Opinion by Andi Cockcroft
New Zealand was founded by people who had deliberately abandoned a feudal society built on privilege by dint of wealth for an egalitarian one where there was equal social opportunity for all, regardless of wealth, ethnic background or dare I suggest class.
No where is this so evident as in laws around outdoor sports such as freshwater fishing for trout and salmon and duck and game bird shooting. Laws of the country specifically forbid the sale of fishing and shooting rights.
This whole ethos is embodied in acceptance for over a century of the following principles:-
(a)The tradition of public ownership of fish, wildlife, the mountains. lakes, rivers, sea coasts and their associated recreational and scenic resources
- The large measure of freedom to tramp, climb, ski, fish, hunt, canoe, four wheel drive etc.,
- The friendly hospitality between town and country and the once rarity of the locked gate
But that is under threat and has been eroded. The erosion comes from varying angles. One is the Resource Management Act and proposed revisions will lower river cleanliness standards from fit for swimming to fit for “wading and boating”. This is unbelievable in a country of just 4.6 million people yet where 61 percent of lowland rivers are classed as unfit for swimming.
Another is the political correct and absurd Health and Safety laws that have made some farmers apprehensive of giving permission for bona fide recreationalists to come onto their property. You can add debates on foreshore and water “ownership” too.
It is a sad commentary on government departments and governments of recent decades that foreign speculators have been and are being encouraged to come to New Zeal;and to buy or lease large areas of our countryside and especially the high country with its associated outdoor recreation values.
These foreign speculators possess private wealth but they come from a different culture, that of a feudal society of locked gates, access fees and the “upper class” landed gentry. It is alarming that large tracts of land planted in commercial forestry are in the majority owned by foreign interests. Foreign owners are increasingly buying high country stations as New Zealand farmers struggle with low returns and a government disinterested in rural areas and farming because the political voting power lies in the Auckland conurbation.
There is nothing more dangerous or damaging to the Kiwi culture and its outdoor traditions and access, than the injection of a handful of foreigners seeking to escape their own violence-threatened and degraded societies. protection from such damaging influences can only be assured by proper legal safeguards and action. But the stark reality is we have had governments of the Lange, Bolger, Shipley, Clark and Key leadership who would cry “xenophobic” to the views I have stated.
Xenophobic-aversion to foreigners?
I argue it’s patriotic to keep New Zealand in Kiwi ownership and control.
New Zealand stands at a crossroads. New Zealand was once a relatively harmonious bi-cultural society of Maori and European. Ethnically it has blended so that few Maoris of 50 percent ancestry exist today. And we could all have sympathies and lend support on issues like pollution to those of Maori descent who grieved for the loss of cultural values in catching a feed of fish or having a harbour or river clean and pure. But cultural values no longer count. Dominant is a corporate greed. It’s not about clean water, salt or fresh of catching fish for the table; it’s about money, profits that within iwi seem captured by just a few.
Should beaches, lakes, rivers, mountains, water or forests and their fish and wildlife and other recreational and aesthetic values become the private preserves of a wealthy elite or an ethnically privileged few?
What do you think? Do you care? Do you dare to voice a viewpoint in a world dominated by political correctness and name calling of “xenophobe” or “racist”?
Footnote; Andi Cockcroft is an outdoor recreationalist, a trustee of Public Access NZ (PANZ) and chairman of the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ (CORANZ)