Its interesting to see the nationalisation of the South Island proceeding apace. So far only swards of the high country have been taken but as the Minister has shown no inclination to stop it will continue – until the money runs out. The purported purpose is the enhancement of the public good by setting aside land for conservation and the enjoyment of the public. Laudable except for the question who will pay and who will use it.
Ngai Tahu Forest and Bird QEII National Trust the New Heritage Trust and sundry academics have been frustrated that the bounteous feast does not simply take everything they have fondly wished for in terms of land type and shepherds huts.
The farmers have been offered that dream of man since the middle ages, freehold title. They have watched the value of their land go up from security of title and the Ministers purchase of land at inflated prices with some satisfaction. However if Helen Clark gets another term they may find that the rigors of real socialism and public access for the elite will devalue their shiny new freehold titles somewhat.
After people have been driven out of the high country and its use has been restricted to hearty types on special permits the land will become economically valueless.
Such is the fate of public goods. The place can fall quietly back to ruin and weeds with the squabbling parties satisfied that the taxpayers have dutifully been filched of all their puny workers pockets can stand.
Despite the fact their taxes have paid for all these national jewels they will never be within a days march of them. The separate parties will I am sure gather at a future time for another throw of the dice and raid on the treasury. Foxes find it easier to go back to the same easy mark.
In private hands become dotted with tourist havens, commercial camping grounds, historic trails with the money going to its owners. Private enterprise is versdatile, imaginative, flexible, innovative, forward looking, mutable and transcending. Owned and used by the people close to its heart and used by the wide range of the population prepared to pay a small sum to use it life would have infused into the area.
A future far more valued and treasured for its heritage than a relic in a government land museum.
But that it would be all too unthinkable.
The use by common people would be all too philistine for the latte set.
And someone making money from a camping ground or a guided forest walk is surely the worst excesses of capitalism writ large. Better it be preserved for the elite and privileged walkers to visit natures art gallery undisturbed by the yokels who paid for it.
From now forward these places will be sequestered away in the dead hands of bureaucrats in Wellington. Good decent committee people, who will, with the nicest will in the world, plan every policy initiative, stifle every advancement and spreadsheet every rabbit.
Without the ownership and the use and enjoyment of real people the land will die.
Pictures on a postcard, forbidden treasures locked in the vault of national memory.