The battle for Happy Valley: news media, public relations, and environmental discourse

Te, Saing
Hope, Wayne
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Master of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis explores the ways in which state-owned enterprise Solid Energy and the news media have constructed and positioned the Cypress Mine project. Using public sphere critique, critical discourse analysis and ideology critique it shows how Solid Energy’s framing of environmental discourse in its texts dominated the news media domain at the expense of environmental activist organisations. In this context, I examine the cumulative effects of the news media’s organisational routines, the pressures and constraints of news practices, and the economic base of the media industry on news content. I also consider the symmetrical and asymmetrical manifestations of public relations, and how they permeate the news media domain and the public sphere generally. Organisational routines of news construction combined with corporate employment of public relations practices generate particular depictions of coal mining and its effects on the environment. Solid Energy, I argue, both shaped and benefitted from these depictions during the Cypress Mine controversy. I also examine actual mining practices and how they affect the environment both generally and in the case of the Cypress Mine project. Against this background I evaluate the conflicts between mining interests and their opponents in Happy Valley. I conclude that official environmental discourses comprised of ‘Promethean’ and conservative ‘sustainability’ conceptions marginalised ecologically informed arguments proposed by environmentalists.

News media , Public relations , Environmental discourse
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