Key Points:

Why can't National politicians keep their hands off other people's property? A decade ago, in the dying stages of the Shipley Government, the central politicians hatched a madcap scheme to try to bribe Auckland voters with their own money.

They proposed to sell $900 million worth of Auckland regional council assets - the port company et al - and divvy up the proceeds at $3000 a head, across the region. Aucklanders wisely told them to take a hike.

On Sunday, while wading through the small print of the incoming Government's promises, I unearthed something even more half-baked.

Incoming Prime Minister John Key wants to pretend he's created a new national park north of Taupo by nationalising one of Auckland's greatest living jewels, the 16,000ha Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, and handing it over to the tender care of the Wellington bureaucrats at the Department of Conservation.

Mr Key is right to want DoC to devote more attention - and cash - to the upper North Island and its huge concentration of taxpayers. But seizing one of the best-run "national" parks in the land is just sleight-of-hand trickery.

Instead of stealing the Waitaks, Mr Key should be listening to his senior North Shore colleagues Wayne Mapp and Jonathan Coleman, who support the campaign for Uruamo, a great inner Waitemata Harbour coastal park which would take in the Kauri Pt Navy ammunition dump, the Chelsea refinery and other adjacent parklands.

Dr Mapp and Dr Coleman want the Navy to take its ammunition to naval land at Whangaparaoa Peninsula, freeing Kauri Pt to become the focus of the new park. This is a plan worthy of Mr Key's support.

As for nationalising the Waitakeres, that's a silliness promoted by new Waitakere MP Paula Bennett, as part of her opposition to the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act, passed this year.

This legislation was passed to protect the surrounding hinterland of the great park from speculative and ruinous development. Ms Bennett sided with the developers.

Launching the party's environment policy on Waiheke Island in September, Mr Key announced: "National's intention [is] to advance two new national parks in the North." One would take in the kauri forests around Waipoua. As for the other, "we will also initiate a formal investigation under the National Parks Act into a new park on the public lands of the Waitakere Ranges".

He thanked Ms Bennett for promoting the idea, calling them important public conservation projects which National was proud to support.

The reality was the opposite. The Bennett plan was just a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from the truly conservationist heritage act.

Obviously, South Island-born Mr Key has never camped or tramped or, one suspects, even driven through the Waitaks and seen what a magnificent job we Aucklanders have done for more than 100 years to protect, preserve and, best of all, use and enjoy this green wonderland.

Of course we wouldn't say no to any financial assistance going, but the last thing we need is a takeover from the underfunded and overstretched Wellington civil servants.

For someone leading a party preaching the virtues of private property rights, Mr Key seems to miss the incongruity that the public lands he speaks of are the private, collectively owned property of Aucklanders.

The park was Auckland's 1940 centennial gift to itself, the fruition of a dream promoted by Hubert Earle Vaile in 1926.

But the idea dates back even earlier, to 1894 when Auckland University professor of Biology and Geology, Sir Algernon Thomas, convinced Auckland city councillors to set aside land near the Nihotupu River for recreational purposes and as a water catchment.

Over the ensuing years, more packages of land in the area were bought and gifted. The Auckland Regional Authority took over management in 1964 and the water catchment land in 1990.

With 250km of tracks, spectacular rainforest vistas, iconic west coast beaches, a visitors' centre, many campsites, and facilities for all sorts of outdoor recreation, it is a playground that any city would envy.

It is also a conservation area, home to one-quarter of New Zealand's native flowering plants, two-thirds of all ferns and many rare species of plant and animal. Since January 2003, Ark in the Park volunteers, in partnership with ARC, have achieved over 1000ha of predator-controlled parkland.

Why does Mr Key think DoC control can better this proud record? During the election campaign Ms Bennett alleged in the Western Leader that "under the Auckland Regional Council we have not seen the emphasis on conservation and protection that westies want or our ranges deserve".

DoC would be better able to protect and treat the kauri forests in the park threatened by the kauri dieback fungus disease, she said.

That's an insult to the ARC which has led the fight to diagnose and isolate this new killer. If DoC is so superior, then why did it do nothing while a DoC forest of more than 100 kauri keeled over at nearby Pakiri?

It was the ARC that spent more than $300,000 on diagnosing and putting in protective measures against this disease. ARC raised the alarm and had the Ministry of Biosecurity declare it an unwanted organism. The ARC spends more than $35 million a year running its 25 regional parks.

Around $8.8 million a year is spent in the Waitakere Ranges on operational costs, capital developments and expenditure. These figures don't include expenditure on biosecurity and heritage. The western sector parks, which include the Waitakeres and Muriwai, employ 27 rangers.

I've long argued for more DoC money to be spent near Auckland, but what's the rationale behind bringing it in to play cuckoo in someone else's nest?

Eight years ago, then Conservation Minister Sandra Lee put DoC in charge of a new-style national park, the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

It still hasn't had a grand opening. Not even a sign board has been erected.

Yet Mr Key wants to hand our Waitakere jewel over to these people for safe-keeping.