More often than not when tourists take the trouble to make their way to one of the beautiful remote beaches in the Greek Islands, they will find a small, unobtrusive taverna selling basic food and drink.

Its existence says much about the enterprise and hard work of the owner. That effort and initiative is appreciated by most as they happily replenish themselves. There is no reason to think the tourists who visit Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula will think any differently.

That, however, is not the view of some local residents, who were appalled this week that the Department of Conservation has licensed a seaside stall at the pristine spot. They imagine tourists will feel the same after reaching the cove's crystal waters and famous arch, which are accessible only by boat and kayak or a half-hour trek. "Hawkers on the beach" are not, they say, what people expect in a location that has gained international renown after featuring in the 100 per cent Pure New Zealand tourism campaign.

They protest too much. Nobody, of course, wants this country's most beautiful spots spoilt by garish commercialism. Nobody wants to see a large number of hawkers or a burger chain like McDonald's installed at Cathedral Cove. That would certainly be self-destructive. The cove would soon lose its appeal as an untouched spot. There would be nothing like the 150,000 visitors attracted there each year.

But one small enterprise selling drinks, sandwiches, sunblock and snorkels is hardly likely to sponsor that view.

For one thing, Shanan Laird's stall is tucked into the bush and suitably low-key. For another, his seven-month trial licence from the Department of Conservation obliges him to clean the beach of all rubbish before he leaves each day. That is a significant public service, given the cove's remoteness and the increasing number of snorkelling and boating operators who use it every summer day.

The department deserves, like Mr Laird, to be congratulated for its enterprise. It and other government agencies face diminished funding. It will take 8 per cent of Mr Laird's earnings, providing a small windfall for other projects in the area, not least ongoing work on a rockfall at the cove's arch.

But that surely was only a minor consideration in the granting of the licence. The Green Party is drawing too long a bow when it suggests this shows how the Government's reduced funding is compromising the country's heritage.

The objectors have vented their anger in an email campaign to the Conservation Minister and the Prime Minister. They seem particularly concerned that they were not consulted over the licence. They will get their chance soon. The Thames Coromandel District Council must approve the licence. The Department of Conservation also plans to canvass locals and visitors before deciding whether to renew the trial licence next summer.

There is likely to be a sharp divergence of views. The residents will doubtless adhere to an opinion that owes everything to their self-interest. Tourists will be more inclined to support an enterprise that offers a cold drink after a hot and tiring walk. While that may be no less a matter of self-interest, they can at least point to such service being customary in other tourist destinations, no matter how remote. They could also note that Mr Laird's venture will fold soon enough if there is not a genuine demand for his service.

There would be reasonable cause for complaint if his stall was a substantial blot on an otherwise unblemished landscape. There seems no evidence that this is so. Or, indeed, that a floodgate of any description has been opened at Cathedral Cove.