Marc Tadaki

The difference that space makes in the implementation of environmental policy
Faculty of Arts
New Zealand

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

After completing my Master's degree in 2012 at the University of Auckland, I spent a year and a half working in higher education and environmental consulting. By 2013, a new water policy was rolling out across New Zealand, and I developed an interest in how ‘Regional Council Forums’ (workshops with local government bureaucrats and researchers) might serve to troubleshoot issues arising with implementing this new policy. I wanted to pursue a PhD for two reasons: first, I wanted to further my study and engage with new theories and scholars in a different context (UBC), and second, I wanted to analyze this key moment in ‘policy learning’ that was happening in New Zealand. 

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I wanted to study in a strong Geography department and engage with world-leading scholars in physical, human and environmental geography. UBC has one of the best Geography departments in the world, and it is also one of the last remaining autonomous Geography departments that hasn’t yet been merged into something else. UBC also houses many other scholars who are doing insightful related work in applied environmental science, environmental valuation and environmental governance. The UBC campus is beautiful, and Vancouver – for all of its challenges – is a really nice place to live. I also met Stephen Toope in 2012 at an Asia-Pacific university presidents meeting, and he convinced me that UBC was a university with a conscience that really valued social science.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

The graduate courses that I’ve taken at UBC have really empowered me to learn and grow as a scholar. I’ve broadened my horizons significantly I think – both in terms of knowledge of different theories and approaches, as well as knowledge about myself and how I am connected to particular hierarchies and geographies of knowledge production. 

Coming from New Zealand, there is a widespread sense of being outside of the main centers of theory development in social science. Thus, the opportunity to study with leading scholars in particular fields – for example, studying ecosystem services with Kai Chan and human geography methods with Jamie Peck - have been powerful experiences for me, and are already shaping my intellectual trajectory.


Learn more about Marc's research

My research examines the ways in which environmental policy implementation is ‘improvised’ across space, in order to consider how environmental policy might be re-understood and harnessed to pursue more ecologically sustainable, effective, and just policy outcomes. A fundamental problem with writing national environmental policy is that ‘space matters’. The environmental and social contexts of policy implementation are different in different places, and the notion that ‘one size fits all’ has been legitimately criticized. This has led toward the creation of flexible policies that can be tailored to unique circumstances. However, having too much flexibility can mean that a policy may be redirected to the point of failing to achieve national environmental objectives. 

My project examines the implementation of a new national water policy in New Zealand, which seeks to strike a balance between providing firm national direction while also allowing local flexibility in implementation. I am following the progress of this policy to see how different visions of local flexibility are being proposed and shaped by national government, local government and non-governmental actors. My study will contribute toward thinking about how decentralized environmental policy produces particular outcomes in practice.