Dolphin ‘troubles’ in New Zealand

S. Wright Monod

Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand, *corresponding author:

Green cultural criminologists have called for increased attention to the sophisticated strategies by which harms to the environment are denied, downplayed and dismissed by elite groups invested in maintaining the neo-liberal social and economic status quo. Attention to these strategies can help account for the cultures of silence and complicity which support political inaction around issues of environmental harm. This paper reports on initial findings from a project examining ‘talk’ about environmental issues in the New Zealand context across a range of discursive sites. Focusing on one issue in particular, the plight of New Zealand’s rare and endangered Maui’s dolphin, it outlines the interplay between efforts to ‘define up’ the threat posed to the dolphin by environmental issue entrepreneurs with efforts to ‘define down’ that threat by those opposed to any action being initiated by official bodies. It proposes that the shapes of the interplay afford insight to a set of processes akin to what Brisman and South (2016) see as a ‘reverse moral panic’ at work.


Sarah Wright Monod is a Lecturer at the Institute of Criminology at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She conducts research on crime and the media, moral panics, narratives of crime, youth offending practices and harms against the environment. She teaches in the areas of youth crime, crime and criminal justice practices in New Zealand and in the emerging area of green criminology.