If Don Brash was asking the Auditor-General to "put a dollar value" on the foreshore we would be hearing scare stories that he'd be trying to privatise the foreshore. Unfortunately he's not, and more's the pity, I say.
But Michael Cullen has asked the Auditor-General to do just that, not however as a prelude to privatisation but instead as an adjunct to his Government's high-handed nationalisation of the beach-front effected last year.
Personally, I think New Zealand's foreshore should have all existing property recognised and protected (no matter what colour the rightful beneficiaries of those rights) before selling what remains to buy secure annuities for New Zealand's pensioners. That's one very easy and very effective way to instantly de-politicise both the foreshore issue and the issue of the impending superannuation blowout.
And before you start howling about access to beaches being a Kiwi's birthright, well, there is no reason most of the foreshore can't be sold with access and use convenants attached where appropriate ao that existing access and use rights acquired by common law usage are protected.
And there's no reason to stop at the foreshore either, as economist Richard Rahn argues in an American context here; see also where he got the idea from here, and my own earlier comments on the foreshore debate here.
As Richard Rahn concludes: "Ask your family and friends if they would prefer the government to: (a) Increase their taxes; (b) cut their benefits; or (c) sell surplus government land."
Which would you prefer?