Out of Character: Reiterating an Island’s Imaginaries in the Face of a Changing Identity
Omondiagbe, H; Towns, D; Wood, J; Bollard, B
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Island imaginary describes the unspoken or undocumented fabric that weaves together the operations within an island. Yet, these imaginaries are sometimes perceived as intangible and often misunderstood by non-islanders, who attempt to impose contradictory realities on islanders. This study investigates identity through the imaginaries expressed by island residents within the context of a changing identity. Waiheke Island has been experiencing recurrent issues of identity and undergoing transformational developments. We sought to identify components of island identity; factors that undermine island identity; and actions that might contribute to sustaining their identity. We employed a qualitative approach using interviews and thematic analysis. We identified three thematic components of identity, namely place identity, individual identity, and community identity. We determined triggers that could undermine identities such as external infiltration and transportation. Finally, we identified responses that could support residents in affirming or reiterating their identity including island secession, better fund allocation and community efforts. Most respondents value different aspects of their environment for being scenic, safe, special, and shared. Waihekeans prefer to be identified and appreciated for their diverse and unique characteristics, without their identities being undermined. They favour a strategic and controlled form of development, while preserving their uniqueness.