Wednesday, October 13, 2010 save an ailing farm....

I was playing the part of the tumbleweed on the west coast today. Wandering high above the volatile shoreline along the beautful Te Henga walkway, I was reviewing matters related to development on coastal pasture. Scores of related discussions and case law revolve around the retention of 'rural coastal character'.

It occured to me today that the efforts we go to to preserve such character might just beg a deeper inquiry. Why are we pouring resources into maintaining the 'natural' look of degraded pasture atop extremely exposed shore-lines when it's anything but natural?

When New Zealand was discovered it wasn't marvelled for it's erosion-prone grassed's haggard vistas of windswept gorse....nor it's many ailing fencelines. It was marvelled for its outstanding coastal vegetation, clinging resolutely to wild cliffs. It was marvelled for the fact that 40% of the worlds seabirds made their home there and left every year, always returning to their southern paradise. And marvelled still further for many beaches backed by towering dune systems.

And this wasn't thousands of years ago. The pastoral landscape has been a relatively new concept. We spent the past barely 200 years scuttling about with brushcutters and giant saws, pausing only to look at the great works of Constable for inspiration and technical reference. It is a mere blip in our natural history and the costly and unmoving troops marching to retain said degraded pasture, forsaking all other land uses (in this case including indigenous revegetation!)seem to be remiss in the way they direct their energies.

There is a time and place for retention of rural landscapes, but it would seem from my travels that said landscape (degraded, gorse cloaked pasture) seems to occupy a heck of a lot of our land area and its protection a little too much of our time...and perhaps it's value might be somewhat overstated...just putting it out there....

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