Tuesday 3 November 2020

Managing the commons: DoC photography edition

It isn't hard to imagine that the Department of Conservation might have good reason to want to know whether a big film crew, for example, might be spending a few weeks trampling part of the Estate. There are places that might have endangered plants that need to be protected. Or nesting sites. 

But this seems a bit nuts. 

From the article:
A third of the country might be off-limits to camera-wielding media who don’t have an official escort or permission, if a Department of Conservation policy is rigorously enforced.

DoC introduced a mainstream media permit in November 2018, requiring media to get permission for filming, including taking photographs, on public conservation land. It’s been applied haphazardly since, and is only now being enforced.

(The department told New Zealand Geographic magazine a few weeks ago that journalists would need a permit, too, but it subsequently reversed that position.)

Media outlets have expressed surprise and disappointment at the requirement. In a letter to the department, the Media Freedom Committee called it “an unnecessary impediment to legitimate news-gathering activities on the conservation estate”.

Such a draconian requirement throws up weighty issues about the role of the media, and the ability of a Government department to restrict its access to public land when the public interest is at stake. It’s also worth considering how the policy might be wielded by over-zealous managers.

(An example might be DoC’s pursuit of a Japanese photographer last year for using his hobby photos in a self-published book.)

Two magazine editors express their desire to work with DoC, but have been left scratching their heads, wondering, in exasperation, what problem will be solved by the permits.
Mike Dickison weighs in:
Wikipedia consultant Mike Dickison wants to be constructive, and to have a good working relationship with the department. He’s just spent six weeks on the South Island’s West Coast, in the employ of the regional development agency, taking photos – including in national parks – and uploading them to Wikimedia Commons under an open licence, for any use.

(“Have I done a bad thing,” he asks, “by taking photos that the media can now use without anyone asking for a concession or permission?”)

Dickison says DoC’s concessions were created to stop people profiting off conservation land – “to stop businesses setting up, you know, hot dog stands in national parks”.

“And now we’re extending it to the activities of the media, who are doing no harm to the national parks. It puzzles me as to how this is justified.”

Why the hate for hotdog stands? I don't think I have ever been anywhere and thought "Man, I'm really glad that there isn't a hotdog stand here", but I have frequently wished that there were a hotdog stand.

The policy, as practiced, makes little sense. 

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