For the Coast to argue coherently with Forest and Bird et al, we need to do some research into the environmental movement, which has its own historical trajectory and its differing ideologies. The National Park/Forest and Bird position has its origins in the 19th century and remains urban based and middle class. There is an obvious need to have wilderness areas for threatened species, an obvious need to acknowledge the realities of climate change, but socially, the conservation position remains mainly about people living in the cities who want to have recreational access to pristine wilderness to recharge their batteries. That originating need has become global and is tied in with tourism.
However, in the latter part of last century, the position was challenged by the environmental justice movement, for poorer and indigenous communities become sacrifice zones: both in terms of areas to dump toxic waste, but also as areas from which those who traditionally inhabited them, are expelled in the interests of conservation. Coasters can’t argue an indigenous role but certainly people have lived in these communities for a century and a half.
From the environmental justice movement comes the concept of the extractive reserve. Despite an area being primarily reserve, the people who traditionally live in the area also have the right to earn a living, to have access to health and education and so on. This requires some extraction, and tourism needs to be considered an extractive industry. But under what criteria does extraction take place? This should be the real debate. Are the jobs for local people? Where do the profits go? Who owns the enterprise? How is it controlled?? Who’s making the decisions? What are the workers paid? How damaging is it environmentally? Is it sustainable?
Such criteria would, I believe, quickly cancel the multinational, could even challenge the local franchise holding capitalist.
To explore such criteria produces some interesting results: Westpower’s Waitaha Power Scheme receives full marks: sustainable, environmentally sensitive, locally owned and controlled with profits distributed equitably. Westland Milk is owned and controlled locally with profits distributed on the Coast. Westfleet Seafoods however, provide jobs but demanded a gifting of local equity as the price of building a processing plant, are owned by Maori , Japanese and Nelson fishing interests and are now seeking state patronage via the Regional Growth Fund. Oceana Gold? Provided jobs but how many were local? Where did the profit go? The equity? Now they’ve left. Compare with a local goldminer pottering along year after year.
There are other issues. Many Coasters have a subsistence component to their livelihood – wood gathering, hunting and fishing. Is that being allowed? I gather that hunting and firewood gathering are becoming more difficult now that Ngai Tahu have taken over the forests. There’s the traditional concept of the commons at play here and some obvious ironies.
It becomes an interesting exercise to really begin to argue for access to conservation estate from criteria which it would be difficult to dismiss. And from it might come the seeds of a sustainable local economy and culture.