Constructing the aquatic environment as a legal subject: legal rights, market participation, and the power of narrative
AffiliationMelbourne Law School
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2017 Dr. Erin O'Donnell
In 2010, the Victorian government created the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH) to be ‘the single voice’ for environmental water rights in Victoria. The VEWH is one of many ‘environmental water managers’ (EWMs) operating around the world. EWMs use a variety of legal forms to establish legal personhood to participate in water markets to acquire and manage water for the aquatic environment. The creation and operation of EWMs raises the question: what happens when the environment is constructed in law as a legal person? I use the example of the EWMs in Australia and the USA to develop a new conceptual framework to understand how the environment is constructed in law, and how the multiple constructions can interact in unintended ways. In particular, I find that there is an apparent paradox in the creation and operation of the EWMs: they are a regulatory tool intended to increase the legibility of the environment to law, and increase the rights and powers of the environment in law, but in doing so, they reframe the environment as a mere participant in a market, which can weaken the cultural narratives that support environmental protection.
Keywordsenvironmental law; legal rights; water law; water markets; legal subject; environmental water manager
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