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A Quick Buck

Entry 97, on 2004-12-06 at 16:53:32 (Rating 1, News)

This morning I listened to an interview with the minister of conservation, a Maori activist, and the owner of logging rights on some native trees. The person who owned the rights was cutting down the trees for sale and the activist was protesting by blocking the transport of the timber.

The issues went a bit beyond those involved with this actual incident. Does an individual who owns something have the right to use that thing in any way they see fit? Legally, he had the right to log half a hectare per year (there was some discussion regarding whether he was actually logging more than this), but did he have this right morally, and is it OK to over-ride his legal rights in some situations?

The details are interesting. The land is actually conservation land. He owns logging rights, not the land itself. The claim (which he neither confirms nor denies) was that he bought the rights for $60,000. He refused to sell them for $450,000 - instead he wanted $6.5 million to $11 million, depending on whose story you listen to. No one said how logging rights were available on conservation land in the first place.

It seems to me this is a rather cynical attempt to make a small fortune by holding a valuable piece of native timber land to ransom. The logger is the worst type of exploiter. The interviewer suggested he shouldn't be condemned for being "entrepreneurial" or being clever enough to make a big profit when the opportunity arose. I think this is sort of attitude is dangerous. Should we admire someone for making a lot of money by destroying part of our country? I despise rather than admire people who do this sort of thing.

There was one other interesting aspect of this situation. The Maori protester portrayed this as another situation where Europeans were destroying something just to make a profit for themselves, but the logger commented that most of the country's rimu (a native timber) comes from trees felled by Maori. No one denied this, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was true. Of course, they probably don't fell trees on conservation land, but I don't think there is anything special about Maori treatment of the land in the end.

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