1 April 2009

Poor land-use planning and volcanoes

Posted by Jessica Ball

So it looks like someone is already moving in on the new land created by the eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai
near Tonga*. That’s right – with enough Pa’angas, you could own some of the newest land on the planet, if you don’t mind digging yourself out from under the tephra every few days. The article I found didn’t say much about who’s claimed the land, but it seems to have been through a loophole in Tongan land use laws (one that their Royal Land Commission will no doubt be fixing soon). I suspect we’ll soon see signs on the more stable parts of the island calling the new land “Trump” and advertising the finest in pumice exfoliating stones.

Now, I’ve heard of this sort of thing happening in Hawaii – people buying up and selling land on the slopes of Kilauea or Mauna Loa that is very likely to get run over by the next lava flow. The land is usually covered in lava already (not a fun building surface), and completely uninsurable. So, if you have a movable house – a yurt, for instance – and you don’t mind packing up and moving for a bit when the next flows come through, I guess you’re okay. (This would probably necessitate having a tank or other AWD vehicle in order to get back to your house, though.)

But speculation before the land’s even done being formed is a bit much. And, despite the fantastic views and desirable location (get away from everything!), I should think that the danger of living next to an active volcano might bring down property values a bit. Then again, if you’re a volcanologist, this could be a plus. Any takers out there in the geoblogosphere? I bet we could probably afford the place if we pooled our resources, although my contribution would have to be much smaller due to my grad student status.

Given the intense tourist interest in the eruption, the article is unsurprising, though. Bunker on the beach, anyone?

*Wow, really? No comments? Either the blog is getting too boring, or I was really believable on this one. Or everyone is too paranoid to believe anything written on April 1.

Happy belated April Fools…and no, I still wouldn’t be surprised if Trump jumped on the Tonga Pumice Stone idea.