JOHN MENADUE. The new squatters on public land.

The new squatters on public land are being given a leg-up as they were in the 19th Century to seize and occupy public land.  

The new squatters are taking over more and more of our public land – national parks, botanic gardens and public reserves.

Conservatives believe in small government and cutting back government by commercializing and privatizing public assets is a core part of their ideology.

A clear case at the moment is the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. It is being deliberately underfunded and forced to seek private funding and promoting commercial access to the public parks.

Just as Paul Keating forced the privatization of Qantas by refusing necessary equity funds, so the NSW government is prejudicing our national parks.

Yet this is happening when, with growing population density, we have a greatly increased need for public parks, gardens and open space. Furthermore, we were able to fund our public parks for decades in the past when we were much poorer than we are today. We need to protect our parks more than ever and we have more money to do so. Yet state governments are screwing national parks with funds to force commercialization and privatization.

In a recent article in the SMH on 11 December 2016, Deborah Snow said:

“The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is seeking to ramp up revenue opportunities from some of Sydney’s most stunning natural beauty spots as it wrestles with a backlog of poor heritage maintenance, a loss of experienced staff and a prolonged squeeze on its operating budget. In a recent call for ‘expressions of interest’ from commercial event organisers, the service says it wants to ‘encourage industry professionals to consider the great potential of national parks as venues for exciting and dynamic events’. It depicts NPWS park venues as open to ‘almost any type of event … including music, arts and culture, food and wine as well as sporting, tourism … business and corporate events. The government denies the pitch is about revenue raising, but former insiders, unions and environmental campaigners fear the growing emphasis on commercialization is putting heritage and conservation priorities at risk”.

For ideological reasons conservative governments are deliberately underfunding national parks in order to provide opportunities for their commercial friends to operate on public land.

George Monbiot in The Guardian  on 30 December 2016 put it succinctly,’ A commons is an asset over which a community has shared and equal rights. .This could,in principle include land, water,minerals,knowledge,scientific research and software. But at the moment most of these assets have been enclosed,seized by either the state or private interests. and treated like any other form of capital.Through this enclosure we have been deprived of our common wealth.’

The new squatters on public land are being given a leg-up as they were in the 19th Century to seize and occupy public land, our ‘common wealth’

We need a ‘new BLF’ more than ever before to stop the plundering of our public parks by greedy squatters

See my earlier article ‘The new squatters are taking over more public land’.

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John Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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