Landscape is more than real estate
Even professors of economics with hundreds of academic papers under their belts can get it wrong if they focus on financial aspects of land. Landscape is more than potential real estate for money-making.
In today’s Age newspaper, Hamish McDonald writes 'Land fever hits Pacific paradise', as locals lose out as developers gobble up Vanuatu. An awful story of greed, manipulation, and the indigenous people losing out. This is fair warning to Fiji indeed, and thank heavens that the Native Land Trust Board has over the past sixty years had some kind of way of moderating such greedy takeovers.
Land fever hits Pacific paradise
Hamish McDonald, Port Vila
September 2, 2006
NATIVES spoiling the views and privacy of your dream beachfront villa in Vanuatu by gathering on the shore and launching their canoes?
One expat real estate agent here had the answer for a potential buyer: keep a couple of big dogs and a shotgun, and make sure the locals believe you would use them.
Pacific historian Claire Slatter recounts this vignette in a study for Oxfam New Zealand on Vanuatu's tourism and real estate boom, pointing to a looming crisis in what has been the most peaceful segment of the Melanesian "arc of instability".
In years to come, will John Howard's new army battalions, being raised to help with Pacific contingencies, be used to rescue Australian sea-changers from gated beachfront estates under siege by landless, jobless islanders?
For several years, Vanuatu, which gained independence from joint British-French rule in 1980 and has 205,000 people, has been gripped by land fever.
Developers, who include some convicted con-men from Australia, rushed an opportunity created when the Government went through a budget crisis in the mid-1990s, and adopted neo-liberal policies to unlock land, held in complex traditional ownership. But the rush has created an explosive social problem in a Melanesian region where land is identity, source of food, and social security for a population mostly outside the formal economy.
Russell Nari, Vanuatu's director-general of lands, says almost 90 per cent of land on the main island of Efate has already been leased out, and large tracts of the big northern island, Esperitu Santo, are following.
Go to Age website for more of the article by Hamish McDonald.