, river, coastal ecosystem, and extend out twelve miles to include marine areas. No other country in the world has a similar ecosystem-oriented governance framework. At the time, water and land use across New Zealand were based on small farming operations (e.g., wool and lamb). Generations of sheep farmers passed on a pastoral heritage and place-based identity to their children, which was incorporated into the ‘green brand’ of 100% Pure New Zealand. Within the last decade, a change in New Zealand’s water and land-use has emerged. There has been a major shift in land use from small sheep ranching to large-scale dairy production. The character of the watersheds of the country is changing as 37% of the land is now used for dairy. One reason in the shift to dairy is a new demand for dairy products in Asian markets; New Zealand is a country of 4.4 million people feeding 280 million. However, the shift to dairy has had ecological and economic consequences, indicated by the increasing reports of water pollution, drought, loss of soil. This paper provides a profile of New Zealand’s water and land-use changes during the past decade and how these changes are reflected in new socio-ecological relationships to place and community. 

Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs
Robert A. Jones 59 House
148 Hillcrest Road
Middlebury, VT 05753