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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Curly Capitalist Questions 16, Who Owns Scenery?

Berend de Boer said...

Auckland has many volcanoes which give the city a lot of charm. And there are no buildings on it so you can actually see them.

What alternatives are there to government controls?

We have of course the common law, but would that be sufficient?

Related to that are high rise buildings. I like to be able to see far and wide, and Auckland offers a lot of that. On the other hand, I wouldn't mind a few more high rise buildings in Manukau City center, there are already some and it doesn't seem to spoil the view.

I wonder how and if these things would survive if there were no government controls on these things whatsoever.


I refer back to the last post about property developer Dave Henderson being denied permission to build on a ridgeline near Queenstown.

In the far off past, people used to buy a chunk of land, then do something with it. They would farm it, put a golf course on it, build a house, build a hotel or a themepark. They would then enjoy, undisturbed, what they had created.

Nobody could tell them what colour to paint their barn, or what signage they could put up and certainly no-one could stop them building on their own land.

Property rights were sacrosanct.

Those days are long gone and zoning and the Resource Management Act have reduced property owners to the status of near rightless ratepayers.

My view is simple-there should be no restrictions on building any type, colour, size or purpose of building on your own property, unless what you do physically negatively effects a neighbour or neighbours.

If your skyscraper physically shades your pre-existing neighbour, they may have a case. If your underground carpark cuts off your neighbour's aquifer, they may have a case. If your stock car racing circuit causes unacceptable noise that effects pre-existing neighbours, they may have a case. If your pet food factory stinks out a pre-existing neighbourhood, they have every right to stop you.

If however, your bright purple garage offends your pluty neighbour three doors down-tough.

If your dream home on a Central Otago ridge "spoils" the skyline of somebody living in the valley six kilometers away-tough.

If you own a long established speedway that is surrounded by new neighbours and they object to the noise-tough.

The point is-you own your property, but nobody owns the skyline, the aesthetic environment or the "character" of an area.

Civilised life is about a little give and take and some tolerance of other's lifestyle choices. In saner times, people never thought of using the state to harm other's property rights. Now many people take such bogus "rights" for granted.

Zoning and especially the RMA have created an adversarial environment, which has destroyed much of the goodwill that once governed relationships between property owners.

In a really free society, much urban and semi urban land would be run by body corporates, who would indeed have the power to enforce certain conditions on those they sold or leased property to. That would be far more flexible and efficient than the current bureaucratic system of land management. However, in the absence of such a system, people should simply exercise tolerance and "live and let live".

So there is a price I must pay if I want to enjoy the undisturbed use of my own property. It is that I must tolerate my neighbour's apalling sense of colour or even endure the horror of a highrise building spoiling "my" skyline.

For that great freedom, I am willing to let others enjoy theirs.

3 Comments:

Blogger Heine said...

Spot on mate. I am especially pissed off about councils turning down proposals due to the colour!

Is it a sign that our local councils simply are trying to find things to do?

9:47 PM  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

Excellent answer, thanks Trevor!

5:59 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Yes, sorry it took a while Berend.

7:24 PM  

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