by John Robinson
When I was young, still at school, a friend and I hitch-hiked around both islands. We had great adventures, met many friendly, generous people. Every beach we saw, many places we chose to sleep the night, were ours, free to use. At university, I joined the tramping club and enjoyed the freedom of roaming, across the hills, across the Southern Alps, as we wished. Once I hitched to National Park, walked up to Ketetahi hot springs, cooked baked beans in almost boiling water and lay in a hot bath, surrounded by ice, before snuggling in my sleeping bag for a night under sparkling stars. The following day ice crystal tinkled beneath my feet as I walked across the slopes of Tongariro to a hut for a night before going on to join others near the Chateau. Magic. Once I sat on the peak of Ruapehu and thought of our good fortune that all before me, the National Park with Ngauruhoe prominent, belonged to me as much as to all others – this land is our land. I will never forget those days. And many times since, I have camped by beaches, by streams, by the ocean and lakes, across all parts of our country.
That freedom has gone. That feeling that this is our country, that seas and beaches are common property and belong to us all, is no more. The process of taking the commons from us all has been going on for many years. Just last night I watched the news to find that some tribe has been given power, control, over a stretch of Hawke’s Bay. This is just one case among many. Our coast has gone, being parcelled out. And I understand that Ketetahi is considered to be outside the park on private Maori land; nowadays you are not even allowed to approach the springs.
There is no need to work hard to get to grips with the destruction of a way of life. It is announced regularly on the news. This is what is happening to our country.