Monday, 29 May 2006

When snobs attack your property rights

A commenter here, now sadly departed, was disappointed at the inflammatory language I used to describe ARC Parks chairman Sandra Coney's use of ratepayers' money to ensure that caterer Rae Ah Chee cannot build his retirement house on his 4.8 hectares Pakiri land -- what Coney called "this intrusion of a trophy house on the landscape."

I'm happy to see that at least a few other people share my outrage at Coney's high-handed meddling and insulting attempts to acquire a 'public open space' at the expense of Mr Ah Chee, the ratepayers of Greater Auckland, and the property rights some New Zealanders still think they enjoy.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association declared in response to Coney:
"Ms Coney's attitude to Mr Ah Chee is anti-success and anti-development. "Her derogatory description of the plan as a 'trophy house' shows she is unable to think of a serious environmental objection to it.
Good for them. And Owen McShane -- who suggests "the history of central planning is almost entirely a history of an elite standing in the way of change," which in the present context means "the planners are anti countryside living and want to crowd the people into cities even at the expense of increased congestion and pollution"-- suggests that Mr Ah Chee is perhaps the "victim" of a new kind of "class prejudice" in which class and the architectural taste of that class has beome a surrogate for race, and "intrusive trophy houses" [intrusive to whom, by the way?] become "the local surrogate for McMansions." As Owen notes in an offline post, this attitude has been encapsulated by author Robert Bruegmann as "the attack of the snobs" -- of which Coney is clearly one:
There is an obvious class bias in these judgments. The indictments against sprawl almost never target architecture or landscapes acceptable to upper-middle-class taste, no matter how scattered or consuming of land. One doesn't hear complaints about the spectacular British villas, the private gardens of the French Riviera created in the 1920s, or the great country houses built by American industrialists at the turn of the century on northern Long Island or in the Brandywine Valley in Delaware. "Sprawl" means subdivisions and shopping centers for middle-and lower-middle-class families. Today it is notoriously "McMansions"--houses judged by some observer to be excessive in size or stylistic pretension...
I can recommend the entire article to get a handle on why Sandra Coney's 'taste' is used to justify the violation of Mr Ah Chee's property rights.
LINKS: Dreams killed north of Auckland - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Comments of ARC parks chairman out of line - EMA, Scoop
Planners are grinding our cities to a halt - Owen McShane, Scoop
How sprawl got a bad name - Robert Bruegmann, American Enterprise Online, 'Attack of the Snobs' issue

Property_Rights, RMA, Auckland, Urban_Design, Environment


  1. While I'm never going to defend ARC planners, I'd be interested to know how you define property rights.

    To me it isn't just what you can do on your little bit of dirt, but a sliding scale (always dangerous!). The Road Boards, fore-runners to our Councils, were funded by property owners, to get access to their land - thus increasing value.

    So we have a history of society impacting on private property rights - hopefully for the better eg sewage/stormwater etc.

    Many people view their property right to be an "enjoyment" right - ie that you don't impinge on that enjoyment - ie don't build 10 floors next to my boundary. So we are prepared to trade off some control of our rights, as we feel we are also protecting our own.

    What do you see as "reasonable"?
    The current res 1 plan is way over the top eg 1.2m fences etc - but the broad principle of sympathetic development has been accepted - mainly so that my property right/value isn't diminished by a nearby property.

    interested in your thoughts....

  2. Hi Mark,

    Sorry to give you only such a brief answer (I'm up to my eyes at present), but can I perhaps direct you to my archives on Property Rights and on Common Law (and the Cue Card posts on both) where I think your questions are pretty well answered.

    Perhaps three posts which which to start might be
    The 'right' to a view
    Right to property = a place to stand
    Property rights, the Northland speech


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