The island of Bjørnø, which had 32 inhabitants in 2013 according to Statistics Denmark. Photo: Colourbox
Rather than spending money on providing services to Denmark’s smallest islands, some of which have fewer than ten inhabitant, they should be sold to private actors, Jørgen Møller, a professor of local planning at Aalborg University, told Politiken on Thursday.
Møller said it is an unreasonable economic drain on society to keep providing ferry transport, schools and other public services to Denmark’s smallest islands.
“We need to have an open debate on what we want to use these islands for, especially those which have just 15, 20 or residents. Because it is simply too expensive for the municipalities and our society to keep them alive,” Møller told Politiken.
Denmark consists of over 1,400 islands larger than 100 sqm, 78 of which are inhabited. Of those, 36 had fewer than 100 residents as of 2013 and 18 had fewer than ten.
Møller argues that Denmark has been foolishly wasting money trying to keep these small islands connected to larger society through ferry connections and public services. Rather than propping them up with public money, he argues that they should be turned over to public hands.
“I think there is more common sense, better economics and more jobs in letting professional investors purchase and operate the islands as, for example, holiday areas or nature parks,” he said.
“It could be some of those rich Russians who buy English football clubs, it could be Germans who appreciate the Danish nature or it could be Danish capital that could be set unleashed in this way,” Møller said.
While there are no official statistics on how many of Denmark’s islands are already privately-owned, two wealthy businessman who own Danish islands said that there are other buyers out there.
“If it was made possible to buy more Danish islands, I’m sure that you would find buyers in the market,” Kristian Kryger Sørensen, who owns the island of Tærø, told Politiken.
The Association of Danish Small Islands (Sammenslutningen af Danske Småøer), an association for the residents of 27 small islands that vary in population from ten to over 900, said it was “a crazy idea” to let wealthy individuals buy small chunks of Denmark.
“In Denmark, we don’t go around pointing at one another and saying: ‘You cost too much, we should sell you to someone.’ Would we do the same with a street in Copenhagen, Korsør or Ringkøbing? It’s a real narrow-minded way of viewing things,” association member Dorthe Winther told broadcaster DR.
The association’s 27 islands have a combined population of just over 5,500 people according to Statistics Denmark.