Land, they’re not making it anymore…

Mark Twain called it correctly when he said “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore”. One thing “they”(we)  are making in vast quantities is us, people, Homo sapiens. Auckland celebrates its 1.5 millionth human inhabitant this week. It seems like yesterday that Auckland’s population reached 1 million, and Auckland is set to reach 2 million within about 15 years. Make no mistake, human life is to be celebrated and valued, yet will we, or those in the future, be celebrating when Auckland hits the 2 million mark? Probably, but what about 4 or 8 or 16 million, should those milestones be reached in the future? Will the World be celebrating its 8 billionth citizen in the 2020’s or its 9 billionth in the 2040’s.

A report released this week by the UN states that “as the global population grows from 7 billion to almost 9 billion by 2040, and the number of middle-class consumers increases by 3 billion over the next 20 years, the demand for resources will rise exponentially. By 2030, the world will need at least 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy and 30 per cent more water — all at a time when environmental boundaries are throwing up new limits to supply…The current global development model is unsustainable…if we fail to resolve the sustainable development dilemma, we run the risk of condemning up to 3 billion members of our human family to a life of endemic poverty” (1). We must face the  reality that we, or our children, will soon reap the consequences of marching down the road of continued population and consumption growth…if that is the path we continue to choose.

On another note, as expected by most political and economic pundits, the Crafar farms have been approved for sale by the OIO to an overseas investor. Apparently this will bring economic benefits to New Zealand and all will be well in the Land of the Long White Cloud. But it doesn’t hide the fact that close to 8,000 hectares of Godzone will never again (at least highly unlikely) be owned by Uncle Allan or some other mate down the road. Granted, a great deal more land has been sold to overseas investors in the past few years, however, this case has brought the issue the fore.

One positive aspect of it all is that Mr Jiang will keep the land as productive agricultural land. He could well have desired to transform Barryville (if you haven’t been there you haven’t been anywhere) into the next urban utopia, such as the wonderland of Dubai. But wait, that’s whats happening 300 km up the road in Auckland. The, yet to be finalised, Auckland Plan sets aside an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 hectares of  greenfield land within the new Rural/Urban Boundary to accommodate future urban growth within the next 30 years. And this 5,000 to 6,000 hectares is not enough for the develop-o-holics, they are crying foul and demanding more to fill there insatiable appetite! Add this 5,000 to 6,000 hectares to the land planned for urban development around the rest of this clean, green country of ours and we are looking at say, 10,000 hectares (most likely more) . Thats 100 square kilometres, an area larger than Waiheke Island, that is destined to be plastered with asphalt and concrete over the next 30 years.

Not much, some would say, yet in a nation where only about 5% of our land area is arable, every hectare of arable land is precious, and it so happens that our cities are surrounded by some of the country’s most productive arable land. Pouring concrete and asphalt over productive land in a world crying out for more food is one sure way of reducing the ability of future generations to live sustainably.  I’m sure they won’t thank us. The final scene of “Planet of the Apes” comes to mind.

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