Since it came to office, National has cut the Conservation budget in real terms by 2% and the cuts are going to get deeper. Now, we learn that DoC is looking at contracting out camping areas on the conservation estate to be run for a profit. Coincidence? I think not. It’s privatisation by stealth.
One of the wonderful things about New Zealand is that you can go to some of the most beautiful, isolated areas on earth – land that you have access to by right not permit – and stay for only the pittance cost to pay for the simple facilities.
Now, however, DoC’s budget is being squeezed and it knows that National plans to keep on squeezing for years to come. How can DoC fund pest control and wildlife recovery projects with falling income from the Crown? Only by getting more out of the Kiwis and tourists who stay on DoC land.
I don’t just object to the price increase. I fear what contracting out camping areas to private businesses will lead to. Private businesses will want to attract high-profit visitors – not multitudes paying a handful of dollars a night but the well-to-do who will pay much more. So, they’ll want to install bigger, more luxurious facilities and better access. The danger is that the cost will shut out ordinary Kiwis and private companies will ruin the unkempt beauty by building up to attract a ‘better class’ of holiday-maker.
The conservation estate belongs to us and to future generations. Kiwis fought tooth and nail to prevent National’s plan to have it mined. Now, it looks like National’s budget cuts are forcing us into another fight to stop privatisation and keep our right to visit our most precious spots.