A case study of the wildflower industry, its participants and their perspectives on rural development and change in the South West and Great Southern Regions of Western Australia
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This thesis presents an in-depth review and analysis of the wildflower industry within the South West and Great Southern Regions of Western Australia, within the context of the social, economic and environmental changes occurring in these high amenity rural regions.The thesis draws on questionnaire and interview data, drawn from wildflower growers, native flower and foliage pickers (‘bushpickers’), wholesalers, exporters, tourism business operators and wildflower and tourism industry support officers, to present a thorough analysis of a contemporary (albeit small) rural industry. Multifunctional transition theory is applied to assist in understanding the structure and agency-related influences affecting the reasons why wildflower producers and pickers show limited interest in diversifying into tourism. The use of actor-network analysis supports this multifunctional transition assessment framework.It is argued that the southern wildflower industry comprises a set of individuals representing a multitude of rural ideologies and expressing, at a personal agency level, varied and sometimes dichotomous perspectives in relation to how they, as producers, view productivist and non-productivist objectives in relation to their involvement in the industry.Producer perspectives on tourism development in relation to the wildflower industry are considered, within the context of changing patterns of rural consumption and production in the study area. The thesis argues that the set of actors present in the industry during the study period (2001-2003) perceived very limited wildflower tourism opportunities for themselves, as a result of the political economy structures, local networks and endogenous factors affecting wildflower producer decisionmaking.Furthermore, the study addresses the implications for the wildflower industry of changing societal and environmental values, particularly in relation to changing forest management policies in Western Australia. Decreased access to native forest for flower and foliage harvesting, as part of a broader reassessment of the ecological sustainability of forest management practices, is identified as a potentially significant factor in reducing the volume of Western Australian wildflower exports, and thus the international market presence of product from this State.This work contributes to ongoing theoretical debates on rural change in Australia through its consideration of the structure and agency influences upon producers’ decision-making, in a specific industrial context. The analytical approach adopted contributes to discussion on both the applicability of the concept of multifunctionality in rural Australia and its utility as a framework for assessing rural development trajectories.
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